Modern Work

I had a thought the other day.

Work used to be someone people would do to survive. Work was how you killed or grew and ate your food. It was how you had clothes so you didn't freeze to death. You know, essential stuff. You put in effort because that's what it took to have what you needed, and exertion was the natural consequence of getting those things.

We still have work, though, despite the fact that our clothes are made thousands of miles away and our food is grown and picked by strangers. And sure, the people who supply those things are working at it, and a lot of the work that we all do in this country serves to bring those products to their consumers. But also, so many of the available jobs are marketing or crunching numbers or managing other people to do those things. Somebody cuts the paychecks for the best boy on a movie set. Someone writes the copy on the label of fruit juice bottles.

It's a weird thing to think about, with too many implications to write about in a single blog post. We clearly, as beings, need stuff to do, are designed to struggle at something. Even if it's weirdly insignificant.

Also, the fact that we outsource our physical needs allows for so much more population. When we make someone else get our food for us, we give them a job and something to do and a way to get their own food. And also, then we need a random job ourselves, so it creates this weird society beast. It grows exponentially and the result is that we both need and create more and more people and more and more resources. Sad for our planet that its resources aren't infinite. Sad for us that we're killing it.

This post kind of reads like stoned ramblings, and sadly it's not. It's just odd to be an adult and deconstruct going to work every day even a little. No wonder so much art is made about this. I want to go read John Cheever some more and watch some Mad Men. What a strange world I live in.


Aviva DV said...

Some rambling of my own to add to your thoughts regarding work/labor: some people work to live and some people live to work. I, for one, can't imagine a life where I didn't have work to do. Work--or, at least, having an occupation--is what makes life worthwhile for me. That said, this obviously depends on what kind of work you do, how taxing and/or mind-numbing it is, who you work for, how you're compensated, and how you're treated while on the job.

Then again, if I were living out in the wilderness, without the aid of society and technology and a system of labor, consumption and production, I wouldn't need or want a job because it would be a full-time task just surviving. Which could bring its own sense of accomplishment...again, depending on conditions.

Unknown said...

Work is one of those things in which occupation matters more to those that are either financially secure, or those that are capable of more higher order thinking, more likely to have existential crises.

If you don't know how you're going to put food on the table, *what* you do isn't going to matter, as long as it's something. If you aren't someone who has a need to feel fulfilled, or like you have some kind of purpose, manual labor or service industry jobs will be fine for you.

But for those of us that think too much, that are searching for meaning or something, we have three areas of life in which we need to feel fulfilled: friends/family, romantic relationships, and work. For more abstract thought on work, and purpose of work, career construction theory is pretty cool.

It addresses the what, how, and why of career decisions and strives to determine why people choose the work that they do. It integrates the what, which is the psychology of individual differences; the how, which is the psychology of development; and the why, which involves narrative psychology. So, according to constructionist theory, career (or a subjective career) denotes a perspective that imposes personal meaning on past memories, present experiences, and future aspirations by weaving them into a pattern that portrays a life theme. Therefore, the subjective career that guides, regulates, and sustains vocational behavior emerges from an active process of MAKING MEANING, not discovering preexisting facts. So this theory involves the implementation of self concept to fit work into a person's life, rather than fitting people to their work. We create our career throughout our life based on experiences and perceptions. The stories we share reveal life patterns, these patterns reveal life themes, and these life themes reveal our purpose in life. Therefore, our SELF interacts with SOCIETY to produce individual STORIES.

Check it out, if you're interested.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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