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...