Meaningful Work

Thomas SowellRecently, economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, Thomas Sowell penned and article entitled “Meaningful Work.” In it he lambasts what passes for education these days, mainly because it no longer seams to include basic common sense and the survival skills needed to cope in the world.

Sowell seems especially concerned about how the “intelligentsia’s” utter lack of realism and common sense endangers society as a whole due to their promulgated false and worthless ideas that have no place in the real world.

The educated elites’ refrain that what low-income young people needed was “meaningful work” is one of the things that Sowell is warning America about in his article.

It was painful, for example, to see an internationally renowned scholar say that what low-income young people needed was “meaningful work.” But this is a notion common among educated elites, regardless of how counterproductive its consequences may be for society at large, and for low-income youngsters especially.

What is “meaningful work”?

The underlying notion seems to be that it is work whose performance is satisfying or enjoyable in itself. But if that is the only kind of work that people should have to do, how is garbage to be collected, bed pans emptied in hospitals or jobs with life-threatening dangers to be performed?

And therein lies one of the biggest failings with (mis)educated elite – their patronizing arrogance. It’s their firmly held belief that low-income young people – really just a dog-whistle for young Black males – need to be provided with “meaningful” jobs in order for them to behave properly. And, of course, the jobs that they currently are qualified for aren’t “meaningful” because they don’t meet some criterion of the (mis)educated elite.

What the fucking Hell is “meaningful work” anyway?

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6 Responses to “Meaningful Work”

  1. Elaine Says:

    I have had many many jobs in my life. I am 66 and I LOVED working.
    Meaning happens when you “place all of your focus” on where you are and finding the positive in the job you may or may not like doing…but at that time…you need the work…so you FIND the “meaning” in it FOR you so you can feel self respect. Feeling good about yourself because you are putting 8 hrs in learning a new skill.

    The MOST enjoyable job I ever had was as a waitress. No, it is NOT considered the “premium” job for most. BUT, I was making a living for my child and me. I enjoy “most” of the people. As a matter of fact, and I have the age on me now that I can look back and review. A bartender/waitress job was the BEST and most loved job I ever had. There was no education involved…just a love of people and being with them helping them have a good time.
    Believe me, after finishing my Masters “thinking” I woujd love Counseling people with all of their damn problems…being a waitress and/or a bartender was much more “MEANINGFUL.”!!

    DID I explain that right?

  2. jonolan Says:

    That all makes sense to me, Elaine. Apparently, according to both Sowell and my own experiences, it doesn’t to the (mis)educated elite.

  3. Elaine Says:

    Jonolan, I think we are stuck on the real definition of meaningful.
    I KNOW those people; and I don’t even know where to begin. I have had EXCELLENT JOBS as far as pay, benefits, etc. when I worked with a large law firms… I think that is what they mean by “meaningful.” Yeaaaa, it was…I was good at it; but I hated it. It didn’t FEEL meaningful.

    Knowledge, or the amount of $ you make is NOT the essence or meaning of “meaningful work.” It is the “action or contribution” the person is making in our society.

    I’ve known the people you are talking about. I have VERY bitter experiences with them…that I won’t go into tonight. I have found that those who have the “silver spoon” in their mouths; AND/OR an education is not necessarily the ingredients for being a meaningful contributor in Our Society. Their own arrogance and IGNORANCE of what it means that they will NEVER understand.

  4. Elaine Says:

    This is rather an esoteric way of looking at “meaningful”. When someone loves medicine…loves treating people who are ill…his work is meaningful.

    When a carpenter building a porch and loves what he is doing and can actually make a living at it…that is meaningful.

    YEARS ago, society did its best to force all of us into believing THAT YOU HAD TO HAVE a degree…work in some kind of office, etc. for your work to be meaningful. That isn’t it.


    when you work
    you fulfill a part of earth’s furthest dream,
    assigned to you when that dream was born,
    And in keeping yourself with labour you
    are in truth loving life,
    And to love life through labour is to be
    intimate with life’s inmost secret.

  5. jonolan Says:

    I that, in the end, we’re all talking of Aristotle’s Eudaimonia, human flourishing. It’s just that the sorts of people we’re talking about have taken the Stoics’ path, but perverted it to fit their very limited and self-serving worldview.

    They conflate “work” and “labor” because they require external validation of their worthiness and meaningfulness. Then they limit this work, if it is to be meaningful, to that which furthers their own desires and self-interest.

    In truth though, work and labor are not the same. What I do to meet my financial responsibilities is just that and, much more often than not, it has no meaning beyond it’s being a tool to reach the end of meeting those responsibilities.

    Or we could be giving these (mis)educated elites far too much credit for thought. They could just be saying that poor people need to be given better paying jobs.

  6. Elaine Says:

    Poor people should have better jobs and GET better jobs by following the procedure just as the rest of us follow:

    Trade schools, College, Business schools; or, like many people do with no education?

    Take ANY job where you can learn a skill…carpenters, brick layers, etc. Those who think they would be good in “caring field such as nursing, child care, elder care…can find out for sure before spending the time and money to be trained by volunteering first…then IF it seems like the kind of work they’d be interested in doing…there ARE grants, work programs, etc. Where there is a will…there is a way.

    When anyone is GIVEN too much, it is NOT valued. It is only valued when it is earned.


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