chapter  3
15 Pages

The History of Work

Underpinning the work incentives debate is a plain and straightforward question: do human beings in general like or dislike work? Is there an anthropological constant regarding the appreciation or refusal of work; a human universal? In the course of history, two conflicting theoretical standpoints have crystallised. On the one hand, work has been seen as a necessary evil, a mere requirement to ensure survival. According to this view, paradise is a place of eternal leisure; work a punishment for the original sin. There is only one incentive to work and that is to avoid starvation and related evils. On the other hand, work has been glorified as a means of Weltgestaltung (world forming), a way to ‘elementary sensual bliss’ through creative production and a means of self-expression and selffulfilment (Arendt, 1981: 92; 98 - my translation). Given this understanding of work, idleness is seen as creating misery, destitute boredom and the impotence of life without vitality (ibid. 98). Work incentives are abundant according to this philosophy of life (details in the next chapter). The first standpoint will be called the ‘necessary evil’ position on work; the second the ‘Homo Faber’’ position.