Chapter 2: Work
THE HISTORY OF THE MEANING OF WORK The precise classification of activities as “work” is relatively difficult. In modern times, without discussion, the use of the term assumes paid activity. Even though the literature attempts to increase the scope of that concept (for example by bringing up the issue of housework or chores done by children as being work as well, or by referring also to purely voluntary activities), the lack of market and contractual assessments of such activities results in a distortion of the meaning and in problems with defining the activity (Knights and Willmott, 1999). Hence, only when an activity is valuated can it be unanimously classified as work, and that is the meaning used here. Social perception of work is very much dependent on culture. Historically, in Western culture, work used to be seen often in negative terms. For the ancient Greeks, work meant a curse, which should be avoided at all cost by using slaves. Even though farmers were treated with respect, work for money was perceived as unworthy of free men (and perceived as a specific form of slavery). Ancient philosophers like Plato, Socrates and Aristotle believed that manual work had a disastrous effect upon one’s spirit and body and made one incapable of serious philosophical discussion, and even more so of taking any public service post (Applebaum, 1995). Work was also treated with suspicion in the Roman Republic even though free citizens often held various paid jobs, and there was also a system of...
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