Alain de Botton on Work

This is the first post in a series that will lay out some ideas of Alain de Botton on work. They are taken from a presentation that he gave at the LSE.

The first and perhaps most basic point is that our notions of work are modern. As such, they are nearly opposite of the views of pre.modern peoples.

The modern view of work is that we find meaning in work. It is fulfilling. Of course, we say this and still feel a bit unhappy on Sunday evening when we realize that we have to go back to work. So perhaps our belief is weaker than one might think.

The pre-modern view is very different. Aristotle thought work was slavery The Catholic Church sees it as penance for original sin. There is nothing fulfilling in either. You have to endure it.

This changed occurred around 1750 with the publication of Diderot’s Encyclopedia. In it, we see descriptions of how people make things. The descriptions give meaning to the crafts.

BTW, one sees a similar path or evolution in changed thinking of love. It was around the same time that one started to marry for love, not just property or status or power.

Which leads us to a new perspective why so much of the modern personal crisis revolves around work and love.


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