Ambition means different things to different people, but in the capitalist framework I am talking about, I think its defining feature is its linear trajectory. Think of all the highly driven and ambitious people you know working long after their basic needs are met: Are they ever “done” or satisfied with where they’ve ended up and ready to call it quits on achieving? Of course not. Ambition is an unquenchable thirst.
Since the Industrial Revolution launched a large subset of humanity into the illusion that we could conquer nature for our own purposes, linear ambition has been a kind of survival strategy. In recent decades, that’s certainly been true for privileged, knowledge-economy workers like me: We’re always trying to keep up in a world of work that seems to constantly get faster and expect more of us, leaving us too burned out and apathetic to deal with anything that doesn’t directly affect us or our families.
This is a wonderful read and a good reminder of lessons from the pandemic, that we have already started to forget.