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What Is Work Notes

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Pip Reeve

28/4/10 TT 10 W1 What is work?

Grint suggests that an 'unambiguous or objective definition of work is not possible.' 1 In this essay I will discuss some of the difficulties of defining the term 'work' and I will analyse some past definitions of 'work.' Finally, I will use a variety of examples to attempt to define the meaning of 'work,' before attempting to find my own definition. In most of the attempts to define work that I have read, there is a notion of an activity which has some kind of transformative nature and is affected by the environment and social situations in which is undertaken. For example, Grint uses one definition of work as follows, 'Work tends to be an activity that transforms nature and is usually undertaken in social situations.'2 I agree that these two key elements of work involving the transformation of 'nature' and of work being affected by the environment in which it is undertaken are both fundamental in any definition of the term 'work.' To start with the transformative nature of work, on a very simple level, 'work' could be transforming a tree into a plank of wood. Whereas on a more complex level, I believe that 'work' could be 'transforming' a baby through its development into a young child. It seems clear that 'work has to be performed,'3 and it therefore 'requires some degree of effort, skill, care, dexterity, mental application, and physical energy requiring commitment to the object of work.' 4 One complexity in this statement is whether or not 'commitment to the object of work' is required, I will discuss this in more detail later with respect to slavery. So, perhaps when effort is not required, a task becomes leisure and so, 'in some senses, work is the opposite of leisure.'5 However, as always, there are exceptions to every rule, and for some people sitting and doing nothing requires a surprising amount of effort, whereas perhaps doing 'work' requires very little effort. This is the point at which it is important to consider the environment and the social context in which work is defined, as Grint claims, 'whether any particular activity is experienced as work or leisure or both or neither is intimately related to the temporal, spatial and cultural conditions in existence.' 6 Again, two people can perform the same task and one person may consider it 'work' while the other person does not, 'it is not that the activities remain the same but that our viewpoints are different.'7 The social context in which work is being defined is fundamental, 'work - its meaning is socially constructed.'8 I agree with Beck who suggests that, 'work has become so omnipotent that there is really no other concept opposed to it.'9 There are very few activities in the world which wouldn't be considered as 'work' to some people in some social situations. So, from the above discussion, I think that it is clear that a job comes under the heading of work but work is by no means limited to 'jobs'. As Grint states, 'employment is a form of work but not all work is employment.'10 Although, 'most sociological accounts of 'work' actually concern themselves with paid employment,' 11 there are forms of work which are 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Concept of Work' Applebaum 1992 'The Concept of Work' Applebaum 1992 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Brave New World of Work' Beck 2000 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998 'The Sociology of Work' Grint 1998

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