Archive for the ‘Work and Philosophy’ Category

Work and Philosophy: Psychological Interlude Chapter Three: Temperament (pt.ii)

December 25, 2012

I read that as an INTP, I represent about 1% to 5% of the population; and if I am an INXP (borderline between the T and F, as my tests say) then I am rarer than that.  That helps to explain why I was drawn to philosophy early in life and still am, and why my favorite areas of philosophy are those dealing with personal life questions.  I am happiest thinking by myself or in an intimate conversation, so reading lots of books is no problem (aside from eyestrain).  I would rather learn abstract general principles that can be applied to answering a wide range of questions, and to finding connections between many different phenomena.  I want to find logical connections and arguments, but I am also seeking to understand what the passions are saying to me.  And I am always seeking new answers and a more complete understanding.  So my temperament has had a profound impact on my career choices and my career satisfaction.

Suppose I were my exact opposite, an ESFJ.  Then I would have little patience for sitting alone studying, or intensely focusing on one person or task.  As an Extrovert, I would want to be involved with as many people as possible.  As a Sensor, I would focus on concrete realities and particulars, and as a Feeler I would focus particularly on the feelings of those particular people around me.  As a Judger, I would want to set everything and everyone in order, to ensure social harmony and efficiency.  I might have wound up actually going into the ministry, where the ESFJ’s open heart and interest in providing help and direction to lots of people would have been very valuable. Or I might have gone into sales or worked my way into management, where I would have been comfortable taking charge of people for their own good.  Almost any service-oriented profession would have been a natural fit.

In my experience of the Presbyterian vocational counseling system, the most influential version of temperament theory was that was developed by Marilyn Bates and David Keirsey.  In addition to revising the personality test to focus on observable behaviors more than speculations of internal psychology, they greatly improved the four central temperaments.  Early on, Myers-Briggs and their associates noticed that all NT variants had many traits in common, as do all NF types, whether they are also Introverts or Extroverts, Judges or Perceivers.  They concluded that the two middle letters, representing the “functioning” aspects of the personality, were the most crucial.  However, attempts to establish commonalities between all STs or SFs were not as successful.  Keirsey and Bates concluded that for concrete thinkers, the primary distinguishing characteristic is not how they relate to words and ideas, but how they relate to the concrete world.  Is this Sensor more tempted to accept and enjoy the world, or to try to organize it?  Based on this question, and a fair amount of historical research into personality and temperament from ancient times until today, they developed their theory of the four archetypes:

  1. The Sensing-Perceiving, or SP:  the Artisan.  This is the sort who prefers to live in the moment, to enjoy the here and now.  They tend to be more passionate and hedonistic, and ruthlessly pragmatic—do what works in the current situation.  They are often drawn to the arts, to sports, and to tools, or to any job that is exciting.
  2. The Sensing-Judging, or SJ:  the Guardian.  Guardians worry about the future, and want to provide now for what might happen later.  They too prefer the concrete to the abstract and the actual to the possible, but they ask what can be done with the actual and the concrete.  They like things, and people, orderly and in place. Of the four temperament types, Guardians have the most respect for authority; when in charge they exercise it naturally and expect others to comply, and when not they naturally defer to the leader and are glad to follow a strong authority figure.   T-type Guardians tend towards careers like accounting, number-oriented tasks with clear right and wrong solutions and with significant responsibilities.  F-type Guardians are also responsible, but tend to prefer to work with people rather than things or numbers, so they gravitate towards the helping professions.  The S-types together make up 85% of the population, according to Dr. Keirsy.[1]
  3. The Intuitive-Feeling, or NF:  the Idealist.  As Intuitives, they are more defined by their relation to language and the inner world than they are by the outer world; as Feelers, they focus on values and emotions than on cold logic.  They can make good teachers or ministers, as do Guardians; but whereas Guardians approach teaching or the ministry in terms of upholding social order and traditional values, Idealists want to present new possibilities to those around them.  Idealists like to take abstract principles and present them to those who can benefit from them.  Introverted Idealists tend towards careers that require more personalized and individual attention, such as therapist, or perhaps writing, which allows them to focus completely on the grand ideas and passions without the distraction of actual concrete people.
  4. The Intuitive Thinker, or NT:  the Rational.  We are as oriented towards possibilities, language and the inner world as are the Idealists, but we prefer the logical over the emotional.  Scientists, architects and systems analysts are often NTs.  Artisans want to enjoy the world, Guardians to protect and manage it, and Idealists to save and heal it; Rationals want to understand it.  We tend towards strategic thinking and strategic careers, requiring long-term rather than immediate, crisis-driven thinking.  Many NTs are inventors and innovators; others, like Napoleon, use people rather than physical material to build their systems and to execute their plans.

