Monday, April 12, 2010

What's the Difference: Work, Job, and Labor

David Brooks was rooting FOR Duke in the NCAA men's basketball championship. By itself, that is sufficient for condemnation on character grounds, but then he spelled out his reason -- the Duke players are "paragons of privilege" and in line with the central conservative myth, "rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people." The wealthy are wealthy because they work harder and therefore deserve more.

Matt Taibbi in a take-down well worth the read, accuses Brooks of equivocating on "time spent on the job" and "time spent working," arguing that not all jobs are work.

I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who’s pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn’t work as hard as Jamie Dimon.

Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door.
It seems to me that there is implicit in this discussion a notion of labor which is not being set out.

So, today's question is what is the difference between work, job, and labor?