For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The instinct of workmanship and the irksomeness of labor"

by Veblen, Thorstein (1898)

Key Passage

the aversion to labor is in great part a conventional aversion only. In the intervals of sober reflection, when not harassed with the strain of overwork, men's common sense speaks unequivocally under the guidance of the instinct of workmanship. They like to see others spend their life to some purpose, and they like to reflect that their own life is of some use. All men  have this quasi-aesthetic sense of economic or industrial merit, and to this sense of economic merit futility and inefficiency are distasteful. In its positive expression it is an impulse or instinct of workmanship; negatively it expresses itself in a  deprecation of waste. This sense of merit and demerit with respect to the material furtherance or hindrance of life approves the economically effective act and deprecates economic futility. It is needless to point out in detail the close relation between this norm of economic merit and the ethical norm of conduct, on  the one hand, and the aesthetic norm of taste, on the other. It  is very closely related to both of these, both as regards its biological ground and as regards the scope and method of its award  (p.190)


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