The Concept of Work

Ancient, Medieval, and Modern

By Herbert Applebaum

Subjects: Anthropology Of Work
Series: SUNY series in the Anthropology of Work
Paperback : 9780791411025, 660 pages, September 1992
Hardcover : 9780791411018, 660 pages, October 1992

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Table of contents

Introduction: Methodology--Perspective--Work as Concept

PART ONE: The Concept of Work in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome


1. Work in Homeric Society
2. Work in Archaic and Classical Greece
3. The Hellenistic World and the Concept of Work
4. Work and the Concept of Work in the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire
5. Work in the Ancient World


PART TWO: The Concept of Work in the Middle Ages


6. The Attitudes toward Work among the Jews and among the Christians
7. Work and the Monastic Movement
8. Work in Medieval Europe: Fifth to Tenth Centuries
9. Work in Medieval Europe: Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries
10. Agricultural Work and Its Perspectives During the Late Middle Ages
11. Medieval Guilds, Masonry, and Apprenticeship
12. Women and Work in the Medieval Ages
13. Work and the Concept of Work in the Middle Ages


PART THREE: Work in the Modern World--1500-1990


14. Luther, Calvin, and the Protestant Concept of Work
15. The English Enlightenment: Middle Sixteenth Century to Seventeenth Century
16. Work and the Enlightenment in France, Scotland, and America
17. Nineteenth Century: Capitalism, Socialism, and the Work Ethic
18. Twentieth Century: Selected Philosophies and Perspectives on Work
19. Modern Technology and Work
20. The Work Ethic, Consumerism, and Leisure
21. Work and the Concept of Work in Modern Society


Summary: Work--Past, Present, and Future




This book presents an analysis amd review of work, starting with the Homeric period, then dealing with classical Greece and classical Rome, the early Christians and Jews, the early Middle Ages, the era of Charlemagne, the high Middle Ages, the views of Luther and Calvin, the English and French Enlightenment, the nineteenth century, the twentieth century, and prospects for the future of work. It offers a rich and varied tapestry on the complexity of values regarding work, criss-crossing through crafts, occupations and professions, through slave and free-born employments, through lay and religious figures, and through rural and urban contexts. The permutations of work and its meanings are traced and related to the social and cultural contexts of each period of history dealt with — ancient, medieval, and modern.

Applebaum offers projections for work in the future, based on modern-day technologies, along with work within the context of new social conditions created by industrial cultures in the modern period. The future of work is examined as one of the key elements for the possibility of change in the social structure of industrial cultures. At a time when so many people are questioning the work ethic, this book provides a valuable perspective on work in past societies, how it has developed and been transformed, and what are its prospects for the future.

Herbert Applebaum is Director of Commercial Construction at Hartz Mountain Industries and former editor of the Anthropology of Work Review. He is the author of Work in Market and Industrial Societies and Perspectives in Cultural Anthropology, both published by SUNY Press, and Royal Blue: The Culture of Construction Workers and Work in Non-Market Societies.


"This book focuses throughout on one theme: how work was regarded throughout the history of western civilization. In focusing on this theme, the author touches on very basic issues in sociology and social science form complex organization, to gender stratification, social stratification, and the sociology of religion. But these underlying issues are never allowed to divert the reader's attention form the main focus of the work. This singular focus makes the book an extremely important contribution. " — Kevin T. Leicht, Pennsylvania State University

"This book gives us both the conditions of work at particular times and the concepts of work expressed in the contemporaneous writing of major figures. Thus, we have a picture of what people were working at, their occupations — and working with, their tools — and the attitudes toward that laboring voiced by philosophers and other thinkers in their textual work. The amount of information contained in its pages is truly awesome. " — Miles Richardson, Louisiana State University