Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I have come to the conclusion that work is alien to Man. If one thinks about modern society work is what defines one. Meet a stranger and what is the question that comes up fairly early in the conversation: where do you work? what do you do? And god help you if you happen to be a housewife.

Going back a bit further into history, the caste system is based on occupations, farmer, fisher, warrior and the like. So what is this thing and why is it so important?

I would define work as being, in its essence, gratification postponed and thus similar to the economic principle of saving.

In the animal kingdom almost all activity willingly undertaken is either always pleasurable or results in pleasure. If one thinks of primitive man in a hunter-gatherer existence, life would have revolved around the search for food and other necessities of life. Some effort would need to be expended on this activity but the objective is simple and the reward reaped within a fairly short period of time

The shortcoming with this simple life is the uncertainty in obtaining food, which lead to the development of agriculture and animal husbandry and unwittingly set Man on the rocky road to serfdom. With agriculture the fairly short time span between effort and reward lengthened; from hours to weeks and months; thus was work born.

Farming is a fairly simple example of work; the objectives are fairly straightforward and the relationship between effort and reward, though distant is fairly visible: in the blooming orchards or fattening calves.

With the dawn of the industrial age, this link was weakened further and disappears completely for a vast majority of people trapped in mindless offices or factories, despite the best efforts of Human Resources departments to introduce performance related reward and numerous other distractions from the drudgery of work.

The need for holidays, as an escape from the misery of work, eventually became necessary. This started simply enough with the eight hour day and the five day week. In agriculture work is determined by the seasons and the weather. Man works according to the rhythms of the seasons which has its own breaks. No such breaks exist in the world of factories and initially workers were expected to work till they dropped.

After much conflict, the birth of the trades union movement and a revolution or two later, we had the five day week. Would a weekend have any meaning if the week were not crammed with work? And what does one call someone who has been fortunate to emancipate himself from this drudgery? a Gentleman of Leisure, later shortened to Gentleman meaning one who does not work for a living.

Thus work is an entirely artificial construct, something that Man has created, something that we do in order to exist. Work has been with us since the dawn of civilisation perhaps 7000-8000 years ago. It is yet to evolve as a natural instinct in an animal that has been in this modern form for perhaps 6 million years and evolving for around 40 million years before that.

This of course has nothing to do with my slothful attitude towards the dashed thing or my constant attempts to avoid as much of it as possible. I'm just trying to get in touch with my inner animal.


Charm Bracelet said...

"god help you if you happen to be a housewife." - Two thumbs up!!

hehe insightful. For a person who is quote "slothful" unquote towards work, You've certainly done ur research on the progression of it, complete with holidays weekends unions and all!

*Clap Clap*

Dulan said...

Do you know Rannalee? She seems to have had a similar train of thought...

Jack Point said...

Hell no, never heard of her but what a coincidence!

Jack Point said...

Thank you very much Charm. Erm... working towards being as idle as possible does free up time for thinking and research...

Anonymous said...

oh wow, :)

Guess "work" is a phenomenon that we are entangled in daily basis...

nice post..

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