Having said all this, though, it is important to retract much of it.  While temperament theory can suggest “typical” career choices, the fact is that many, many people are successful and happy in careers that seem odd for their personality types.  Some of our most successful entertainers have been Introverts.  A successful doctor could be any personality type.  Temperament theory can suggest what career you should choose, if you want to “fit in,” or if you want to find what is most likely to satisfy.  But what it most reliably tells us is how you will approach your job.  For example, let’s consider the management at a large company.  Many are likely to be Guardians, the typical “company man,” working diligently at his job (since Guardians tend towards the traditional, a larger number of women Guardians are likely to seek to be housewives or to do “women’s jobs” like teaching or nursing; so I’m saying “he”).  He expects that if he does a good job, he will earn a promotion; and if he has been promoted, he deserves it and therefore deserves the respect and loyalty of those below him on the hierarchy.  He tends to know and follow the rules and expects others to do the same.  Almost as many executives are Artisans.  They are likely the “rainmakers,” the ones who take risks all others would think insane or at least unsettling.  If they win, they celebrate; if they lose, they bounce back quicker than the other types.  They tend to be “players” in every sense of the term, so they can be quite competitive and self-promoting.  They are great in a crisis, but can become bored by the routine—-until their neglect of details and deadlines creates a crisis, which they can then jump in and solve.  Most of the NTs are in Research and Development, but some may have come up with some great idea that has landed them in a position of importance:  for example, Howard Hughes, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs all wound up commanding thousands of employees.  The Extroverted NTs are most likely to appear as management in some capacity, using their innovative and strategic abilities to work with human systems as easily as other NTs work with physical and logical systems.  The Idealists are most likely working in Human Resources, but those in supervisory roles are using their empathy and optimism to understand those they manage, and to encourage them to see new possibilities for themselves and the company.  One job—middle management, for example—can thus be done by any of the four character types, with each type approaching the job in its own distinctive ways.

Temperament psychology can be used to help job seekers find a satisfying career, and it can help employers understand employees’ gifts and find the best ways to harness those for the business.  And perhaps most important to Dr. Keirsey, temperament theory can help us avoid “the Pygmalion Project.”[2]  We are drawn to someone who has something we lack in ourselves, and admire; then we begin to try to get the other person to embrace our values and our temperament.  Temperament psychologists generally believe temperament is inborn; so it is impossible to simply make the Artisan spouse, child or new employee become a Guardian or measure up to the Guardian’s standards.  Instead, we have to learn how to utilize our differences to the best effect, and to be aware of our weaknesses and our strengths.  In the workplace, the Perceivers will have more trouble memorizing and following all the rules that their Guardian managers may have written out, but they will be better able to cope when a crisis arises that wasn’t covered in the employee handbook.  A wise manager will put the square pegs in the square holes, finding each employee’s particular temperament and gifts and assigning tasks matching those gifts.  The unwise one will try to impose one model of “the good worker” on everyone, which generally will leave many out in the cold while the organization suffers from underutilized talent.

Philosophical implications:  Perhaps the first person to apply temperament theory to career counseling was Plato.  In his Republic, Plato identifies three distinct temperaments, which he identifies with the three parts of the soul.  Most people, he says, are dominated by their appetitive part, and thus in his ideal republic he assigns to the Artisan class.  These are the people who most want to work in the world of things, as farmers or crafters or merchants or whatever, in order to attain wealth and physical comforts.  Others are dominated by their “spirit,” or passions or honor.  They want glory more than wealth; they want to be recognized and admired.  These Plato would assign to the Auxiliary class, as soldiers and police, people of action, who take risks for the good of society and crave medals and honors more than wealth.  His model for these were the soldiers of Sparta, who lived lives of poverty and hardship in order to be the absolute best warriors in the world, wishing nothing more than to die with honor and be admired by their society (and fearing nothing more than the scorn of their own mothers if they should return alive and unscarred from a battlefield loss).  Fewest of all are the philosophers, who seek neither wealth nor honor so much as the opportunity to think and learn.  These Plato made Guardians, the rulers of the Republic, the “philosopher-kings.”  Unusually, Plato said that gender should not play any determining role in class assignment; an intelligent and reflective woman could be a Guardian just as well as a man.  The well-functioning state, Plato said, would put the right people in the right jobs, so that each person served society as his or her temperament determined; for the well ordered state needs the gifts of all temperaments working in harmony.  Therefore, he proposed a society where different temperaments were given the rewards that were most meaningful to each, each did the work for which it was temperamentally best suited, and none sought to do the other’s job.

