The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work

The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work

The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work

The Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work

Excerpt

In their best-selling analysis of American society, Habits of the Heart, Robert N. Bellah and his associates claim that at the heart of any recovery of our common life, of our “social ecology,” there must be “a change in the meaning of work.” The meaning of work must change, they insist, because it has been too long informed by the spirit of modern individualism, a spirit which promotes the idea of work as a means of private advancement rather than public contribution—a spirit which will rend the social fabric of our society and erode our democratic institutions if allowed to have full sway in American life.

According to the cultural taxonomy developed in Habits of the Heart, modern American individualism comes in two forms: utilitarian and expressivist. The utilitarian individualists among us locate the meaning of their lives in the public world of work. They turn to work in pursuit of personal success, which is often measured financially. They are hard working, highly competitive, and willing to sacrifice their private lives for the sake of career advancement. Expressive individualists, on the other hand, typically turn away from the harsh realities of the world of work and seek meaning in private life—personal

1. Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), p. 289.

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