Author response to Adolf Meyer and balance

Letter published in British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2015, Vol. 78(3) 207. DOI: 10.1177/0308022615576006

To the editor,

I write to thank Andrew Green (2014) for his letter in response to my article on the challenge of neoliberal capitalism and work-life imbalance (Clouston, 2014) and to support his contention that Meyer (1922) did indeed propose the importance of work (paid and unpaid) as a key activity in achieving a sense of purpose and meaning in life balance. However, I also want to address Green’s contention that I misunderstand Meyer’s meaning. I take two key points from Meyer’s (1922) paper in terms of work. First, Meyer saw paid and unpaid work as a means to achieve balance through fully valuing time and the opportunities that offered for life occupations. He saw work as part of that occupational complexity and essential to finding and maintaining life in balance; ‘the true religion of work’, he said, is found in ‘leading us to a new sense of the true sacredness of the moment when fitted rightly into the rhythms of individual and social and cosmic nature’ (Meyer, 1922: 9). Second, and significantly in addressing Green’s argument, Meyer did see paid work as problematic in terms of achieving life balance; he noted that paid work, through the forces of production and industrialization (capitalism), resulted in paid work losing its purpose and meaning for people directly because of how it had been socially constructed:

“Our industrialism has created the false, because onesided, idea of success in production to the point of overproduction, bringing with it a kind of nausea to the worker and a delirium of the trader . . . The man of today has lost the capacity and pride of workmanship and has substituted for it a measure in terms of money; and now his money proves to be of uncertain value” (Meyer, 1922: 8).

Meyer’s words certainly resonate with the experiences expressed by the participants in my study dealing with modern day neoliberal capitalism, and in those expressed in personal correspondence I have received in response to the article since its publication, which certainly seem to encapsulate the sense of meaningless that he described. To echo Green’s succinct summary: different people, different times but eerily similar circumstances nonetheless.


Clouston TJ (2014) Whose occupational balance is it anyway? The challenge of neoliberal capitalism and work-life imbalance. British Journal of Occupational Therapy 77(10): 507–515.

Green A (2014) Adolf Meyer and balance. British Journal of Occupational Therapy 77(12): 637.

Meyer A (1922) The philosophy of occupational therapy. Archives of Occupational Therapy 1(1): 1–10.

Teena Clouston, Reader, School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University

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