An Examination Of The Concept Of A 'work Ethic' As Defined By Beder.

2686 words - 11 pages

The concept of work is one that we are all familiar with. Whether we are employed ourselves, or rely on the employment of others to sustain us, we are all aware of the necessity of work. What is not so clear is what our attitude to this work is. Some academics, such as Beder (2000) claim that a 'work ethic' exists, whereby work acquires a moral dimension and becomes the defining characteristic of human existence. However, there are many criticisms that can be levelled at such claims.Beder (2000) suggests that since the seventeenth century workers in both Britain and America have acquired an internalised 'work ethic'. Michael Rose argues that this cannot be assumed by proposing two types of work ethic, one of acceptance and one of acquiescence. He describes "individuals who do possess an internalised drive to work effectively and postpone self-gratification" (Rose,1984, p77) as accepting a work ethic. In contrast he describes individuals who merely "oblige to act as if they had internalised them" (Rose,1984,p77) as being in acquiescence of a work ethic doctrine.The distinction made by Rose suggests that only a minority of workers embraced and internalised the work ethic. Evidence of this lies in whether a new ideology of work existed and was accepted into the culture of workers. Rose claims that this was not the case. He argues that " traditional [medieval] work values and working habits continued to exist on a scale even in Protestant countries, and in England as much as anywhere, despite the long British lead in industrialisation" (Rose,1984,p32).The onset of industrialisation brought about a range of values that could not be explained either by internalisation of a work ethic or by traditional work practises. Rose suggests that while internalisation of the work ethic was not the norm, many workers acted upon it in order to impress an employer."Persons can be constrained or bribed to reproduce desired forms of behaviour without having internalised the values which would produce them through voluntary compliance. To impress an employer an employee can feign acceptance of values he privately rejects" (Rose,1984,p41).This raises the question of the extent that work ethic was internalised, rather than a response to the need for employment. As Rose asserts "'busy-work' does not automatically add up to effectiveness. In no sense is it a sign of moral commitment to a Work Ethic" (Rose,1984,p41).For practical evidence of this, Rose draws on industrialised America. As his proposals above indicate, "commitment to a work ethic in the strictest sense amongst American workers, by the turn of the century, still remains unclear" (Rose,1984,p79). Further more, Rose points to managerial interventions that set out to "destroy moral commitment to work effort" (Rose,1984,p79) as an indication that moral commitment to work effort (and a work ethic) was lacking.This Taylorist management philosophy was based on a belief that workers had no work ethic and deliberately...

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