What Is Work For: The Meaning and Significance of Work Essay Example

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Over centuries, philosophers have been asking themselves whether there is an adequate definition of work which is transhistorical despite having all the differences. In most cases however, work is considered as effort that is used with the instrumental aim of ensuring that the means of wellbeing or subsistence are provided for not only one’s self but also for others (Bell, 30). Critically to note is that the term “at least” has been used in this definition to show that work, in itself can be intrinsically valuable as well as being an end itself. On this note, one would be forgiven to argue that some of the non-work scenarios or times that are not expended by people in doing work include eating and sleeping.

Work should be distinguished from labor because the two do not mean the same thing. According others Bell (38), labor is a natural activity done with the aim of surviving and whose results are consumed immediately whereas work refers to an action done with hands which in turn achieves objectivity to the world. Work has been imputed with its transformative ability, which is an activity which alters nature while labor, on the other hand, is an activity which locates one within some form of market.

It is true for instance in many industrialized states that minimal effort generates products for immediate consumption. In contrast, minimal effort in hunter gatherer societies creates tools and weapons which give objectivity to the world. Can work as an objective be seen as an activity that ensures individual and societal survival by engaging with nature? This, however, may not be true because several societies engage with life but do not necessarily aid in societal survival. There is need to clearly understand what is objectively necessary for societal and individual survival. In trying to subject the work of a slave to the point of analysis, it is clearly shown that in as much as it was essential for societal survival, it consequently led to individual exclusion from the society through death and exportation.

The state tends to categorize the population into those who are economically active and those that are economically inactive. However, the definition of activity in this sense is relative to the formality of employment. The state assumes its citizens to be working if they are paying taxes and insurances. This formality is not the best way to define work because there are people who engage in domestic responsibilities that are not paying though involving.

However, it would be prudent to consider “work” in relation to leisure. Notably, as civilization advanced, the cultural meaning of work remained to be restricted to only doing what could be seen as necessary (Bell, 12). According to Aristotle, leisure, which, based on the ancient Greeks, was being considered essential if people were able to achieve virtue as well as being “citizens” thus being allowed to vote in the polis.

Aristotle’s point of view was that work was preventing people from being virtuous and thus restricting their claims on citizenship. However, based on the same premise, one would argue that work not only makes an individual part of the country’s citizenry by contributing to the development of the nation but also plays an instrumental role of country’s general productivity.

Critically to note that Aristotle clearly distinguished between activity and work, whereby he noted that the latter promoted the distinctiveness of human abilities. In other words, he did not encourage or praise idleness, rather argued that it is only some kinds of activities that befitted human development. Based on this argument therefore, it is clear that work helps to advice human development in different aspects of life. Notably, this can be demonstrated by the role of innovation which played and continue to play a critical part in the advancement of life (Bell, 13). For example, the technological innovation that is being witnessed in the post-industrial society has made work easier thus enhancing lifestyle (Bell, 16).

Additionally, it must be noted that the introduction of capitalism led to remarkable changes in the meaning of work, the conditions of work as well as the relations of world to leisure and life. One way in which capitalism influenced these changes is that workers lost their social rights (Bell, 15). For example, in Feudalism, serfs had to sell their labor power after their rights of usage were withdrawn. At the same time, capitalists ensured that they used time in regulating labor.

They would ensure that they earned more profit by increasing the length of the working day or ensuring that workers were more productive. In fact, this premise has made “work” be viewed as what one does to earn a living. Another aspect that changed the conditions or work is the “democratization of demand” which meant that that if work was to produce, then what is produced must be consumed to create room for more work. On this basis, work led to consumerism under five critical mechanisms including product innovation, new technologies, marketing, consumer credit and planned obsolescence.

Works Cited

Bell Daniel: The coming of Post Industrial Society: A venture in social focusing. Basic Books,

Inc, publishers. New York City. 2008. Print.