A work ethic is a set of attitudes, which implies a motivational orientation, concerning the value of work. Which, if any, of the following work ethics do you find attractive, and why? Which of them, as applied to engineering, are compatible or incompatible with the kinds of commitments desirable for professionals? The Protestant work ethic, as named and analyzed by sociologist Max Weber in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, was the idea that financial success is a sign that predestination has ordained one as favored by God. This was thought to imply that making maximal profits is a duty mandated by God. Profit becomes an end in itself rather than a means to other ends. It is to be sought rationally, diligently, and perhaps without compromise with other values such as spending time with one's family. Work is a necessary evil. It is the sort of thing one must do in order to avoid worse evils, such as dependency and poverty. But it is mind-numbing, degrading, and a major source of anxiety and unhappiness. Work is the major instrumental good in life. It is the central means for providing the income needed to avoid economic dependence on others, for obtaining desired goods and services, and for achieving status and recognition from others. Work is intrinsically valuable to the extent that it is enjoyable or meaningful in allowing personal expression and self-fulfillment. Meaningful work is worth doing for its own sake and for the sense of personal identity and self-esteem it brings.
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