It has been almost twenty years since the term "burnout" first appeared in the psychological literature. The phenomenon that was portrayed in those early articles had not been entirely unknown, but had been rarely acknowledged or even openly discussed. In some occupations, it was almost a taboo topic, because it was considered tantamount to admitting that at times professionals can (and do) act "unprofessionally." The reaction of many people was to deny that such a phenomenon existed, or, if it did exist, to attribute it to a very small (but clearly mentally disturbed) minority. This response made it difficult, at first, for any work on burnout to be taken seriously. However, after the initial articles were published, there was a major shift in opinion. Professionals in the human services gave substantial support to both the validity of the phenomenon and its significance as an occupational hazard. Once burnout was acknowledged as a legitimate issue, it began to attract the attention of various researchers. Our knowledge and understanding of burnout have grown dramatically since that shaky beginning. Burnout is now recognized as an important social problem. There has been much discussion and debate about the phenomenon, its causes and consequences. As these ideas about burnout have proliferated, so have the number of empirical research studies to test these ideas. We can now begin to speak of a "body of work" about burnout, much of which is reviewed and cited within the current volume. This work is now viewed as a legitimate and worthy enterprise that has the potential to yield both scholarly gains and practical solutions. What I would like to do in this chapter is give a personal perspective on the concept of burnout. Having been one of the early "pioneers" in this field, I have the advantage of a long-term viewpoint that covers the twenty years from the birth of burnout to its present proliferation. Furthermore, because my research was among the earliest, it has had an impact on the development of the field. In particular, my definition of burnout, and my measure to assess it (Maslach Burnout Inventory; MBI) have been adopted by many researchers and have thus influenced subsequent theorizing and research. My work has also been the point of departure for various critiques. Thus, for better or for worse, my perspective on burnout has played a part in framing the field, and so it seemed appropriate to articulate that viewpoint within this volume. In presenting this perspective, however, I do not intend to simply give a summary statement of ideas that I have discussed elsewhere. Rather, I want to provide a retrospective review and analysis of why those ideas developed in the ways that they did. Looking back on my work, with the hindsight of twenty years, I can see more clearly how my research path was shaped by both choice and chance. The shape of that path has had some impact on what questions have been asked about burnout (and what have not), as well as on the manner in which 2 answers have been sought. A better understanding of the characteristics of that path will, I think, provide some insights into our current state of knowledge and debate about burnout. In some sense, this retrospective review marks a return to my research roots. The reexamination of my initial thinking about burnout, and an analysis of how that has developed and changed over the years, has led me to renew my focus on the core concept of social relationships. I find it appropriately symbolic that this return to my research roots occurred within the context of a return to my ancestral roots. The 1990 burnout conference that inspired this rethinking took place in southern Poland, from which each of my paternal grandparents, Michael Maslach and Anna Pszczolkowska, emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Thus, my travel to Krakow had great significance for me, at both personal and professional levels.