The value of work

A Reading Note

The Buddhist view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.…To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-wracking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of passion, and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of his worldly existence.

Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful, page 58


Regarding work and leisure, people who call themselves humanist philosophers concern themselves, like trade union leaders, with a more equitable balance, that is, more leisure and less work for the worker through a greater share of the “abundance” created by the machine. But none of these humanist philosophers are tending a machine. Certain forms of escapist entertainment aside, leisure in itself is worthless without direction or content, and creative work can be more rewarding and fulfilling than many kinds of leisure. What is needed, it would seem to follow, is to rethink and readjust work to this end. Which is what all workers attempt to do daily on the job.

Theriault, How to Tell When You’re Tired, page 122

Related books

Small Is Beautiful

E. F. Schumacher

Schumacher brilliantly interrogates modern economics and proposes an alternative: a Buddhist economics that takes as its imperative the quality of human life, not the quantity of profit.