In the world of social sciences, there is an important field known as sociology of work . He understands this action as being an exclusively human activity, since it is something endowed with conscience, with explicit purposes that aim to achieve certain results, whether of survival, whether of a psychic or cultural order.
Thus, work is a humanizing activity and integrates the framework that constitutes the homo faber , the man-maker.
To reflect on work is necessarily to put it in a social perspective . It is in the set of various activities developed by human communities that we have their value as an element of changing living conditions, whether material, or spiritual (here “spiritual” is understood to be moral, ethical or transcendent).
Thus placed, we must think that, in a given social group, we find individuals who spend time and effort in achieving a certain activity in such a way that, in the totality of the beings that constitute this group, we have, as a result of every effort, a variety of products , material or immaterial, that meet the needs of the community in question.
In other words, if there is a need for varied foods, clothing, houses, religious rituals, articles from metallurgy, etc., there are beings, individuals, who each act in an activity to supply such needs of collective life, which means to say that it is only possible to think about individual work if we consider the belonging of this action to the set of individual activities necessary for a community life.
We must understand that man does not live alone, he is not an island; on the contrary, he is a gregarious being, whose individuality is only considered because of his belonging to a collectivity.
The first steps towards the organization of the world of work
The development of language in both its oral and written form was a fundamental element for sharing experiences, information and formulations that, thought by one or the other man, could be absorbed, assimilated and retransmitted in a social fabric.
The work can be thought of as this weaving, this human artifice, whose tool is the totality of the human being, his body (arms, legs, mind…), applied over nature, discovering possibilities of meeting his needs and carrying them out in a timely manner. structured way.
This structuring can be considered “prints” produced in this social fabric by human labor, being able to indicate the vision of each society about the world and, in this sense, the world is not limited only to nature, but also to the articulations that allow social and social life. the division of labor within the community. Social forms refer to precise contents that have, in the division of collective work, their raw material.
It was precisely from this collective articulation around work that humanity was able to produce material and cultural goods that changed its condition, which include everything from the domestication of plants and animals to the creation of the complex, highly technological means of communication in today’s world. The collective work produced a humanized landscape, highlighting in nature the record of models of social organization dated historically.
Hence the importance of studying work in human societies. We must also consider that the optimization of men’s actions in qualitative and quantitative terms stems from the valorization of labor (work) as a possibility for a better life.
For these and other reasons, since the beginning of sociology in the 19th century, work has occupied a prominent place in the reflections of the precursors of sociological studies. It is precisely in these thinkers that we find the first discussions regarding individual and collective work and their forms of appropriation within a society.
Considerations about the sociological content of work
Individual work can only be thought of within a given society, in a defined historical time and in a set of so many other individual activities situated in a logic of division of labor.
If we think in mathematical terms, in the logic of sets, the individual work is contained in the collective work, therefore, there is no collective work set apart from the individual. Individual work belongs to collective work, as it only has validity as knowledge, as a product and use value within other socially defined works, within the historical needs of each society.
According to one of the “fathers” of Sociology, Karl Marx :
(…) The work reveals the way in which man deals with nature, the production process by which he sustains his life and, thus, exposes the way in which his social relations and the ideas that flow from them are formed.
This work occupies a central position in what is called activities inherent to man. Thus, the relationship of the human being with nature is mediated by the work that humanizes it, giving it human “features”. As the author himself puts it: “by submitting it to its own ends, man realizes, in this sense, a humanization of nature”.
For another sociological current, work corresponds to a process of rationalization in which men show solidarity, understanding the importance of the division of labor as the most effective means of maintaining life and human prosperity. Thus, solidarity is a fundamental element for the existence of collective life, and work, in this sense, has a structuring function. Thus, the division of labor is a mark of bond and social order necessary for the longevity of life in society. There is a positivity of the work with respect to the notion of belonging to a given collectivity.
At the same time that this reason developed in productive terms, it could be used to reinforce the bonds of solidarity at a more complex level, giving organicity to the society thus developed. In this way, the power of coercion over individuals within this society derived from an understanding of the importance of collective life and the acceptance of social rules. This is Émile Durkheim’s perspective .