In general understanding, “work” is an easy word with a quite simple meaning. However, Work is one of the most important parts of Sociology. Simply, the definition of Work is the carrying out of tasks, which enable people to make a living within the environment in which they find themselves. But in fact, it is very difficult to understand the nature of work and puts us in a poor position for better understanding the changing contemporary world. Thus, the purpose of this essay is to examine what is Work, to help the people to know more about Work.
According to Tony J. Watson, “Work is basic to the ways in which human beings deal with the problems arising from the scarcity of resources available in the environment. The scarcity of resources in the world influences the patterns of conflict and competition, which arise between social groups. It follows from this that the social organization of work will reflect the basic power relationship of any particular society. But patterns of social relationships do not relate to power structure alone. They are also closely connected to patterns of meaning.” Therefore, the ways in which people think and feel about work will closely relate to their wider political and religious doctrines and to their general cultural orientations.
For most of people, normally consider the forms of Work as follow:
Formal /Informal work:
Formal work is thought as paid work, it is the work for getting the people’s main income. On the other hand, Informal work does not get the payment or earn the main income, such as housework.
Inside work / Outside work:
This is to classify Work by the spatial difference. It is about the location of Work: inside the house / the company or outside the house / the company.
Public work / Private work:
This is talking about the object of Work. Public work can be simply thought as work for the society or community, and Private work can be understood as work for individuals.
Men’s work / Women’s work:
This is to distinguish Work by the difference of sex. Usually, there is a prejudice of sex in employed area. Most of women used to work at home, and do the housework. On the other hand, men work outside and get the payment. Right now, the role and position of women have changed a lot. They also work outside; some of them even work at very important position and get quite high wage. However, most of them are doing part-time job, and get low salary.
As we have seen above, there are a lot of kinds of Work. Some people argue that whether housewife works or not. Actually, housework also belongs to Work. The main difference is if the work is economic paid or not. However, if we just consider Work as above is not enough, it seems to be too easy. In fact, the meaning of Work is quite wide and complex. Work tends to be an activity that transforms nature and is usually undertaken in social situations, 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. Work cannot be narrowly defined by constraining definitions, which limit it either to employment, or as a result of abstract philosophizing on the nature of ‘productive’ labor. Work can be understood only in relation to the specific social relations in which it is embedded. Specific people in specific circumstances in specific sets of social relations and social relationships can be described precisely in terms of whether they are engaged in work or play.
As we peel away another layer of meaning, I would like to put aside the explicit economic motive for work. I am not questioning the need for people to have food, shelter, clothing, and a variety of goods and services that sustain a good life. But there is no essential connection between having a job and having either those necessities or those luxuries. In addition to the people who inherit a lifetime income, most children, most retired people, those suffering from severe physical or mental illness live in relative degrees of comfort without holding jobs.
As economic structures become more efficient, managerial skill increases, and various kinds of machines take over more and more physical and mental tasks, the relationship between traditional forms of work and having goods and services is less and less clear. One the level of meaning I am currently exploring, other aspects of working take center stage. As the role of work in our lives decreases, as physical and virtual machines take over manual labor and service occupations, an increasing number of people find their lives devoid of meaning. Salvation can no longer be achieved through work, because work is not available as a spiritual vocation. For the multitude, work becomes part-time, tangential, a more means of to meet basic needs. For the affluent, work simply provides the means of for amusement, entertainment, and distraction. Shopping becomes the highest form of existence, not as a means but as an end in itself. Or, work becomes an arena in which to exercise the “will to power.”
We also can go back to have a look the history. Approximately 200 years ago, society was transformed by the Industrial Revolution. Work was standardized for everyone through creating repetitive, simplified and rote routines. Workers simply fell into a daily, numbing ritual. Workers from the farms were recruited into big factories. They filled jobs that simply required strict obedience to the processes. Independence was glamorized during the industrial revolution and every worker was told to work on his own. Workers were rewarded for what they did on their own and punished if they gave each other too much attention or become too creative. This was the world of quantity and monotony. In the new revolution, fortunes are being made, old industries are disappearing, and new opportunities are springing up everywhere.
Purpose, true creativity, adaptability and above all, passion must replace aimlessness, cynicism, contempt and resignation. Indeed, many top achievers are looking for something beyond the material things of the world. And often there is an internal struggle within them when they are unable to find it. Work to them is no longer a living. It is a life where they are able to display their inner beliefs, values and purposes. In recent times, many successful people have been re-defining their work to not just performing, but performing well with significance. Aspiring to make a difference to colleagues, staff, associates and even to society is a powerful force that we are witnessing in today’s society. No wonder spirituality, community involvement and “a balanced life” have taken on an increased meaning in today’s generation of professionals.
As we enter the twenty-first century, we urgently need a new vision of work as a spiritual activity open to all, not the privilege of a small group of “knowledge workers.” Monetary payment is not essential for the meaning of work; it often eclipses the spiritual aspect of work as what makes us human. Not surprisingly, the new definition of work today is no longer just executing a job but rather in enabling us to express who we are. By expressing ourselves through our passions, our values and our purposes, we tend to commit our whole being in what we do. That is why many professionals are willing to swop their present well-paid jobs for something that they love doing which pays less. And many youngsters are venturing into the creative arts to pursue their dreams instead of taking the traditional academic courses.
In conclusion, Work is the most prominent activity in the lives of most adults, the source of most people’s self esteem and social status. So what does it mean that work is becoming more automated, global, decentralized, and contingent. As the new economy of work takes shape, employees from white-collar managers to unskilled laborers, welfare recipients to new college graduates, are facing a workplace reality for which there is little precedent. This fellowship will offer reporters, editors, and columnists covering labour relations, labour policy and law, education, and the workplace a chance to reflect on the larger social issues and trends shaping employment in the coming decades. Issues that will be explored include technology, unions, work and family, time, welfare/workfare, and education.
Therefore, work, which is essential for personal existence – for individuals and communities – must be restored as a spiritual vocation. We create our own existence in the context of both natural and social realities that are given to us at birth. Human creativity is not creation from nothing but a process that draws upon both material conditions and historical existence passed on from previous generations. The business community, government, and the “third sector” of voluntary association are three major forms that now exist and serve the forms of life through which our work can be done. The challenge we currently face requires us to create a balanced and dignified relationship among these various forms of work, keeping them under the control of ethical values that serve, not the whims and aspirations of few, but all people.