For a recently completed research project, I studied the work of professor Peter Warr at the University of Sheffield. His research into the Psychology at Work is extensive, and it was a recent study of his on the happiness of self-employed people that caught my attention.
It brought me further down a rabbit hole into which I had already fallen several years ago and I'm still falling.
Working was published in the early 70s and takes account of Terkel's conversations with ordinary workers of America; steel workers, salesmen, secretaries, bank tellers – they all had a story to tell about their work.
It's a thick volume, and given my slow reading pace, I'll be at it for a while.
Working, and the other material I've been digesting on the nature and value of daily work, serves to reinforce something that has become obvious to me over the years…
…that is, finding and engaging in work for its own inherent value is all that matters.
Anything else is settling for something less than what we should.
We lull ourselves into a false sense of security and forgo our interest, curiosity, and innate creative abilities for the sake of it.
We've been sold a pup.
Of course, no matter what work you choose, not every day will make you smile. After all, it's not supposed to. That it should, is just naive.
But we are entitled to engage in daily work that we enjoy. As Ralph Helstein puts it in Working, “There's no excuse for mules anymore. Society doesn't need them”.
But most of us still allow ourselves to be treated as mules for the sake of a wage.
Once we accept the concept of work is something meaningful, not just the source of a buck, you don't have to worry about finding enough jobs. There's no excuse for mules any more. Society doesn't need them.Ralph Helstein, in Working by Studs Terkel