Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Josiah McC. Heyman
Labor involves purposive effort, mental or physical, toward a goal. In studying labor, we should be particularly careful not to import the biases of our own economic culture. Labor is not always clearly segmented from other activities in daily life, although the wage labor system favors such segmentation; this confusion obscures unpaid labor within capitalism as well as work in noncapitalist settings. Likewise, we need to be careful not to extend male gender biases to the study of labor; child care is as much labor as is cutting hay. Finally, we need to include multiple dimensions of labor, such as ideas and social organization, as well as physical effort, and we need to pay corresponding attention to nonstereotypical instances of work and workers, for example, bureaucrats as much as miners. Labor is a central characteristic of human life; indeed, a number of scholars have proposed it as the defining characteristic, ...