The Founding Fathers tended to look not to Plato for their image of the ideal State, but to a nearly mythological Republic of Rome.  In their minds, the ideal State was one where even the leading citizens saw themselves as public servants.  Washington refused kingship and, after two terms as President of the United States, retired to private life.  In this he was consciously imitating Cincinnatus, the Roman aristocrat who was given dictatorial powers to defend Rome from invasion, only to resign from the dictatorship and retire to his small farm when the crisis was over.  The Revolutionary Founding Fathers were, by and large, men who respected social status, but primarily when it was earned and when it was used for the public good.  Our republic, unlike Plato’s, was designed to allow upward and downward mobility, and to allow the individual rather than the State to determine how the individual could best serve society.  But this idea of different temperaments, each valuable and true in its own right and its own manner, continued from Plato down through the ages, often in conflict with other philosophies that taught a single ideal of human nature, until it gained new life in scientific psychology.  Now, it is common in workplace settings, as well as on-line dating sites and other “pop psych” arenas.  It is a useful tool in all areas where understanding differences between people is important to helping individuals achieve their own happiness and live and work together as well.

[1] Dr. David Keirsy, Please Understand Me II:  temperament, character, intelligence, first edition (Del Mar, CA:  Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998) p. 61

[2] Marilyn Bates and David Keirsey, Please Understand Me:  Character & Temperament Types fifth edition (Del Mar, CA:  Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1984) p. 68

Work and Philosophy: Psychological Interlude Chapter Three: Temperament (pt.i)

December 17, 2012

Work and Philosophy:  Psychological Interlude

Chapter Three:  Temperament

When I went through the screening process for candidates for the ministry, the vocational counselor explained part of the process to me as follows:  Generally, you are happiest working in a job where most people share your values and have similar personalities, so part of the screening process is to look at temperament, as well as other psychological factors, to see how your personality compares to results for people already in particular fields.  For example, if you are outgoing, bubbly, and action-oriented, you probably would not fit in with the other accountants, and might be happier with a workplace that fits your temperament:  entertainer, perhaps, where you find lots of other outgoing, live-in-the-moment types.

There are definite legal problems today with using gender in workplace decisions.  In some cultures, that is almost the only consideration; but in the U.S. it is illegal to simply refuse to hire a woman for most jobs based on gender, or to pay her less for doing the same work (though how vigorously those laws are enforced fluctuates with political tides).  There are also challenges with using developmental psychology in workplace decisions or vocational counseling.  If an employer decided not to hire anyone at Erikson’s Stage 8, it could trigger a lawsuit for age discrimination (although enforcement of those laws seems even spottier than those against gender discrimination).  Furthermore, people move through different stages during their working lives, at different speeds.  Two 30 year olds could be at different stages on Erikson’s developmental scale, and the same is true of most other developmental theories (such as Lawrence Kohlberg’s).  It is rarely appropriate to say, “You are not at the right developmental stage for that job,” unless the applicant is clearly in a state of arrested development.  And finally, while gender is usually easy to determine and there are several good tests for temperament, testing for developmental stage is rarely as precise.  Developmental psychology can be useful in a more intensive and ongoing setting, such as therapy; and it can help an individual plan his or her working career.  It is of much less use in choosing one’s career path, or making hiring decisions.

Temperament, on the other hand, is used so often in vocational settings because it is so easy.  There are a variety of well-tried tests, particularly the MBTI, which can help counselors, employers and workers match person with career.  These tests can be administered relatively quickly and scored relatively precisely.  And while developmental stage changes by its very nature, temperament seems to be relatively static throughout life, barring major brain trauma or something of that sort.  Behavior may change, but temperament doesn’t.  Behavior is like the software of our personalities; temperament is more like the hardware.  An introvert may be a shy child who grows up to be confident in social situations; but he or she will still be an introvert, who at the end of the day needs to rest alone or with a few close friends to recover from the stress of so much glad-handing with so many strangers.

