Whether seen as drudgery and humiliation or as honoured art, the work that humans do is a key site for understanding both material and cultural reproduction: how we survive and what it means to persist. The transformations which humans produce through work are read by anthropologists as distinct cultural markers, e.g. as *archaeologists identify a stone adze of a specific period or cultural anthropologists distinguish Mayan from Maori carving. Humans not only transform †material culture through work, but we can also believe ourselves to be transformed through the work we do, or work to demonstrate our transformation, as †Max Weber pointed out so well in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930). Anthropologists of work have endeavoured to understand not only the basic needs humans work to accommodate in any culture, following *Malinowski’s *functionalism, but also the inequalities that are reproduced through the organization of
work, following †Marx, and the relationship between work, *identity, and value in various cultural settings.