August 17, 2010

Work Ethic in a Capitalist Society

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:52 pm by Editorial Team

“So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot.” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

Our culture has been slowly undermining a philosophy of work.   I blame capitalism, in spite of its many benefits.  The entrepreneurial spirit leads one to succeed and provides ample motivation to find satisfaction in work.  But beyond innovation and creativity, many of us find ourselves as simply a cog in the machine.  And for the majority of citizens, there is little motivation to succeed.

Sure we all want a nice paycheck, and we are incentivized to do what we can to earn a paycheck.  But there is a certain level of slack we can give without destroying that incentive.  There is a certain amount of acceptable laziness and incompetence within most jobs that will not lead to deteriorated incentives.  And we become a society that accepts some level of mediocrity, because frankly, work is just a means to earn money to do the things we want.

We have little satisfaction in work, beyond money, largely because we’re disconnected from the fruit of our labor.  We’re just a cog doing the minimum a cog needs to do in order to avoid replacement.   And yet work should be something that leads to some level of satisfaction.  For some, that satisfaction may come through helping others improve their experience in life.  But for many of us, watching numbers or words float across our eyes does not produce anything beyond a mere spark of temporal happiness.

When someone can find a work that is fulfilling and meaningful, it’s impossible to be mediocre.

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
Wendell Berry