It is important at this point to say something about what temperament is, and isn’t.  Temperament theory began with Carl Jung, a student of Freud.  Erikson did most of his seminal work with children, and naturally focused on how people change over time.  Jung’s most important work was with middle-aged people, particularly men who were undergoing a “mid-life crisis.”  Thus, what he was studying was people at a point in their lives where their developmental work was largely accomplished, but who now were questioning their lives.  What he noticed was that even among people of the same general age and developmental state, there were fundamental differences in personality.  For example, some people seem to derive energy from being around others, sharing thoughts and feelings; others find this tiring, and need to be alone from time to time.  Jung thought neither pole was superior and neither was exclusively healthy; the healthiest personality was one that balanced different, sometimes contrary elements.  However, every individual has a preference, a need for one or the other primarily; to ignore this is to court eventual psychological breakdown, as he often saw among his patients.

The mother-daughter research team of Katherine Briggs and Isabelle Myers developed Jung’s theories, systematized and codified them, and developed the most famous test for measuring temperament.  They located four major poles for personality preference:  Introversion versus Extroversion, Intuitive versus Sensing, Feeling versus Thinking and Judging versus Perceiving.  The basic questions to be asked are: (1) Does this person find social interaction more natural and relaxing than solitude? (2) Does this person rely in imagination and intuition, or on concrete facts and observation? (3) Does this person rely on reason and logic, or on emotion, feelings and values?  (4) Does this person want to control and organize his or her world, or to just let things be as they are and merely accept them as they come?

For example, I test out as an INTP.  I have taken various versions of the Myers-Briggs test several times over several decades, and I’ve staid within that general framework.  I am a moderate I (for Introvert), fairly strong N (intuitive) and P (Perceiver), and very weak T (Thinker), virtually within the margin of error.  What does this mean?

Introversion does not mean I don’t like people or seek company, although we introverts are often scolded as children by extroverted adults who think we’re unnaturally standoffish.  Most people are extroverts (exact estimates of the numbers vary wildly), so it is quite possible for an introverted child to grow up with no one in the family who understands.  Introverts value depth of experience over breadth of experience, and need solitude to rest and revitalize.  Most introverts can be spotted as children by the fact that they are shy, perhaps late talkers, more cautious around strangers.  Extroverts need to go out and have new experiences, meet new people and express themselves.  As young children, my extroverted daughter always verbalized every thought or feeling as it occurred to her.  My introverted son would sometimes say or do something that seemed totally inexplicable, and I would have to ask him or guess if I wanted to know why.  He was like a deep pool, and his thoughts would only occasionally bubble to the surface.  Many of us introverts learn eventually to speak up in public, but we always show our public masks to the public and save our true selves for a few confidants.  The introvert is worn out by too much social engagement, and energized by solitary and small-group activities like reading, walking alone or with a friend, or writing 1500 words in a single day for a blog.  An extrovert is worn out by too much solitude, and eventually must go find a crowd.  At a party, the extrovert (like my wife) “works the room,” seeing one person after another to check up on, exchange a few words and then move on.  The introvert usually finds a place somewhere towards the edge of the room, and looks for one person or a small group to talk to.  Since most people are extroverts, and for that matter extroverts are much more visible, introverts tend to be seen as the strange ones, sometimes pitied as “shy,” sometimes resented as “arrogant” or occasionally admired as “deep.”  Extroverts are outgoing, interested in and knowledgeable of the social environment, and generally likely to have a lot going on in their lives.

Intuitives are also a minority, by most estimates.  Most people are sense-oriented.  They notice the concrete and actual and are comfortable with it.  They notice the particular details.  About 25% of us tend to be more aware of the “big picture,” the forest rather than the trees.  Intuitives are more drawn to possibilities, to what could be or could come to be or might have been, or even to what is impossible but illustrative.  I don’t care for dramas with realistic characters and plots; I like science fiction and fantasy, where I can imagine possibilities without being constrained by what someone actually did or actually thought was sensible.  I see how unusual this aspect of my personality is almost every semester, when I teach Introduction to Ethics.  Most of my students struggle with the theoretical, abstract “normative ethics” portion of the course.  To me, this comes naturally, and I can easily see how to apply these abstract principles from Kant or Kierkegaard to my own life and particular moral questions.  Many of my students can barely tell whether an author is for or against egoism, but when the readings turn towards specific questions such as “Is abortion moral” their grades improve dramatically.  I teach theory first and then practical application, because I find it difficult to think without abstract principles to apply, and because my textbook was written by another Intuitive (as are most philosophy books) so it begins with the abstract.

