How the idea of personal achievement was born – and what we should do with it
As we all know, we live in a society geared towards personal achievement. Yet what we think of today as achievement is the result of relatively recent historical development. In this book, Nina Verheyen lays the necessary foundation for a constructive examination of an idea that shapes each and everyone’s lives.
Among the early-nineteenth century bourgeoisie, the word “achievement” (in German leisten) was used in phrases like “to keep each other company” (einander Gesellschaft leisten). Only when industrialisation and the victory of the sciences took place, did people begin to measure human “performance” of all sorts: from manpower to athletic perseverance and even intelligence with the help of apparatus, formulas and tests. In an illuminating and enlightening way, Nina Verheyen describes for the first time how the understanding of achievement has changed over time to the present day. At a time when any criticism of capitalism or neo-liberalism automatically finds fault with the notion of achievement, she advocates a historically informed as well as new, more social definition of achievement: she presents a convincing argument against the pressures of optimisation and structures of social inequality.