The American Work Ethic and the Changing Work Force: An Historical Perspective

By Herbert Applebaum | Go to book overview

21
CONCLUSION

It is both logical and fitting that this book conclude with an evaluation of the American work ethic as we face the future in the twenty-first century. The work ethic will be a significant element in changes that will occur, though what these changes will be and how Americans will react to them cannot be predicted. There are dim outlines of what the changes will be, given the trends in information technology, but how quickly the new technology will be implemented and how corporations, the work force, and the government will adapt to the changes is uncertain. The press and the politicians speak glibly about the work ethic, but as indicated throughout this book there is no one work ethic. The work ethic is multidimensional, a dynamic concept that changes over time and that varies according to occupation, management ideology, ethnic perspective, class position, and level of income.

When we talk about the work ethic we talk about life. Ask what the purpose of work is about and we ask what life is about since the two are intertwined. Not that work is everything there is to life. But it is central to the quality of life and affects significantly our nonwork activities and life's possibilities. If leisure is defined as all human activities not associated with earning a living, then leisure and work are interactive, mutually compensating, and reciprocally reinforcing.

One problem regarding the work ethic is that those in charge of enterprises and institutions that put people to work are often people who have never been part of the work process. They are mostly financial experts, business school graduates, and number crunchers. Usually, they are not even engineers or scientists. They care not about nor do they know how things are made, how work is performed, who works, and why they work. Corporate executives are mainly, even exclusively, concerned with the bottom line, that is how much profit is made each year, since that is what affects their stock and their position in the stock market. All the current talk about improving the workplace, about making work more meaningful to workers, and

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