What is Work?
Fundamental social activity
The notion of work is intertwined with the natural human ability to control the physical
environment to create “things”
Meaningful or meaningless, on average this part of our lives makes up 1/3 of the day, and
asserts a level of control over our lifestyles, social class, and ideological beliefs.
Continued employment in production of goods and services, restricted to paid labour
Types of Work
1. Moving Matter Around
2. Commanding Those Who Move Matter Around
Karl Marx would define these as the roles of the proletariat (1) and the bourgeoisie (2), two distinct
classes which are in constant conflict.
Before the industrial revolution changed the labour process in developed countries, occupations were
coupled to the finished product. Nowadays, this association is no longer apparent because the worker
has been disassociated from the original labour. Therefore, alienation is not as much of a feeling, but a
structure created to exploit the ability of others of a perceived lower class. This argument is rooted in
the writings of Karl Marx.
In the past it was common to have a wood wright create a product, a chair for instance, from the
original state of the wood to the very small details and finishing of the chair. However, with the division
of labour in a factory setting, a worker is no longer creating an entire product, but creating a small, and
perhaps indistinguishable aspect of the chair. In this way, the association between the work and the
end product has been disintegrated.
Aspects of Alienation
1. Increasing concentration of ownership of means of production in private hands
More and more people are dependent on selling labour
2. Division of labour (Factories)
Adam Smith – Secret to Productivity
3. Development of markets in land, labour and commodities
Employees become commodities
Manifestation (SOPP- Self, Other, Product, Process)
Self – Work is no longer viewed as a fundamental aspect of human life. Other – Competition with others for promotions and competition in the market for jobs
Product – Worker cannot complete the product alone, revealing how the division of labour has deskilled
Process – Worker does not control work hours etc., but simply a tool for greater economic advantage
Definition – Social group sharing experiences based on location and role in economy.
With the introduction of neo liberal society, focusing on individualism, work became less correlated to
the lifestyle one “wanted” to live. This created what is termed the “middle class”, in which you were not
a loser or a bragger, but a well-functioning economical unit of society.
Employment, Unemployment, and Underemployment
Keynesian Era – 1945-1970
Unemployment <10% (Arguably closer to 20%)
Analogy of Competing Class Perspectives
Bay St. vs. Main St.
Bay – income through investmen