International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Ethics of Work: Productivity, the Work Ethic, and Bohemian Self-Determination
Judith R. Halasz

Productive labor has served as a measure of right action for centuries. Not surprisingly, many societies have made productivity a social imperative, systematically enforcing the work ethic through culture and social institutions. The work ethic continues to dominate public policy and cultural beliefs concerning social welfare and citizenship, despite the role such ideology plays in perpetuating inequality. Recognizing the moral and ethical contradictions of productivity as a social imperative, various marginal groups have questioned the dominant work ethic. This article marshals historical and ethnographic data to shed light on the work ethic, its enforcement, inherent contradictions, and the resistance foisted by one marginal social type, modern bohemians. By electing to minimize paid work time, bohemians resist the economic, cultural, existential, and political imperatives to prioritize performing productive labor. Moreover, their work ethic challenges the way activity and time are commonly evaluated, embodying a critique of the workaday world.

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