For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Gay Science

by Nietzsche, Friedrich (1974)

Key Passage

If sociability and the arts still offer any delight, it is the kind of delight that slaves, weary of their work,devise for themselves. How frugal our educated people … have become regarding ‘joy’! How they arebecoming increasingly suspicious of all joy! More and more, work enlists all good conscience on its side;the desire for joy already calls itself a ‘need to recuperate’ and is becoming ashamed of itself. ‘One owesit to one’s health’ – that is what people say when they are caught on an excursion into the country. Soonwe may well reach the point where people can no longer give in to the desire for a vita contemplativa (thatis, taking a walk with ideas and friends) without self-contempt and a bad conscience. Well, formerly it wasthe other way around: it was work that was afflicted with the bad conscience. A person of good family usedto conceal the fact that he was working if need compelled him to work. Slaves used to work, oppressed bythe feeling that they were doing something contemptable. (p.260)


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