"Why should we plant, when there are so many mongo-mongo nuts in the world?"
--the Bushman's retort to the question of agriculture. in Richard Lee, Man the Hunter
In his reassesment of the "hardships" and "poverty" of hunter-gatherer societies, Marshall Sahlins describes the effect of the market-industrial system as instituting scarcity and sentencing us to "life at hard labor." (Stone Age Economics, p.4)
"Work pure and simple is the chief social manifestation of the reality principle." Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization. "As a path to happiness, work is not highly prized by men. They do not strive after it as they do after other possibilities of satisfaction. The great majority of people only work under the duress of necessity, and this natural human aversion to work raises most difficult social problems." (Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p. 27) For Freud, only the "small number" of "thinkers" and "artists" are able to transform work into pleasure through sublimation.
See Le Corbusier's hymn to work in his contrast between the straight path and the pack donkey's way.
Marcuse criticizes Freud for not distinguishing between alienated and non-alienated labor (between labor and work). He proposes that work could be assimilated to play --the free play of human faculties -- through instinctual transformation. "If work were accompanied by a reactivation of pregenital polymorphous eroticism, it would tend to become gratifying in itself without losing its work content." (Eros and Civilization, p. 215)
Marcuse goes on to criticize Fourier for "coming closer than any other utopian socialist to elucidating the dependence of freedom on non- repressive sublimation." but then "handing over the blueprint for the realization of this idea" to a "giant organization and administration." For Marcuse, "Work as free play cannot be subject to administration." (p. 218)
Following Marx's analysis of the factory system in Capital, Deleuze and Guattari speak of the "work-model of the construction site and factory." ("Smooth and Striated" In Thousand Plateaus, p.490) For them the work-model, in both its phyiscoscientific (weight-height, force-displacement) and socioeconomic (abstract labor) aspects, is a fundamental part of the state apparatus. (see machine) They consider the wage regime the correlate of a mechanics of force and describe work as striated space-time. Lewis Mumford goes a step further and calls the invisible structure which includes all the political and economic, military, bureaucratic and royal components that make the immense work-output and grand designs of collective social organization the megamachine --its technical equipment, "megatechnics." The term that Deleuze and Guattari counterpose to work is "free action." (borrowing from Leibniz) "Work is a motor cause that meets resistances, operates on the exterior, is consumed and spent in its effect, and must be renewed from one moment to the next. Free action is also a motor cause, but one that has no resistance to overcome, operates only on the mobile body itself, is not consumed in its effect, and continues from one moment to the next." (thousand plateaus, p.397)
The history of work discipline -- the discipline of labor and social relations through time -- can be traced to the church. Monasticism asserted the originally Jewish thesis that work is an essential kind of worship, that God's command to labor six days of the week was as binding as that to rest on the seventh. The regulation of the day, which started in the ringing of the bells in the monastery, was extended to society at large through the tyranny of the clock . see also fordism. Lewis Mumford describes the mine as the archetypal place of work , as "the concrete model of the conceptual world which was built up by the physicists of the seventeenth century" (Technics and Civilization, p. 70) and draws attention to its devastation of the environment.
"Housework" has been made part of a conceptual scheme wherein all human activity is either work or leisure, a dichotomy that more accurately describes men's lives than women's. Child-raising, cooking, house care, and the like are certainly both work in the sense of socially useful labor and leisure in the sense of a oft-chosen and pleasurable activity, but for women they are both more and less than these categories can capture." (Harding, p. 88) (in this sense, housework is closer to a praxis, although Aristotle would hardly have called it that.)
Elaine Scarry describes the opposition between work and play in terms of embodiment. For Scarry, "although play is often sensuous (for in play the senses become self-experiencing), work entails a far deeper embodiment: the human creature is immersed in his interaction with the world, far too immersed to extricate himself from if (he may die if he stops) ...In contrast, the very nature of play requires that the person be only half submerged in the world of his activity...The The person at play, protected by the separability of himself from his own activity, does not put himself at risk: he acts on the world with less intensity than the person at work..It is in the very nature of work--as dramatically visible in forms of physical labor and craft such as coal mining, farming, building, or inventing--that the worker "works" to bring about severe alterations in the world..and only brings about these alterations by consenting to be himself deeply altered." (The Body in Pain, p.82) For Scarry, war is the most radical and rigorous form of work, a work of world unmaking rather than worldmaking.
see relations between order and work. see also body.
The Newtonian definition of work is the integral of force acting though distance. By defining force purely as the product of an acceleration (a purely kinematic magnitude--from Greek kineo, referring to constrained or controlled motion) and a mass (a coefficient to be determined empirically), modern science eliminated both the metaphysical terminology and psychological origins of the concept of force. E.J. Dijksterhuis calls this part of the "mechanization of the world picture." (see machine) Atkins, in his book on the second law of thermodynamics (?) defines work as "the constrained release of energy." see entropy.
The maintenance of order in "negentropic" systems requires work.