For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Worker equality and adult development: the kibbutz as a developmental model"

by Snarey, J; Lydens, L (1990)


Adults' social status, particularly their occupations, is a powerful predictor of their level of moral and ego development. This association's inevitability was tested by examining the relationship of personal development with social status among 3 groups of workers. Results showed that kibbutz workers' moral and ego development were not significantly associated with educational, occupational, or social class standing, but that Israeli city and North American workers' moral and ego development were significantly associated with all measures of social status. In further contrast, work complexity was significantly associated with both moral and ego development only for kibbutz workers, suggesting that they engage in jobs that are appropriate to their psychological development without creating social inequality. Implications for developmental theory and workplace research are considered.

Key Passage

From the perspective of workplace theory, the social profitability suggested by this study parallels the high level of economic profitability of kibbutzim documented by previous studies. Kibbutzim, that is, have a higher rate of economic growth than do comparable factories and farms in Israel, Europe, and the United States despite the fact that kibbutzim also have no wage differentials whatsoever (Barkai, 1979; Don, 1977; Kanovsky, 1966; Melman, 1970; Tannenbaum, Kavcic, Rosner, Vianello, & Wieser, 1974). The findings of this study and the results of prior research provide further evidence for the ideas of Kohn (1977): The kibbutz returns control over the product and process of the workplace to the workers; their relative freedom from hierarchical supervision and their democratic participation in decisions that affect the workplace appear to allow the workers to more ideally match persons with work roles without significant alienation or social inequality. There are, of course, variations in effectiveness among kibbutz communities themselves. For example, Leviatan's (1975) research on the relationship between variations in kibbutz workers' personal characteristics and variations in economic productivity among 27 kibbutz industrial plants showed that the following worker characteristics were associated with higher levels of economic success for kibbutz industrial plants: work group cohesiveness, workers' level of control and influence over what happens in the plant, psychological self-fulfillment at one's job, and skills and training received. These variables are remarkably parallel to Kohn's (1977) concepts of control over the workplace and substantive complexity of the work, suggesting that our findings are not anomalous to the particular kibbutz under study. (p.92)


Social Status, Development, Psychology, Worker Equality, Class, Developmental Theory, Moral Development


Psychological Centrality of Work

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