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Why Do People Work? Individual Wants Versus Common Goods

Helena Lopes

Journal of Economic Issues, 2011, vol. 45, issue 1, 57-74

Abstract: Empirical evidence strongly suggests that something other than pay is sought in work. By emphasizing consumption over production, the worker as a producer was eclipsed by mainstream economics and replaced by the worker as a consumer. The analysis of the relational dimension of work life was also discarded. We argue that the decision to work and behavior at work is very much driven by the search for relational goods and moral goods, defined as intangible entities that emerge from social interactions. The "goodness" of relational and moral goods stems from their being commonly shared. Two properties of both goods — commonality and immanence-in-action — rule out the possibility of their being captured in a utility maximizing framework.

Date: 2011
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