10.4 The Attack On The Work Ethic
From The Work Ethic And Discipline by LJM Cooray

The work ethic in an extreme form glorifies hard work for its own sake, regardless of the efficiency of the efforts expended or the practical value of the outcome. This is expressed in maxims such as "Satan finds work for idle hands". This, it is argued, can lead to the phenomenon of the "workaholic" who is incapable of relaxation and it can contribute to a joyless view of life which finds no place for fun and relaxation. This is not to ignore that some people find joy (and even relaxation) in their work. Why should a person who finds enjoyment in work be criticised, unless he neglects his basic duties and responsibility to the family and society? These so-called aberrations, their association with the rise of capitalism and the propagation of the work ethic by certain religions, have made the work ethic a target for "progressive reformers". They have been able to denigrate the valuable and constructive parts of the work and efficiency ethics in the name of liberation from the "primitive superstitions" of religion and the "cruelty and repression" of capitalism.

The success of the progressivist shows the breakdown of the rational attitude to tradition, which sifts out the good from the bad in traditional belief systems. Consequently, "the baby is thrown out with the bathwater" and valuable practices may be cast aside along with other ideas that have fallen out of favour. The rational attitude appreciates the indispensable nature of traditions, while insisting that the various parts of our belief systems should be able to stand the test of criticism in the light of other parts. This can lead to a continuing process of cultural enrichment, whereby false and destructive ideas are eliminated, and new ideas that stand up to the test of criticism and practical application become assimilated into our life styles.