(un)common ground

a commonplace book

Work Ethic as Ideology

Thus we now have in the U.S. a bizarre “work ethic” according to which we are supposed to work very long hours, very intensely, making maximum dollars (the premium is on salary, not on creativity, fulfillment, human value, etc.), which we then are to spend on consumer commodities. Because there is less of a safety net for the poor, we work even more frantically. Nonetheless, we are supposed to condemn unemployed people as somehow morally disgraced.

Barbara G. Goodrich, Ph.D., “The Protestant/Calvinist Work Ethic,” 2010

This deriving a criticism of 21st-century American “work” culture from an analysis of historical Calvinist and Lutheran cultural influences.

The essential point Goodrich is trying to make is that “work ethic” could arguably be described in ideological terms, if not criticized as an ideology in its own right. “Work ethic” is the ideology supporting consumer capitalism, according to Goodrich and others.

Goodrich’s point about the unemployed is an important one and seems especially appropriate in discussion of work ethic as ideology. The unemployed, who have in some way lost the instrument of work itself, and therefore cannot demonstrate their “work ethic,” do not fit into the ideology of the work ethic. They are not subjects within it; they become objects(?), no longer protected from social discipline. The moral aspect of the ideology is perhaps one reason for analyzing Protestant influences on American work culture.


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This entry was posted on November 1, 2015 by and tagged , , , , , .
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