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February 20, 2013


Luis Enrique

on your point 3, why can't employers use happiness as a non-pecuniary benefit, offset by lower wages, thus preserving profits? Are us workers partially to blame because we over weight wages versus happiness, ourselves? Or maybe it's because contracts can easily handle wages but could not legislate over happiness.

In abstract I think I'd take a pay cut if my employer could figure out a way of making my days significantly more enjoyable, although I can't imagine how they could. On your point 1, I'm not sure this is (just) about the division of labour, I reckon lots of tasks aren't much fun however organized.

I have always found this puzzling - and am repeating myself here too, sorry - if you consider all feasible combinations of working hours, pay and enjoyment-at-work that employers could offer workers, I find it puzzling that so few bundles consist of lower pay, fewer hours and more enjoyment. We seem to be stuck in a long hours low enjoyment corner solution. In many jobs that's because the wage is too low already for lower wages to be feasible, but this is not the case for highly educated/skilled high paid workers.


Another, "Hansonian" explanation might be that much of the work done both by bosses and lower level workers is for signaling purposes, i.e. to get social acceptance from other hard-working people. Thus activities that seem like they enhance work efficiency are preferred over those that actually do so.


To add to my own post above, this type of signaling would also be the reason to why even people with flexible working hours go to work to monitor facebook or watch youtube videos; you appear to be working and this is enough both for you and your bosses!


I blame Calvin and the Protestant work ethnic. At a low level of technology work is painful and dangerous and very low productivity.So a whole ideology is developed to persuade people that work is a holy duty and accepting displeasure is a virtue.

In Contempory sociey fanatical slaving has no such justification but people are too emeshed in the ideology of sin to escape it. Hence the "reforms" to the benefits system to base it on Calvin esque ideas of toil. It also is interesting to reflect on how dictatorships like that of Stalin and Hitler lionise work as part of the system of state oppression. A coincidence? I doubt it. But at least Hitler could sleep in and watch holy wood films; so he managed to avoid the ideology imposed on the rest.


Sorry for the spelling errors above; shame there is no edit function.

Just to add that the above theory is an example of the harm caused by religion over the centuries; fear of the sin of sloth and guilt about sexual pleasure permeate christian society. We still have millions of people suffering needlessly as a result of the un healthy system of guilt and repression enforced since constantine decided to embrace christianity as a ploy to grap the purple. Followed by the Justinian terror to uproot paganism.


Slightly at a tangent but isn't it also a case that workers' control of the work process is linked to greater productivity? I seem to remember some studies in the 1990s, maybe part of the whole post Fordism thing, that workplaces where employees had greater control of the processes were more productive in terms of what was produced and cutting down waste.

The evidence was suggesting that a very high division of labour might have been applicable to Adam Smith and 1930s car plants but that a team work ethic might work better where there was increased use of sophisticated technology.

Might be interesting evidence for workers' control

john malpas

Is it not the duty of trader unions to make workers feel unhappy - to enable strikes to eliminate the said unhappiness by replacing it with money. Ad nauseum

Adidas Porsche Design S2

Maybe you have never really understand my existence.


Perhaps there is a fourth possibility: that employers are more interested in predictability than in productivity, because they want to reduce the risks they incur in making contractual commitments to their customers. bjg


Keith is right about religion and work.
I've been thinking about better slogans than IDS's Make Work Pay (A Little More Than The Dole Before Child Care is Taken Into Account). Like... Make Work Fun! Make Work History Except for Essential Services. Make Work Socially Useful. Make Work about Making Things. I'd vote for parties with any of those slogans.

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