For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Work, Consumerism and the New Poor

by Bauman, Zygmunt (2005)


[From Publisher] It is one thing to be poor in a society of producers and universal employment; it is quite a different thing to be poor in a society of consumers, in which life projects are built around consumer choices rather than on work, professional skills or jobs. Where 'being poor' was once linked to being unemployed, today it draws its meaning primarily from the plight of a flawed consumer. This has a significant effect on the way living in poverty is experienced and on the prospects for redeeming its misery. Work, Consumerism and the New Poor traces this change over the duration of modern history. It makes an inventory of its social consequences, and considers how effective different ways of fighting poverty and relieving its hardships are.

Key Passage

"in the beginning, the work ethic was a highly effective means of filling up factories hungry for more labour. With labour turning fast into an obstacle to higher productivity, the work ethic still has a role to play, but this time as an effective means to wash clean all the hands and consciences inside the accepted boundaries of society of the guilt of abandoning a large number of their fellow citizens to permanent redundancy. Purity of hands and consciences is reached by the twin measure of the moral condemnation of the poor and the moral absolution of the rest."  (p.78)


Poverty, Work Ethic, Aesthetic Of Consumption, Vocation, Welfare State, Social Welfare, Unemployment, Criminality, History


Work Ethic

Links to Reference



How to contribute.