What Does It Mean to Work?

In the Spring of 2017, we interviewed noted labor historian and academic David Jacobs, and we asked him: what does it mean to work?

Nearly four years have passed since we interviewed Professor Jacobs, and yet very little in the workforce has changed.

People who work still have to place their financial concerns above all other considerations. And yet, in this interview, Professor Jacobs describes the ways that our work can become meaningful and fulfilling.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What does it mean to work? Starts at 3:18
  • The concept of “labor capitalism.” Starts at 5:12
  • The current lack of a social safety net for workers. Starts at 10:31
  • Where he believes that the workforce is headed. Starts at 27:37
  • The emergence of the worker-activist. Starts at 28:44

What was true in 2017 remains true entering 2021: finding and doing meaningful work may not happen with employment in one job. Many of us are doing gigs and side-hustles to make ends meet, but also do work with greater purpose. Nearly four years later, we are still asking: what does it mean to work?

About our guest:

David Jacobs is an Associate Professor of Labor and Sustainability at the Graves School of Business at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. What is more, he is the author of The Disunited States of America: Employment Relations Systems in Conflict. Professor Jacobs lives in Montgomery County, Maryland.

EPISODE DATE: December 18, 2020

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