So by at least some estimates, I am a minority of a minority:  first Introverted (I) and then Intuitive (N) on top of that.  For the third letter, I am neither a minority nor a majority.  True, I generally test out as a T, for Thinking preference over Feeling; but I am so close to the borderline that many psychologists would leave me with an INXP instead.  Besides, psychologists have long said that the numbers of Thinkers and Feelers in society are practically the same.  Thinkers trust their heads; Feelers trust their hearts.  Thinkers want reasons and logic; Feelers want warmth and gut instincts.  The classic stereotype is that men are more rational and women more emotional; but psychologists who have tested this question this.  For example, when President George W. Bush said he had looked into Vladimer Putin’s eyes and seen into his soul, that was the sort of thing one should expect an F-type to say.  And generally, F-types are more intuitive than we T-types.  It isn’t a question of whether or not one has emotions; everyone has emotions and feelings.  But the Thinker tends to discount them, finds them unreliable, and instead looks for facts and clues; the Feeler believes numbers can lie and the heart has reasons the head cannot understand.  Generally, I trust my mind more than my heart; but my temperament profile says I can switch between them easily.

I cannot say the same about the last letter in my constellation, Perceiving.  While estimates vary, all the ones I see say it is a minority, and I am pretty strong on the P side.  The Judgers want to organize their world.  They are the people with neat desks, always on time for appointments, and keeping regular schedules.  They are reliable and tend to expect/demand that everyone else be, too.  Perceivers want to take the world as it is, to enjoy or understand it but in any case preferring to adapt to it than to fight it.  About the third time I find I have put a book on the floor next to the computer, I just leave it there; I assume it wants to be on the floor and putting it away again would be pointless.  I told myself to go to bed at 1:00 a.m. tonight, but then I got to writing about 90 minutes ago and I’m still writing so to Hell with my schedule.  I am often late for appointments, or I procrastinate.  I want my schedule written in pencil if not Etch-a-Sketch.  My floor, table, shelves, etc. are all messes, and I like it that way.  Downside:  I lose things, a lot; I forget things a lot, which is basically losing a thought; and I’m often doing things at the last minute.  Upside:  I have a high tolerance for uncertainty, which is helpful in an uncertain world.  I am willing and even eager to hear contrasting points of view before I make a decision, and can respect valid positions which I don’t personally accept.  That’s why, when I wrote my essay on “The Most Dangerous Ideas in Religion,” my nominee was, “I know what I know.”  I find close-minded certainty abhorrent; while I recognize the need for decisiveness, as a P, I always think that I could still be mistaken.

To be continued…..

Work and Philosophy: Psychological Interlude Chapter Two: Development (pt. ii)

December 3, 2012

Work and Philosophy:  Psychological Interlude

Chapter Two:  Development (pt. ii)



As people approach retirement, they enter the stage of Integrity vs. Despair.  We would expect that people would be concerned with the practicalities of retirement, such as pension and long-term health care.  However, Erikson says that the deeper need is to feel that one’s life was worthwhile.  The person who successfully resolves this stage has successfully resolved them all (even if retroactively) and will be content; the person who has not will be haunted by regrets, disgust, or possibly the desire to turn back the clock and somehow redo what was not done right before.   It would not be surprising then if many older workers, or managers, would want to return to the youth they let slip away too fast, or never really had.  No wonder that there should be a booming market for testosterone boosters and plastic surgery!  In the U.S.A. where the employer is often also the health care provider, this is a workplace issue.  Will employers provide health insurance that covers various varieties of medical rejuvenation?  Will older workers seeking to replay their Intimacy vs. Isolation battle side with younger workers dealing with Generativity vs. Stagnation, or will they seek to deny contraception coverage to them in order to fund their own Viagra?

Developmental theory suggests that what people want from work will change with time, and that people at different stages of life will have very different views of what is just or necessary.  This may lead different generations to clash over moral obligations of society and of employers, particularly if one or both sides of the conflict have failed to positively resolve some developmental crisis.  Erikson confirms that the younger, Stage 6 workers may well be sexually needy and promiscuous, or isolated and alienated, depending on how they failed to achieve real intimacy; and older workers or employers may see all young adults as examples of the maladaptation of some.  Likewise, some older workers can be greedy and cynical, self-important and dogmatic, or just bitter; and younger workers (or perhaps younger employers or managers) may come to see all older workers through that same lens.

