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Historical Background of Work Ethics

Posted on the 13 December 2012 by Hreric

This is the second part on the series of articles on work Ethics

In all societies, ethics has been regarded as a guiding principle.  There are various ethical principles and one of which is work ethics, business ethics and more.  Whatever that is, it just the same concept- that is doing good and that which is right and just.

From the universal concept of ethics, how did work ethics evolved?

Historical Background of Work EthicsHistorically, we can trace its roots in the Bible specifically in the Book of Genesis during the creation of the universe, and the creation of man and woman.  God commanded Adam and Eve to work and to care for the world.  It was a most noble, perfect and worthy kind of work not until they disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.  Since then, man had to toil and labor hard.  We can find in the many books of the Holy Bible describing work as a punishment and that man has to work hard in order to live and survive.

Greeks and Hebrews alike regarded work as a curse by God.  The society has labeled work in such a way that the poor had to labor hard and the few elite and the rich reaps the fruit of the labor of their slaves.  Plato and Aristotle in their philosophies emphasized why majority of men have to labor hard so that the few elite and the minority can engaged themselves in the more higher degree of work that is to think, exercise and run the political systems and to explore arts and other aesthetic activities.

In the early times, the Jews, Hebrews, Greeks and many other societies regarded “manual labor” as low and degrading.  In fact in many early societies, many of the laborers were the slaves of the rich and the elite.

The Romans likewise had similar concept regarding work with that of the Greek.  They adopted much of their beliefs and practices.  TheRoman Empireutilized slavery and was integral in their day to day operation.  The Romans relied much on their slaves to do most of its work.  For them, their slaves mean nothing and were treated without dignity, without any rights as individuals.

It was during the Medieval period, when the Roman Empire fell that the Christian thought were more evident and dominatedEurope.  However, in this period, work was still considered as a punishment.  What was different was the thought that work has to be labored hard for the benefit of man such that they will not have to rely with charities of other people.  Man has to work hard to be self-sufficient, to be self-reliant and be productive.

During this time, work ethics was on its primitive stage.  No one in the societies dared to stand up against the oppression and slavery.  The next article will present how the Age of Christianity and Reformation had influenced much to the development of the concept and principle of work ethics.


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