The History of work Concepts.
The methods by which society structures the activities and labour necessary to its survival. Work is essential in providing the basic physical needs of food, clothing, and shelter. But work involves more than the use of tools and techniques. Advances in technology, which will always occur, help to extend the reach of the hand, expand muscle power, enlarge the senses, and multiply the capacities of the mind. The story of work is still unfolding, with great changes taking place throughout the world and in a more accelerated fashion than ever before. The form and nature of the work process help determine the character of a civilization; in turn, a society’s ...view middle of the document...
In the earliest stages of human civilization, work was confined to simple tasks involving the most basic of human needs: food, child care, and shelter. A division of labour likely resulted when some individuals showed proficiency in particular tasks, such as hunting animals or gathering plants for food. As a means of increasing the food supply, prehistoric peoples could organize the work of foraging and hunting and, later, agriculture. There could be no widespread geographic division of labour, however, because populations were sparse and isolated. The uncertain availability of food allowed little surplus for exchange, and there were few contacts with groups in different places that might have specialized in obtaining different foods.
Age, sex, and class
The most obvious division of labour arose from differences in age and sex. The oldest people in the tribe lacked strength and agility to hunt or forage far afield and so performed more-sedentary tasks. The very youngest members of the tribe were similarly employed and were taught simple food gathering. The sexual division of labour was based largely upon physical differences, with men taking on tasks such as hunting while women specialized in food gathering, child rearing, and cooking.
The earliest human groupings offer no evidence of a division of labour based upon class. The challenges of providing food made it necessary for the whole group to contribute, so there could be no leisure class or even a class of full-time specialists producing articles not directly related to the food supply. There were, however, part-time specialists; a person who excelled at fashioning flint tools and weapons could produce enough to trade any surplus for food.
In any case, by the time written history began, distinct economic and social classes were in existence, with members of each class occupying a certain place in the organization of work. At the apex of the social pyramid stood the ruler (often worshiped as a divinity in Mesopotamia and Egypt) and the nobles (probably grown out of a warrior group that had subjugated its neighbours). Closely aligned with them were the priests; possessing knowledge of writing and mathematics, the priests served as government officials, organizing and directing the economy and overseeing clerks and scribes. The traders and merchants, who distributed and exchanged goods produced by others, were below the noble-priest class in the social pyramid. A sizable group of artisans and craftsmen, producing specialized goods, belonged to the lower economic classes. Even lower in the social hierarchy were the peasants, and at the bottom of the social scale were the slaves, most likely originating as war captives or ruined debtors. The social structure in Classical Greece and Rome followed these lines. For relatively short periods of time, some democracies did away with the ruling group, substituting a class of free landholders and providing a citizen army of warriors,...