Even leaving aside these potential generational conflicts, and dealing only with relatively well-adjusted people, the worker’s needs change with time, and his or her attitudes towards work will change.  The job that once seemed wonderful because of all the exciting, happy coworkers may come to seem dead-end or just trivial.  The job that was once prized for its opportunities may fail at delivering long-term security.  The stereotypical “good job” once implied you worked your whole life for one employer, retired with a pension and health benefits, and in between you were satisfied to get a good paycheck and fair raises for continued good work and loyalty to the company.  That has largely broken down.  Once one might be “married to the job;” but now most Americans change jobs and spouses pretty freely, and have even less faith in their employers than they do in their marriage partners.  Throughout the 1980’s until today, we have seen repeated, spectacular examples of companies driven into bankruptcy by the poor decisions, greed and sometimes utter criminality of their executives; and always, it is the workers who lose their pensions and health care while the executives bail out with golden parachutes.  For every one who goes to jail for a few years, hundreds go from prosperity to prosperity at new companies while their former employees are left in the rubble of the old ones.  Losing faith in the free market and employers to provide adequately for them regardless of their own efforts, many fight to preserve their Medicare and Social Security, while simultaneously attacking those who still have jobs and are demanding wage and health security for themselves.  Anyone who listened to the health care debates in 2009 will remember that while the pundits and demagogues framed their objections in terms of “individual liberty,” the loudest, most passionate and most repeated cries were, “Leave my Medicare alone!”

What has happened is that whereas health care was part of the worker-employer contract for many years, now more and more employers are finding ways to break that contract, or are just failing to honor it by failing to survive through the greed and folly of those at the top.  Consequently, over the years workers have sought to use government as part of the labor institution.  It would be the guarantor of last resort for pensions and health benefits, the arbiter in disputes of worker safety and fairness, and so on.  Younger workers, who often valued autonomy more than security, did not care for this and were happy enough with jobs that offered immediate paychecks and little else; older workers often cared only about preserving the benefits they relied on.  And the majority, in that Generativity vs. Stagnation, have conflicting priorities.  Some may want a more creative job; others a more flexible one that allows them to pursue non-work creativity and particularly family; others may want chances for advancement in exchange for their labor; and others, having fallen into the trap of self-absorption, cared only for immediate profits no matter the expense to others.

My point is, the notion of a “free market” hermetically sealed off from “government” is artificial.  Not only does the government intervene in the market for its own ends; those in the market need government to intervene, both to protect individuals from exploitation by others and to take up the slack when workers’ needs are not matched by their work opportunities.  Social Security and Medicare are interventions in the market, as Ayn Rand said; but before government intervened to provide them it was negotiated between employers and employees.  And by “negotiated,” of course, I mean workers in unsafe conditions receiving starvation wages; workers striking to try to force employers to pay a living wage; employers hiring thugs to beat up strikers; strikers fighting back, attacking scabs, rioting; and the government finally intervening in the form of police joining the strikebreakers.  And when unions are outlawed, as they often were, then only outlaws have unions; no wonder the Mafia took them over!

In the intersection between law, developmental psychology and work, the law and employers do intervene to regulate the Intimacy vs. Isolation activities of workers—-generally in favor of Isolation.  The company picnics and office parties that used to encourage non-business interaction between coworkers have largely vanished, partly due to legal liabilities.   The employer who can keep the worker as busy and tied to the job as possible will see profits; whether that satisfies the worker’s psychological needs is the worker’s problem.  The Generativity vs. Isolation crisis was traditionally resolved by having the father work and seek career advancement, while the mother took care of the family side of generativity.  Employers, for their parts, knew they had to pay the man enough to support his family on one paycheck.  Now, employers know they can effectively get the same worker for half the price, since workers accept that both spouses will work; what was once a choice or luxury for many is now the social default.  In addition, most marriages end in divorce, and most parents will end up as either both employees and primary caregivers of children, or paying child support.  For younger workers (Stage 6) this may be seen as a future problem only; and for older ones (Stage 8) it is the past.  Will either be willing to give up some potential wages or benefits for someone else’s problem?  Will they be willing to pay taxes to help Stage 7 workers meet their workplace needs?  When workers have needs the marketplace won’t meet, they will seek other means to meet those needs, which very often means appealing to government.  And in addition to class and gender differences, generational and developmental differences may place working citizens in conflict with one another, turning the marketplace and the political sphere into a single continuous battlefield.

