Work and Play

The first thing I thought of when I saw today’s daily prompt about “play time” is how do we define “play?”  It seems that we think of work and play as being opposed to each other.  Which would mean you cannot do one while doing the other.  Of course there are people who have jobs that they love.  Where their work is their play.  However, it is common for others to think of people with these kinds of jobs as having it easy, or that they are some how lucky.  This would denote that they are the exception.

Right now I am sitting at my favorite pub.  They have an event every Saturday morning called “Wake up call.”  Where they serve brunch and there is a band.  Also, the coffee they have here is really amazing and that is one of the main reasons that I come here.  I am writing this post from this pub.  Am I working or playing?  I think that most people would say that I might not be playing, but either way, I am diffidently not working.  But why is this?  I am creating something.  I am being productive, to some extent.  So why would most people, lets just say society, say that I am not working?

Now lets just change one aspect of what I am doing.  What if I was being paid for?  That is, what if I was still hanging out at this pub, drinking coffee, listening to good music, and writing this post; but I was being paid for doing it?  I think that people might say that I had it easy, that I had a great job, or something like that, but I would Imagestill be able to say that I am working.  This is the defining element of what we as a society consider work.  Whether we are getting a wage for it or not.  Granted there are some exceptions to this, but this is the main element of what we consider to be work – whether we are getting paid for it.

Now I am going to shift gears for a moment.  Lets think of the labor theory of value.  That is, labor creates all wealth.  hopefully that statement is self-explanatory, but it probably is not.  For a good, easy to understand, explanation of the labor theory of value see the post that I just reblogged from “The Roadrunner Theorist.”  From this we learn something that may at first seem counter-intuitive.  That is, if your being paid to produce something then you are being exploited.  Of course it is possible to be paid nothing and to also be exploited, however, that is called slavery and is generally looked down upon.  But if your boss is paying you anything then society deems it that you are now working for them.  Society puts the responsibility on the worker to decide their wage.  Of course the worker has no real control over their wage.  But we are told that if you are not being paid enough and you cannot get a raise then you should quit and find job that pays you what you want/need.  The important thing about this idea, for the moment, is not whether it is right or wrong but that it shows where society places the responsibility.  The responsibility is not with the boss to pay more, it is with the worker to find a new job.  really, the only time that society places the responsibility on the boss is if they are using direct force to keep their workers working, this is what we would call a sweat-shop.  However, I personally have even had people argue with me that if they are being paid anything – like 1$ a day – then it is still not all that bad.  I will not engage with this argument as I think that people you feel this way cannot be reasoned with.

The point of all this is that there is a connection between what society deems work – something you get paid for – and the fact that if you are being paid to do something (unless you are a slave) you are being exploited.  This whole process can be called commodification.  The process of something in society that had been done as non-waged, coming to be done for a wage.  For example, at one point in time their were no restaurants.  restaurants are the commodification of cooking.  There was a time when books were not a commodity.  They existed but not for that reason.  Now, most of the books out there are out there solely because they are making people money.

When something goes though the process of commodification it does not mean that its original capacity goes away.  For instance lots and lots of people cook but are not paid for doing so.  However, something that does happen between the two different capacities is that the one that is non-waged becomes less important or looked down upon.  We can see this in the idea that if someone is a “good” cook but they are not paid for doing so then they must not be that “good.”  So we create the idea that if you are good at something, something that has undergone the process of commodification, then you should be paid for it; and thus if you are not being paid for it then you are not good at it (or not good enough).

I know this may seem as if I have gotten off the point.  What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, work and play.  To sum up, most of the time society deems something as work if we are being paid for it and as play (or a hobby) if we are not.  However, as we have seen there is an underlying assumption here.  That is, if we are not being paid for it (and thus not working) then we must not be that good at it.  So do I play in my life?  Yes I do.  I also work, I love to do that, too.  However, most of the time I don’t get paid for it.

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