This introduction to the special thematic cluster on burnout describes how the notion has informed cultures of contemporary work during the pandemic and the ways in which the concept of burnout reproduces the intertwined interests of labor and self-management under conditions of neoliberalism. The essay sketches a brief genealogy of the term, starting with the formulation of neurasthenia that preceded it and proceeding to its first citation within medical literature by Herbert J. Freudenberger and then to its philosophical uptake in the writing of Byung-Chul Han. In addressing burnout's relationship to recent art, criticism, and histories of media, the introduction stresses its unequal impacts across disparate populations relative to class, race, and gender.

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