Work and Philosophy: Psychological Interlude Chapter Two: Development (pt. i)

November 26, 2012

Work and Philosophy:  Psychological Interlude

Chapter Two:  Development



Like gender, developmental psychology is a topic philosophy has tended to downplay.  Most philosophers, before the 19th Century at least, have tended to look for the essential human nature, or the nature of “personhood.”  If developmental realities were accommodated at all, it was to ask when personhood emerged and whether it could be lost; so there was one normative human state, and other stages of life were measured relative to these.  Within adulthood, personhood tended to be seen as fairly static; one either is or is not a person.  Aristotle has some notion of what we might call “stages of life,” when he identifies middle age as the only truly good life.[1]  Before the age of 30, a man lacks the maturity and steadiness of emotion to be truly happy; after 40, he begins to lose the autonomy necessary, and becomes old and bitter in life (and if he’s not a man, or is poor, he also lacks autonomy and cannot live the truly good life).

Medical psychology has dealt with developmental theory since Freud devised his theory of the psychosexual stages of life:  oral, anal and genital.  These biological theories have been elaborated and adjusted by generations of Freudian theorists since, most remarkably by Carol Gilligan, who shifted away from Freud’s male-normative theory to a more gynocentric understanding of human nature.  More universally influential, and more useful for my purposes is the theory of Erik Erikson, and the psychosocial eight stages of life.[2]  Rather than exclusively discuss the biological and sexual maturity of the individual, Erikson focused primarily on the social life and history of the individual.  Essentially, he identified eight stages of social development that every person must go through, each with its particular crisis.  The person who positively resolves the challenges of that stage is better equipped to move on to the next one; the person who doesn’t, is handicapped and possibly trapped in a state of arrested development.  It is possible to revisit past stages, to try to set right what went wrong.  Also, the stages are not rigid; the six-year old might be working through Stage 3 or 4, or transitioning between both at the same time, so two people of the same age might have different psychological agendas.  However, the broader reality is that our human nature changes as we age, and what we seek from life will vary.

For my purposes (examining the intersection of philosophy and psychology in understanding the concept of work) the most relevant are the stages that encompass a typical working life:  stages 6-8.  From 18-40, approximately, the young adult is typically working out the crisis of Intimacy vs. Isolation.  Having moved out of the family home, one is trying to establish an identity as an independent adult, establishing new peer relationships, looking for love, and so on.  When this goes right, one meets a love partner with whom one can form a family, setting the stage for the next phase of life.  When it is not navigated successfully, one can end up isolated, lonely, alienated and/or socially withdrawn.

From about 30-50, the adult is dealing with the conflict between Generativity and Stagnation.  Here, one is trying to achieve, to be creative, to be successful.  One of the primary areas of concern is also the most primal:  reproduction and parenthood.  However, there are other areas of creativity with which one can become concerned as well, such as satisfaction and achievement at work; and these can come into conflict with each other.  The essential point is not just physical reproduction, but the wider move beyond self-interest into unconditional giving, contributing to the world and the society that has nurtured one up to this point.

Somewhere after the age of 50, one enters into the stage of Integrity vs. Despair.  One begins to face up to one’s mortality, and starts to look back on life.  The positive individual will integrate the life that he or she has led, and be able to accept and celebrate it overall and leave it in relative peace; the negative will be filled with regrets and resentments.  As parents, one would be seeing one’s children leave home (perhaps), become adults, begin careers and families of their own.  One might see how one’s life will continue on in the future, through the energy passed on to one’s descendents.

The vocational counseling I have received (and as a former candidate of the Presbyterian ministry, I have undergone a veritable battery of screening and counseling sessions) has not dealt much with gender or developmental issues, and with some reason.  To say to someone, “Your developmental stage is not right for this job,” would be like saying, “Your gender is not right.”  It is not right, and in some cases it is legally forbidden to tell a person that he or she is the wrong age or wrong gender for a specific job.  On the other hand, it is important and worthwhile to take one’s own psychological needs into account, and to realize how the needs of others will affect what they see as “fair and just” in the workplace.  Erikson’s theories suggest that as young adults enter the workplace, they should have resolved most of their identity crises already.  If they have not, they are liable to “maladjustment” or even neurosis.  They may still be fighting what should have been old battles, and they can in fact still win them; others may be stuck reliving lost battles from high school for the rest of their lives.  But for the “normal” ones who are “on schedule,” the young adults are most likely to see the workplace as one more arena for social interaction with peers.  Before one can firmly deal with the notion of building a career, one needs to finish building one’s self identity; and that is done by positively resolving the Intimacy vs. Isolation conflict.  The person who voluntarily or involuntarily sacrifices all social life for work risks later feelings of isolation and worthlessness.  As Ecclesiastes puts it:  “Again, I saw vanity under the sun:  the case of solitary individuals, without sons or brothers; yet there is no end to all their toil, and their eyes are never satisfied with riches. “For whom am I toiling,” they ask, “and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business. “[3]  If one is to avoid seeing one’s own life as “vanity and an unhappy business,” one must have more than just work; one must have friends, and hopefully love and family.  The person who builds Stage Seven on a broken Stage Six will pay for it later with stagnation and regret.  But if younger workers are seeking social opportunities, workplaces are increasingly worried about the effects of failed relationships; so they may seek to limit worker interactions.  Some companies forbid coworkers from dating; others require them to sign a “dating contract” with the company to basically establish that the company will not be liable for any negative fallout.  And more broadly, my wife’s former boss (and this was a religious institution!) told employees they were not allowed to socialize outside the workplace—not just “no dating” but no meeting outside the workplace at all.  Assuming this were enforceable, it would be unfair to any worker, but really deadly to younger ones who are just now working to establish peer relationships.  By contrast, a workplace that seeks to give workers what they need might want to find ways to allow safe, controlled but still autonomous worker-to-worker interactions—-because workers will find ways to interact, and the employer who unreasonably attempts to squelch a basic human need of the employees will simply be ignored and circumvented.  If employers want to be kept in that particular loop, they need to recognize its validity for employees.

