What Is Work

There is a bit of talk on this Wiki about work and leisure, especially when it comes to economics. This can be a bit confusing, because there are different definitions of work. Unless people are talking about the same kind of work, they can often argue loudly in ViolentAgreement with each other.

Here are some proposed definitions of work, along with proposed names. Please feel free to edit or argue these definitions, and to use their names when discussing work on the Wiki.

The first definition, which I will call the economic definition is that work is what one does to earn money. Under this definition, anything done as an employee or contractor is work, as is anything a self-employed person does for his or her business interests.

There is also unhedonistic work (can somebody else come up with a better name?) which is anything you do out of fear, or maybe even duty, rather than pleasure. This may or may not include economic work; that depends on whether you like your job. In the US, filing income tax pages is unhedonistic work for the vast majority. This certainly includes slave labor, but also anything else where you do something for fear of facing the consequences of not doing them.

There is constructive work, which is pretty much anything one does to achieve a goal. When I'm writing software, either for myself or as a developer-for-hire, I am working on the program. If I decide to take up the clarinet, I will spend many hours working on my ability to clarinet. I'm doing this out of pleasure rather than fear, and I have zero chance of making money at this, but it's still constructive work.

And finally, there is physical work, which adheres to the scientific "foot-pound" definition of work. This is nothing more than expending energy, usually by energizing an object. All exercise is physical work.


Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so. -- BertrandRussell


Work is the movement of [stuff, ideas, ...] with Intent and Purpose.

If this is true, then playing a board game is work. I don't agree. -- BrentNewhall

Have you seen a monopoly competition? If that's not work...

...isn't that an oxymoron? ("Monopoly competition")
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