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work ethic

work ethic The idea of productive labour, or work, being valued in and for itself by those who do it, encouraging them to invest greater effort than could be achieved by social pressures, incentive payments, or other devices developed by employers to extract maximum output from their workforces. The concept is a unique product of Western European culture; other cultures rely on different social, religious, and political ideologies to encourage productive labour and the fulfilment of social obligations. The idea was derived originally from the protestant ethic, which presents work as a religious and moral obligation, and is now widely used as simplified popular version of that concept, especially in the context of explanations for low or high productivity and economic growth. The relevant American and British research in sociology, psychology, economics, and political science is reviewed systematically in Michael Rose , Re-working the Work Ethic (1985)
. See also ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVATION; ENTREPRENEUR; TASK-ORIENTATION VERSUS TIME-ORIENTATION DISTINCTION; WORK, SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE OF.

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Work Ethic

WORK ETHIC


The work ethic is characterized by the desire to work hard and efficiently. Significant aspects of the work ethic include frugality, accumulation of wealth, organized and systematic ways of life, and approval of diligence and disapproval of indulgence.

Early Greeks and Romans believed manual work to be a curse and left it to slaves. Aristocratic disdain for work continued throughout the Middle Ages except in monasteries, where work was of the ways by which a monk was sanctified. In early modern times, with the rise of capitalism and the middle class, the monastic respect for work was spread to the laity. In 1903, the sociologist Max Weber (18691920) proposed in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. that the modern work ethic developed from grew out of the thought of the Protestant reformer John Calvin (15091564). Calvin taught predestination, a belief that a person's eternal destiny (Heaven or Hell) is independent of one's actions on earth. It has been predetermined ahead of time. Yet, one may have a hint of God's plan by observing whether certain signs of election are present in one's life. Calvin's followers suggested that material success was one of these. In other words, success in this world, which is usually attained through hard work, means that you have been chosen to go to heaven. Scholars have long debated whether the Weber thesis is true. Nonetheless, a belief in the moral value of work, whatever its origin, has been an important facet of the West's material progress.

Largely because of a productivity rate decrease in the 1970s, questions arose regarding viability of the work ethic in the United States. The productivity drop off apparently resulted from an increased proportion of young inexperienced workers in the labor force. By 1979 an upward trend resumed. At the end of the twentieth century time spent working, attitudes toward work, and economic indicators point to a continued presence of a strong work ethic. Increasingly, studies showed that workers believed work rather than leisure yields not only material goods but self-fulfillment. With increases in education, technology, life expectancy, and with the need to balance family care with work, the logistics of work continue to evolve but the work ethic remains constant.

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