Work is an activity that dominates most of our time, and which occupies many of our thoughts. Work matters in an economic sense, because of its contribution to wealth creation. It also provides an important source of social interaction, and can be a means to develop skills and competences. Although under capitalism work is mainly performed out of necessity, the non-pecuniary aspects of work remain essential influences upon the life experiences of people. Work has a crucial bearing upon the material as well as affective well-being of those who perform it. This book is concerned, at root, with the nature and evolution of ideas on

work in the economics literature. The concept of work, as the following chapters will make clear, has been defined in a remarkably consistent way in the history of economic thought. Thus, one can find in the major periods of economic thought – mercantilist, classical, and neoclassical – a clear emphasis on the negative features of work. The prevailing opinion in mainstream economics has been that work is an inherent ‘bad’ or ‘disutility’ that must be bribed from workers.1