Alain de Botton on Work

on work

Great ideas from this article that I am jotting down below as a reminder.
1. To be a modern human being means never being far from having a career crisis. Moreover, Sunday evening is the favored time for this privileged state.
2. Historically, work had nothing to do with one’s identity. It was almost entirely and exercise in brutality. For most of human history, there has been absolutely no expectation that work could be anything other than misery. It was not until about 1750 that things began to change – work, and consequently, marriage became something where people had a chance at fulfillment. One possible downside of these changes might have been the stigmatization of the ‘safety valve’ of aristocratic culture – hobbies and mistress.
3. Most the books we read focus on leisure time and culture. If you were a Martian and you went to any large bookstore, you would think human beings spent their entire lives falling in love, squabbling with their families, and killing each other. Guidebooks never tell about what work goes behind any product.
4. 200 years ago, we used to know where stuff came from. Now, we have a feeling of alienation and a loss of sense of wonder. I was intrigued by this thought, and that is one reason I chose to examine logistics in my book.
5. The two fields devoted to the work of work (jobs about jobs) are career counseling and Human Resources. HR department is essential in gigantic organizations with high ambitions and high standard of performances, which might result in much time wasted and workaholism. In old days, all you needed was a whip to make someone do the job. Now, you cannot harm anyone and hence, the HR department. Because of these measures, whereas home life was once associated with kindness and sensitivity and work life was all exploitation, in the most advanced organizations it is almost like that equation has been reversed.
Moreover, for those who do not like the cubicle life, you have the career counselor.
6. As adults, we’ve somehow, somewhere along the way, lost our intuition. That is due to our search for status and our need for financial stability. Children on the whole never ask themselves as what they want to do next. It’s very hard to pin us down to our jobs. Maybe none of us or very few of us really end up in the job that we merit. According to St. Augustine, it is a sin to judge anybody by their post.
7. According to Adam Smith, specialization is the key to wealth in the modern world, and even keeps the poorest of the poor from starvation. Any job that helps others is meaningful. Unfortunately, workers in large organizations are often too divorced from the impact of their work.
8. While the above are some of the sorrows of work, there are some pleasures of work as well. Work keeps us distracted, serving as a haven into which we escape from problems that are too large for us. Work helps us create something a little bit better than we are. Moreover, the social implications are just as worthwhile. It is moving to understand what an unbelievable amount of labor goes into everything.
9. Even the day off has some significance. From a secular perspective, Sabbath could be considered as a check on megalomania and workaholism. We did not create this world, so putting down our tools and acknowledging that though we control some of the levers of the world, we don’t control them all.

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