Friday, 23 September 2011

...Labour vs Work...

Green (1968) states, “Whatever is produced by labour is produced to be consumed, not to be put into use. The activity of labour, so conceived, does not aim at the creating of some durable addition to the world” (p.18). Understanding labour therefore is that it is a necessity of life and that anything done by a person to promote survival is hence a labour.

Arendt (1958) explains work as, “the activity which corresponds to the unnaturalness of human existence” (p.7). Work is therefore any occupation that humans engage in that’s not primarily intended for survival, these are the ‘unnatural’ occupations of humans as they are not needed to exist.

Examples of the difference between occupations of labour and those of work could include:
-       Cooking
-       Farming 
-       Hunting
-       Paid employment (to provide for survival needs eg: food, rent)
-       Craft
-       Art
-       Games  

My chosen occupation of playing cards is an occupation of work, as its primary intent is not for survival and is therefore unnatural to human existence. The reason I play cards is to have fun with friends and family, to challenge myself with tactical games, and to have time to relax. All of these reasons are not crucial for my survival as a human being however I do feel these reasons for engaging in playing cards is providing me with a sense of balance within my life and is helping me to ‘survive’.

In another situation of ‘playing cards’ as an occupation it could be seen as labour, for example professional poker players. They are ‘playing cards’ as their paid employment and their survival is determined by the money that they earn through doing so.
So perhaps every occupation could be determined as labour or work depending on the intention it is being done and the result it provides the person doing it.


Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Green, T.F. (1968). Work, leisure and the American schools. New York: Random House.

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