A reading note
de Botton spends time with a biscuit manufacturing company in England, and uncovers the main source of sorrow in the modern workplace:de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, page 80
The real issue is not whether baking biscuits is meaningful, but the extent to which the activity can seem so after it has been continuously stretched and subdivided across five thousand lives and half a dozen different manufacturing sites. An endeavor endowed with meaning may appear meaningful only when it proceeds briskly in the hands of a restricted number of actors and therefore where particular workers can make an imaginative connection between what they have done with their working days and their impact upon others.
So, take an activity—say, cooking, which may be one of the most natural, human things we can do for one another—and break it up into a thousand pieces and you’ll find yourself with a dreary workforce and inferior biscuits. That we ever got to this point, when it is so clearly a source of despair, is astonishing. Further proof that we need an economy built not to maximize profits but to improve the quality of human life.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
Alain de Botton
A lengthy and wonderful photo essay with stories of various kinds of work, from biscuit manufacturer to rocket scientist; a welcome companion to Theriault’s
Small Is Beautiful
Schumacher brilliantly interrogates modern economics, revealing its philosophical underpinnings to be relentless supporters of goods over people. He proposes an alternative—a Buddhist economics—that takes as…