Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meaningful Work

Here I am beginning what Manfred Max-Neef calls Participation needs and what I am referring to as 'Participation and involvement needs'.

Meaningful work is very strongly related to feeling useful. In my post of 7/27/09 (To Be of Use) I mention 'doing meaningful income producing work in today's economy is a near impossibility'. It doesn't mean that people don't try but, unfortunately, in today's capitalist society most people lead 'lives of quiet desperation' (as Thoreau put it). Yet there is a need for us to feel that our work does more than earn a few folks a lot of money.

Part of what is needed is to rethink the idea of 'a job'. Our real work is not to make money, but to do things that help others and/or help society move along. Most of that is not anything that we can get paid for.

If peak oil hits and the economy collapses, we will get a real chance to rethink 'meaningful work'. Meeting real needs (the stuff I am listing in this segment) will be the work we will all be doing, and money may quickly become irrelevant in this process. In the meantime, think about what would be meaningful for you and see if you can do it--whether you get paid for it or not. (I realize that there are many people, eking out a living on the edge of survival, that this is impossible for. Maybe the most meaningful work would be to help them to get to a place where they can have enough of their needs met that they could begin to think about what would be meaningful for them.)


Resources:
Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?--The classic job hunting book, first published in 1970, now with online back up
Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People--He makes the point in this chapter on learning to 'Begin with the End in Mind' that you can be quite efficient and 'productive' and if you haven't thought about what you really want to do first, you can quickly accomplish a lot that will get you nowhere, as useful a way of looking at meaningless work as I've seen
William Morris, "Useful Work versus Useless Toil"--An 1896 analysis of what work is actually useful, as opposed to what benefits the capitalist system instead of people (also on the internet here)
Marsha Sinetar, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow--A guide to developing 'Right Livelihood'

Quote of the Day: "The first duty of a human being is to assume the right functional relationship to society -- more briefly, to find your real job, and do it." - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

4 comments:

CrackerLilo said...

Today I'm tired from work that I love--interior decorating. My shoulders ache. It's a good hurt. My brother says he feels the same way after working at his still or brewing beer or doing his farm internship work.

I came because today's Pearls Before Swine made me think of you and this series!

MoonRaven said...

It's good to feel tired from work you love--just don't overdo it.

I read the Pearls Before Swine comic (thanks for the link). Silly. (Although there's some truth to it. I think we'd have less neuroses if we focused on meeting our own real needs and the needs of others. I'm convinced that's the way to achieve inner peace--not anti-depressants or expensive workshops.)

SoapBoxTech said...

This is what drew me to theatre and, lately, back to some kind of agrarianism. Sadly, both are good examples of the difficulty in balancing meaningful work with work that pays.

MoonRaven said...

Only too true. And under capitalism, we need work that pays. But I hope you do enjoy raising food, even if you don't make money at it.