Monday, April 18, 2011

The Joy of Work

Yesterday's New York Post had an article about the joy of working: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/why_we_love_the_rat_race_93i0tIPOA4TF5t9cuRMiCK

According to the author (who is reviewing a book called "Rush: Why you need and love the rat race" by Todd Buchholz), Americans are actually happiest when they are at work. This is because work gives them a buzz - they get into a flow that amkes them happy. He contrasts this with men in France, who are more likely to be retired in their 60's and whose cognitive function has decreased as a result of not working.

Rubin also discusses the "flow " concept (taken from Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's book "Flow." However, she ties it into the creative process. The NY Post author seems to view any intellectually engaging work as causing "flow." One of thereasons that I found this article interesting is that I am currently reading Robert B. Reich's "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future".

Reich does not appear to be a fan of the rat race:

"The harder we worked to buy these things, the less time and energy we had to enjoy what we bought. American culture sent an increasingly mixed message: Work like mad but enjoy life to the fullest...The argument on behalf of hard work has always been premised in something of a lie. People are led to believe that one day they will find satisfaction, if not in the work itself, when they have finally worked hard enough to afford and accumulate what they desire. But that day never seems to arrive." (p. 87).

Reich's premise is that people will never be satisfied because the economy is stacked against the middle class. The middle class has developed an idea of how should live to be happy. Unfortunately, the growing class divide, and the outsourcing or elimination of jobs will prevent the middle class from reaching these standards. As a result, people will work themselves to death and die, miserable, unable to achieve their perceived economic goals.

Buchholz, in return, is encouraging people to work just for the joy of working. While this sounds puritanical, Buchholz may just be a practical guy. More and more baby boomers are having to postpone their retirement because of the recession. Why not make it a virtue (a way to keep your brain healthy) rather than as a necessity.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am definitely delighted to find this. cool job!

Anonymous said...

Having to work in order to put food on the table and pay the rent (and the meds) is very different from choosing to work past retirement age. And the cognitive boost that "working" supposedly gives that non-workers don't can be provided through meaningful volunteering, hobbies (ie., going to the library) and lifelong learning. Seems to me that the reality of people not having a real retirement in the future is being recognized and we will be seeing more rationalizing about how retirement is BAD for people because the powers that be won't want people to become angry that the CHOICE has been taken away from them.

Anonymous said...

Having to work to put food on the table, pay rent/mortgage and for medicine is quite different from people choosing not to retire.

The cognitive advantage that study shows of working vs nonworking adults sounds like a cover for the fact that people will soon be realizing that they CAN'T retire because they no longer have pensions, their 401K amounts are no where sufficient to pay for retirement.

The truth is, meaningful volunteering, hobbies (ie, going to the library) and lifelong learning could provide the same cognitive benefits to older people. However, they will no longer have the CHOICE, the way our government and economy is crushing working and middle class people and leaving them will only one option - dying on the job.