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The Soul of Work

The Greek word for work is ascholia. This word is the negation of the word schole
which means leisure. Similarly the Latin word for business is negotium which is the negation of
otium or leisure. Leisure was the ideal to pursue while work is what those do who are incapable
of appreciating leisure.
The contrast with our postmodern times is clear. For us, leisure is free time, time off
from work; time to be idle. For the ancient Greeks leisure was regarded as freedom for pursuits
that are pursued for their own sake. If I write books or compose music in order to gain money,
prestige or power then I am engaging in work. If I do so with regard to what is beautiful and
good then I am leading a life of leisure. Those who cannot do this become workers and support
those who are capable of leisure.
The ancient Greeks also made a distinction between labour and work. The word for
fatiguing bodily effort was ponos while ascholia as the manual production of something more
lasting and permanent. The world of labour is close to that of the animal. Primitive human
beings toiled to satisfy the pressing needs of biological life and survival. The world of work is
more symbolic. Human beings construct tools which lighten toil and help to produce a surplus.
Working produced work. The one who works produces more than his/her daily need. Working
produced culture. Labour catches the dinner to be eaten. Work constructs barns to store surplus
food. Labour may produce shelter but work constructs buildings to worship (religions), to hold
assemblies (politics), to defend against those who want to steal the wealth that work has
produced (war). The world is transformed through work. Nature is humanized through work
giving rise to culture.
These words are related to work but what do they have to do with ethics? Economy from
the Greek oikonomia means the art of managing a household. Oikos in Greek is house and
nosmos is manage. How one manages and what one manages brings ethics into question.
Related to nosmos is the world neimen which means to distribute. The words cautious, thrifty,
nimble, selective and frugal are words to be woven into an understanding of what economy may
signify. Economy is the system of arrangement or mode of operation. Economy points to the
functioning of anything. Economy is a structure or system of exchange. Economic means
having a practical or industrial significance, operated or produced on a profitable basis,
producing an excel of returns over expenditures.
Market from the Gothic marka means boundary and is related to the Latin margo which
means border and edge. To have a mark is to have an end or goal in view. A mark is also a sign
or something that gives evidence or something else. A mark may be an indication or token. A
mark indicates the limit of what is reasonable and acceptable. A mark is also an impression or
trace as in a scar or stain made on something. To mark is to set apart and to leave an impression.
To mark is to keep a close watch on something. A mark also refers to either a gold or
silver coil that weighs eight ounces. Market from the Latin mercatus means trade or
marketplace. A market is a meeting together of people at a stated time and place for the purpose
of traffic. A market is a place where provisions are sold. Market also signifies the course of
commercial activity by which the exchange of commodities is affected. The market is the sphere
in which price changing forces operate. When something is marketable it enjoys a high degree
of liquidity. Marketable also refers to the degree to which assets can be disposed of for cash
without causing a major decline in price. Market is also related to the Greek word marpein
which means to seize. To seize is to take possession of goods. The marketplace is an open


To organize is to unify into a co-ordinated and functioning whole. Like industry the spider spins it web. We are yoked to the economic machine. work. such as a group of merchants or traders united in an association. controls our behavior. The Old English word span means the distance between the thumb and little finger of an extended hand. ambition and industry can be understood as the work of many hands. The snare of economy is that we must spend.” Here workers are compared to draft animals who pull plows. Indu means in or within and struere means to build. Economy. To organize is to make ready. The Old English word spannen means to stretch and related to the Latin pendere which means to hang. To organize is also to persuade workers to form a union. To be managed means to lead. The word corporation relates to the corporeal. industry as well as death. driven in order to secure a proper demeanor (to behave in a certain way). Teams need to be managed. The meaning of manage retains its earlier character. If we are to survive within this restricted economy we must not spin our wheels. The Latin organum relates to the Greek ergon which means work. effort and attention. The economy is described in terms of a circle that spins with prosperity. Debt is often described as a weight and there seems no end to toil. These old words give us a clue to understanding markets and economies which can stretch us thin as we toil for someone else. All work comes from the Body. The market is described as a bull or a bear. in the circle of exchange. The corporeal is that which is enjoyed with the body. One who is industrious is characterized by energy. It is possible to rise above the servitude imposed upon us by banks and financial institutions? The word boie from 1154 means servant.” The work teamwork is first recorded in 1828 when the industrial factory was beginning to expand. Our economic self is caught in a span which means two animals driven together. In literature. One who is managed may be threatened. attention and skill. Industry from the Latin industria means diligence and effort. The Latin jugum means yoke in terms of throat and neck and is found in the word jugular. We have to find a way to span the distance and move away from poverty towards prosperity. Industry is that which builds something systematically with care. To span means to join and fasten. The corporeal means relating to the body. For example that person has “killer instincts” for the market. the spider is a figure of cunning. It is interesting to note how many hunting analogies are used to describe a business transaction. It is also the sphere in which values compete for acceptance.square or place in town where public sales are held. It is to live in oppression and servitude. Pensare means to weigh and to consider and related to the Greek word ponein which means to toil. It comes as no surprise that the industrial revolution transformed spinning. in other words. The word team first meant “a set of draft animals yoked together. To incorporate is to form into a body and to make something organized. Manage from the Old French manege means to control a horse. The marketplace is the site of aggressive competition. to behave in a certain way. skill. Ironically to be shifty means “To be able to manage for oneself” (1570). 2 . Economy. He or she “went for the jugular” in the board-room. The word manage was extended to business usage in 1579. The spider as it spins lays a snare. To be yoked is to have a heavy burden. Corporation refers to a body of persons associated for some purpose. That which is spun out has a span. This is something that the economy cannot tolerate. It comes from the Old French world embuie meaning “one fettered or in chains. We work because things are not simply handed to us. We find ourselves spinning in the economy. When in debt it feels as if we are stretched and hung out to dry. To spin is to cause to turn rapidly. the industry of thread and textiles. to be directed. debt and profit.

The market wants to ignore the poor and destitute. Economy continues to survive. A trait (c1477) is a shot or missle. mathematical measurements. its roots are still with us. The contract constricts what may and may not be done. Can there be a retreat or a drawing back on the present state of affairs? Retreat is a place of seclusion (1423).to the elevated tract of land. What traits or distinguishing marks are still to be outlined. Economy concerns itself with fields and forces that compete for tracts or stretches of land. Writing can be a trait or missle leading to revolution. The supervisor is one who inspects and directs the work of others. to get smaller. If economy arose out of agriculture. The Latin word destractionem means to take down. Have corporations placed visors so that ethical visibility is reduced? Has this visor-effect affected the way we deal with others as we make deals? Visibility refers to the range of vision under given conditions. When we survey or oversee (Latin supervidere) the details of the ethical blindness within the world of business and economy who is to blame? To supervise is to look over. to pull down and to disparage. a wet swampy tract of ground. Economics would have the chosen few rise to the plateau. Its extension of time prolonged and lengthened. 3 . an establishment for mentally ill persons (1979). it retains its force through con-tracts that draw together. But plateau also means the stage at which no progress is apparent. Can one envisage or look in the face of those fallen into the morass. air and water. There have been many de-tractors of the current free-market system which does not seem free. it is said especially of a withered limb. Think here of the writings of Marx and others. Economics and finance ethically speaking have little to do with linear. It continues to be pro-traced. The visor is the front part of a helmet that shades the eyes. Though economics has become abs-tract (to draw away) insofar as it has drawn away from its agricultural roots. The Greek agros means field. We can survey or take a liniear measurement of a tract of ground. To con-tract is to become narrow.