Somewhere along the course of human history, a decision was made that we would all go to work each and every day. Why do we do this?


7 Answers

Paul Wilson Profile
Paul Wilson answered

I think the decision
was made for us Christian, by the necessity to survive! Even in the
most abundant environments, with enough fruit, vegetables and game
for all, it was necessary to hunt and gather most days, and on
off-days to make shelters, weapons and clothes, and to cook and
preserve food. If we had only stuck to this, at least we would not
have had the misery of agriculture to grind us down!

Of course agriculture
worked in respect of increasing food security (and population), and
ultimately led to a position where we could indeed have some people
idle, or some days off. Putting aside the obvious abuse of these
surplus bodies by warlords and priests (themselves necessary to
protect and organise the new economy), in essence the redundant
bodies (the 'agricultural surplus') now had to exchange something for
their food. They could be soldiers, book-keepers, craftsmen (making
agricultural tools or weapons for example), or if they were lucky
they could be bards or artists as people looked beyond subsistence
for their satisfaction. If they were unlucky they were the abused –

Following the
industrial revolution and increasing agricultural efficiency,
non-subsistence exchange went through the roof and power shifted from
those who controlled land to those who controlled 'capital' or
'money' (the tokens used to value units of surplus human time, and
the things they would exchange for it). I think the main reason most
of us end up exchanging our surplus on the same 5 or 6 days a week,
is because it make sense in most cases for us all to be doing it at
the same time!

It is worth noting that
during the hunter-gatherer period, Greater Europe could barely
support a  population of less than one million; at the peak of the
pre-industrial era that figure had risen to around 200 million; and
we are now looking at over 700 million. How is that? In a word,
productivity – how much value we attach to each unit of surplus
time, and how much we can do with it.

If you are clever,
lucky and brave enough, there is nothing to stop an individual in a
modern regulated economy from coming up with an idea, seeking
'capital' and seeing it through to being successfully exchanged for
the products of other's time - providing us wage slaves with the
means to exchange our own time for it's current value in tokens. If
that individual can now escape from the rat-race, good luck to her!

For the rest of us,
it's 5 days a week or nothing :-(

Christian Bell-Young Profile

When you really think about it, the fact that we go to work every day is really strange. Putting aside the obvious reasons like making money and keeping a roof over our heads, why do you think we put ourselves through work? What happened in our history that made work the very fabric of society?

Kyle Eschenroeder Profile
Kyle Eschenroeder , "You don't need a job..." is our tagline ;), answered

There are activities we all need to do to survive - and most of them look nothing like the cubicle labor we associate with work. Most of the times it's a continuation of school-style control. It's soul-sucking at best and pathological at worst.

Okay, maybe that's a tad extreme.

I think the important thing to recognize is that we're all typing on laptops. These laptops can create wealth for us now.

You have the power to look at your employer and decide whether or not they are leveraging your or you are leveraging them. If you're being taken advantage of then leave! There's never been a better time.

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Kathryn Wright
Kathryn Wright commented
Agreed. We allow a local meet-up SyncNorwich to use our office once a month for an evening of presentations and sharing of knowledge. It is made up of small start-ups and mainly many people working for themselves - perhaps due to need rather than want. I genuinely feel if more companies operated in a more modern way - trusting employees and treating them as equals, then people would feel they had more control.

I feel it's a shame that many don't have the stability and benefits of paid holiday etc. that come with being employed. I guess for every pro there is a con for both.
Kyle Eschenroeder
Where are your offices?

Kathryn Wright
Kathryn Wright commented
We are in Norwich, UK.
Andrea Heatherington Profile

When we began placing monetary value on things and deciding we "owned" things

Deston Elite Profile
Deston Elite answered

For many reasons:

1.) Bartering. As humans, if we give you something, we want something in return. We use money now. So now we work the job of our choice, earn money, and we use it for the things we need and sometimes the things we want.

2.) If keeps our country and society alive. If every person is expected to go to work, then stores can remain open, plants will get power, customers will receive service, etc.

3.) It advances our society. Expecting everyone to go to work allows places like Walmart to remain stocked and McDonald's to sell their food.

4.) It's productive. If we go to work every day so we can keep ourselves alive, we're being productive. Going to work is what gives us the money we need for our food, and keeping a good hygiene and helping us live longer.

5.) It's better. If we go to work so we can earn money, we don't have to give up some of the things we already have for trading with other people. Years ago, some families would sell their children because they needed food and a much richer family could feed.

PJ Stein Profile
PJ Stein answered

I don't think a decision a was made. I think our jobs were a natural evolution from what people did to survive. If you go back to early man there were hunters and there were gatherers. Each did their part to survive as a group. As civilizations formed it just became more complex and bartering systems formed. From there currency took over to make things less complicated.

Kathryn Wright Profile
Kathryn Wright , Keen reader and graduate, answered

I should start by saying I haven't studied psychology or socialism however, I do often contemplate how amazing the inventions that we have come up with are, and it is so bizarre that we have created a life that is 70% work and 30% time off, in the western world at least.

When I think about how nice it would be to have lived in simpler times, when all we did was hunt and gather food, farm the land, rise and sleep with the sunlight - it sounds so idillic. However, I tend to come to the thought that I would probably be better at some things than others, and it's likely I'd suggest to a fellow farmer that I plough their land in return

for a sheep or two. Then other farmers who don't have a nice new plough like mine would want to pay me to do their field, and before you know it we are trading in a currency for a skill. Therefore I feel that reaching the point we have is inevitable.

No one tells a child to learn to sit, or crawl, or to try to stand, they are unstoppable. As a race, I think we have displayed the same natural tendencies. Whether this is really to our benefit or detriment; I'm not sure. There is an intrinsic desire within us to compete, to succeed, and it is likely that many would argue that this comes down to our basic biological drive to breed as we want to be seen as the top-dog in the pack. I feel our minds are more complex than that, and we are driven to learn and explore. Why do people constantly ask questions? No one has ever sat back at the end of their life and claimed - "I know everything there is to know".

I think the film The Matrix touches on this point in the first film, (the only one I like of the lot) where they suggest that everything around us isn't real, and it's not if you think about it, fancy clothes and cars - it could be easy to consider it all worthless. I admire people who choose to not be owned by their possessions, there is an interesting blog post about being de-owned here.

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Kathryn Wright
Kathryn Wright commented
Thanks for your comment. I used to work in retail and often 6 days a week and at weekends. I think legally the shops should be forced to close on a Sunday still to restore some sort of balance and some downtime. Now that I have weekends off I feel a lot more relaxed. What I notice when I visit France however is that they have a good break for lunch, most people seem to go to bistros and restaurants and take a proper break from work. The fact that they are spending their money must also help the economy?
Virginia Zuloaga
Virginia Zuloaga commented
Hi Kathryn! I understand. When I first arrived in Madrid I started working at an art gallery with really bad working hours. We did have the 3 hour break at lunch, which I find it a bit excesive. I prefer the 1 hour break and leave earlier.

But I used to work at hotels too - back in the days... way back - and the schedules were, well... special.

Retail stores need people who are willing to work during out-of-the-ordinary hours, but hey! Night guards have to work during the night. We all do what we gotta to do. The important thing here is that companies respect and operate under the 40-hours-a-week rule. 8 hours a day during five days is the optimum time. The best balance is to divide your day into three eight-hours blocks: 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of free time. And the weekends? A total bonus!
Kathryn Wright
Kathryn Wright commented
I love your optimism Virginia, and I agree, I feel incredibly fortunate to have the weekends off now. I think working those tough retail hours and (for you the hotel hours) makes us appreciate the 'normal' week a bit more perhaps!

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