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Eureka: The science of work
by Jay Gutman
2017-10-13 11:23:06
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People basically work for three reasons. Either for survival, for solidarity purposes (usually family solidarity) or for altruistic/narcissitic reasons.

work01_400_04When you have no dependents but that you need to pay for food and for the bills you are working for survival reasons. When you have a family to feed, be it parents, siblings or children of your own you are either working for survival or for solidarity purposes. That is if you still have trouble breaking even you work both for solidarity and survival purposes. If you can afford to retire but that your family needs your income you are working for solidarity purposes. If your entire family and dependents can afford to retire you are either working for altruistic purposes or for narcissitic purposes or both.

When you work, you are selling your labor usually in exchange for cash. That exchange is usually protected by laws, as you have rights and obligations at work, and so does your employer. In some countries, free trade principles apply to this transaction, that is, you or your employer can terminate the transaction at any moment and for any reason, no hard feelings. In other countries, fair trade principles apply, that is your transaction is protected by a series or regulations that makes the transaction difficult to terminate.

In some countries selling labor is an easy transaction. Labor is needed everywhere and all you have to do is make a few phone calls to sell labor. In other countries selling labor can seem kind of like trying to sell air conditioners in Alaska or Siberia. You have to keep looking before you can sell your labor, and in some cases spend months of not years trying to find someone who will buy your labor.

Just like clients, employers can be great to work with or terrible to work with. There are employers who run their business for survival purposes, others for solidarity purposes and others for altruistic or narcissitic purposes. If your employer is in survival mode, they might try to milk your labor as much as they can. You'll need to get a lot of work done, sometimes the loads will be heavier than what you can carry. If your employer is in solidarity mode, they will usually buy your labor so you can help the business grow and devevlop further. If your employer is in altruistic mode, and if you are lucky, you will be paid just to show up. If your employer is in nacissitic mode they might view you as decoration at the company.

Now businesses rise and fall, some business go from altruistic to survival mode or from solidarity to survival mode. That's when you have employees complain that last year they were paid to watch movies on Netflix at work, now they're asked to carry heavier loads than they can handle.

As for workers, many start in survival mode. In survival mode they tend to be docile and ready to get the work done at all costs and may tolerate the worst kind of insults at work. Once they have enough savings to move to solidarity mode, that's when they can take liberties at work, as they can technically afford to lose their job and still survive. Then workers will have saved enough to move to altruistic or narcissitic mode, where the don't need to job for reasons other than to give or to enjoy the hooplah around their job.

Unfortunately, many workers never really get past survival mode. While they could have made enough to move to solidarity mode, overconsumption, drinking, gambling and the rest means they're stuck in survival mode.

What about skills? They are kind of like the options that go with cars. Some employers won't really look at them, especially those who are in survival mode. Kind of like people with modest incomes who don't care what brand of car that is as long as it moves around. Employers who are in solidarity mode tend to look at skills, while those in altruistic or narcissistic mode don't really need the skills. This is my best attempt at explaining what labor is. 

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Emanuel Paparella2017-10-14 08:30:55
Marx of course had a different but more humanistic view of what labor is. It is something that can be abused by those who profit from it to the point that it becomes a commodity or a means to an end, which ultimately is the essence of unethical behavior: to use people as a means to an end rather than as ends in themselves as Kant well taught us.

On the other hand, honest labor free from greed and the desire for what we want rather than for what we need could be something that keep us human. It can go both ways, given that the human being has free will and is not a producing and consuming machine.

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