Home > 'Self Help', Misc, Politics, Writing > Why So Many People Think The Western Work Ethic is Right

Why So Many People Think The Western Work Ethic is Right

Read time 7 minutes

Solomon Asch set out to study social influences and how social forces affect a person’s opinions and attitudes when he began his conformity study in the 1950’s (Hock, 2005). Asch noted that participants in these past studies often changed their differing opinions to those of the majorities, when confronted with opposing views (Asch, 1955).

These tests on how others can effect our judgement without altering our knowledge about the situation, it turns out, show that we’ll often side with majority even if we quite strongly believe they’re wrong. Asch said “That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong…is a matter of concern. It raises questions about…the values that guide our conduct.” (Asch 1955).

Not only does this suggest at frighting thoughts of how a jury panel may be wrongly influenced, it also harks at how religion may have developed. But more interestingly, to me, is how this natural, in-built, most likely evolutionary disposition to side with the majority has effected our view on the typical way to live life, wherever that may be. The typical work/life balance. The status-quo of the western 9-5.  

It’s been drilled into most of us that to work, to build a career, to undersell our time, to suffer the trials and tribulations of ‘full time’ employment is the right thing to do. It’s just what everyone else does. It’s a necessity. We don’t have a choice. It’s a given that we’ll have to work 40 hour weeks to support ourselves and our family. If we don’t like it, tough. It’s just the way of the world. It’s what we’ve always done in order to keep the world turning.

We’re suffocated by it.

Where does this thought come from? Asch’s study shows that the influence of the majority on our judgement of the world is great. Our opinions and values are shunned and shoved from side to side with the majority, just as a boat left unchallenged with flow in the direction of the river. Does this make the majority right? Of course not. What the majority chooses is by no means necessarily good for me, just as the direction of the river is in no way necessarily good for the boat. It could well be heading for a tumbling death over a great waterfall.

Simply put, the flow of the majority can easily force us onto paths we otherwise wouldn’t choose. Paths whose destination is stress, tears, anger, and disappointment. Destinations we all too often reach when habitually following the masses. The point is that the general will is usually completely different from ones individual will, and this is where much unhappiness arises.

Work rivals religion for the #1 spot in mind control techniques.

As human beings, the general will says we should work hard to help the majority; to be a socialist as it were.. But ever since the industrial revolution, the highly publicised, but misguided idea that the more economically successful a country is, the higher standard of living its citizens will have has had a huge impact on people’s mindsets.

In reality there is an equilibrium to be found between a country’s economic prosperity and the happiness and well-being of its citizens, but the media, politicians, our bosses, hell, even our parents, pass on this message from one generation to the next; that to be happy we have to earn money. That the only way to achieve this monetary based happiness is to work hard. Not only will this let us have a good life, we’ll even be contributing to society.  But labouring can only contribute to society up to a point. Beyond that point, it becomes saturated and starts to take away from society. Welcome to today’s world.

To not submit to work like we’re so often preached to is said to be selfish and socially damaging. Work is good for us and society. It must be, otherwise, why would everyone do it?

What’s really going on here though, is the exploitation of the conservatism within us. Naturally, we shun vast change and revel in structure and norms. But this simply isn’t going to lead us to the life we really want. By conservatively sticking to the norms, most of us are fated to the waterfall, and the only way to escape the monotonous lies of the mediocre is to abolish the fear of being a minority.

For when we look around us, the truly happy, the truly successful, and the truly accomplished are all a minority. They’ve escaped the shackles of norms and taken the courage to do things differently. To make their own rules and values. To make their own reality.

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  1. Fnark
    August 12, 2010 at 12:14 am

    These are fighting words in America these days. Anyone who see the point of society as anything more than work-work-work nowadays is a leech and deeply resented.

  1. March 6, 2010 at 6:25 pm
  2. July 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

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