The concept of work in the modern world is abstract and its definition is constantly changing. What was once finite in its purpose and role in society can now be attributed to many different aspects. By its definition work is the exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something. This in turn opens up the interpretation of work to include an array of things from the minute tasks of household responsibilities, to the physically demanding obstacle of construction work. However at its most basic level work can be classified into four categories, hard-labor, light-labor, household responsibilities, and leisure. These categories divide the concept but all retain the core definition which outlines work.
Labor is the act of productive activity for the purpose of attaining a form of compensation, and in many cases economic gain. Hard-labor is set apart in its focus on strenuous work which is magnified by extensive repetition of a single task, the excessive toll which it takes on the body, or the increased amount of stress which it puts on an individual. As is said in Phillip Levine’s poem What Work Is, “This is about waiting, shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain fall like mist into your hair, blurring your vision (Levine, Phillip. “What Work Is.” Work in America (2013): 1. Print),” in describing the base definition of the hard-labor known as factory work. Other hard-labor positions would include that of law enforcement, construction workers, and even being a CEO of a large company. All these jobs, and those like them, require an advanced level of focus and/or strength to complete which classifies them as hard labor. These tasks are considered as work however because each one has a constantly growing list of tasks to complete which the laborers receive compensation for.
By comparison light-labor is a form of work which one still receives compensation; however the tasks that need be accomplished are much less demanding. For example if hard-labor is categorized by strenuous activity and the heavy toll demanded on the body; then light-labor is defined by the simplicity and the low physical demand which it requires from the body. Despite being less intensive than hard-labor, light-labor is still a process which one performs a less demanding task for compensation. For this reason light-labor is still an aspect of what work is. In terms of specific jobs which are considered light labor cashiers, sales associates, and many white collar jobs would be examples.
Household responsibilities are compiled by a series of tasks which to accomplish which exemplifies the definition of work. The process of improving the condition, cleanliness, or quality of life within one’s dwelling all requires a degree of effort and thus a level of work to accomplish. In comparison to the previous to aspects of work household chores share the fact that they are a necessity in order to maintain ones household to a condition in which it will remain hospitable. It differs in the aspect that there is no compensation for household responsibilities, unless it is a person’s job or they receive a form of allowance for completing them. “Whether or not you’re getting paid its work if someone else tells you to do it (Levitt, Steven D. “Laid Back Labor.” Work in America (2013): 190. Print),” demonstrates that even though it’s not paid, household responsibilities are required to be done and thus are classified as a part of our work.
The last aspect of work is known as leisure, which at first would appear as a contradiction to many. As is said in Levitt’s article Laid Back Labor, “Why do some forms of menial labor survive as menial labor while others have been killed off (Levitt, Steven D. “Laid Back Labor.” Work in America (2013): 189. Print)”. Leisure by its definition is, freedom from the demands of work, but by performing the tasks of our leisure are we not involved in some form of work? To specify the scope of why leisure is considered a form of work we must first outline some activities which we perform in our leisure; activities such as cooking for fun, reading, and watching television. At first one would be confused as to the inclusion of reading and watching television as examples of work. Well when one wishes to read a book or watch a program on television the objective/task is to finish said book or program. Thus by completing a book or program you are accomplishing a task, and by extension completing some form of work.
“You know what work is—if you’re old enough to read this you know what work is, although you may not do it (Levine, Phillip. “What Work Is.” Work in America (2013): 1. Print).” Work takes on many different aspects and definitions depending on what kind of work you are referring to. It can be as abstract of a definition as the correlation between a person’s leisure and how that is classified as work. It can be categorized in uncompensated forms such as household responsibilities which is work to maintain or improve one’s dwelling. Then it can move into the most recognized forms of work in which one receives compensation for doing menial tasks, or in other words light-labor. Or one must exert strenuous amount of strength and energy to attain compensation in the form of work known as hard-labor. To conclude work has many forms and can be defined/represented by various tasks and jobs in every portion of our lives, but all maintain the title and definition of what work is.