EGMT 1540: Why We Work

Why Work? Work is a central aspect of life today. Most of us take for granted that we will have to work. Some of us hope or expect to find fulfillment in our work. As students enter college, they are likely beginning to ask questions about what they hope to do for work in their careers. How they ask and answer these questions will have a deep impact on the shape their lives take—what challenges and opportunities they will face, what values and relationships they will prioritize, how they will spend their time, energy, and resources.  Despite its outsized importance, however, we do not often stop to ponder workitself. Is the purpose of work primarily to acquire goods for oneself, or to contribute to one’s community? Does each person have a kind of job for which they are naturally suited? What counts as work? Is all work done for pay? Does religion contribute to or thwart the expansion of work into people’s lives? How are work and play related? Is working for someone else always alienating? Or is a job just a job, and fulfillment something to seek elsewhere? It is worth asking, in other words, what work is for and how it fits into a meaningful life. In this course, we will consider work as an ethicalphenomenon. We will draw on classic religious, philosophical, literary, and economic texts, as well as contemporary case studies, to consider the nature and value of work, and the role of work in the formation of character and the realization of a good life. We will consider various ethical obligations that arise within the moral economy of workers, employers, and consumers. Finally, we will consider how technological and economic changes have altered (and will, in the future, continue to alter) our relationship with work.