The bulk of one’s working life will be spent in Stage Seven.  This is the age of parenthood for many, of midlife crises for some, of concern for career advancement and recognition.  It is the time of “giving back.”  Andrew Carnegie said that the first half of one’s life should be spent in making money, and the second half in giving it away.  Erikson would see the sense in that.  Now that one has one’s love, one’s friends, one’s family, Erikson says one should stop worrying about oneself and start focusing on the others in one’s life.  And once one has given oneself to them as much as they require, one should start unconditional giving back to the world.  The person who has failed to positively resolve this crisis, Erikson says, falls into “stagnation” or “self-absorption.”  As writer Alan Chapman put it;


Stagnation is an extension of intimacy which turns inward in the form of self-interest and self-absorption. It’s the disposition that represents feelings of selfishness, self-indulgence, greed, lack of interest in young people and future generations, and the wider world.



Interestingly, that seems to be the primary conflict in our political discourse today.  Some argue “it takes a village to raise a child,” that we have to look at how what we do will affect “the least of these,” and how our actions affect the wider world and the future.  Others argue that “greed is good,” that taxing them to help others is “punishing me for my success,” and that worrying about the future (global warming, educating the next generation, etc.) would hurt today’s prosperity and chance to immediately enjoy life.  More specifically, in the workplace we can see that worker satisfaction is going to be tied up with opportunities to positively express and resolve the needs of generativity, and that conflicts will occur as people are drawn into greed, selfishness and immediate self-indulgence.  For many, the need for generativity will mean opportunities for career advancement; for others, it will mean opportunities for parenthood and family.  And many will want a workplace that allows for both, rather than setting family and career in conflict.  This is the age where one wants to work and one wants one’s work to have positive results, both for oneself and for the wider world.  On the other hand, those who are not successfully resolving the question of generativity are likely to be moved by selfishness alone, so many will be pushed by greed and self-absorption.  The workplace will have to accommodate them too, either by allowing their self-absorption, harnessing and manipulating it (the stereotypical “capitalist” position), or by creating opportunities to more positively resolve the generativity issue.

To be continued….

[1] Susan Haslip, “Aristotle’s Theory of the Good Life:  A Consideration of the Role of Luck in the Good Life and the Concept of Self-Sufficiency;”  Quodlibet Journal volume 5, number 1, 2003 (

[2] For a short summary, see “Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Crisis Life Cycle Model:  the eight stages of human development; ( accessed October 11, 2012.

[3] Ecclesiastes 4:7-8

Work and Philosophy: Psychological Interlude Chapter One: Gender (pt. ii)

November 19, 2012

Work and Philosophy:  Psychological Interlude

Chapter One:  Gender (pt. ii)

     Today, legal thinking and philosophical ethics are still wrestling with how to deal with gender differences.  On the one side  are the “difference feminists,” like Will Kymlicka and Iris Marion Young, who assert that it is necessary to act to insure equal opportunities and rights, which might mean taking legitimate differences into account.    For example, it is a biological fact that reproduction is more time-consuming for women than it is for men.  In the traditionally male-dominated workplace, it makes perfect sense to everybody making the rules (that is, the men) that pregnancy and maternity leave should be covered by sick-leave and vacation time.  Why should women get time off to make a baby, when I can’t get time off to write a novel?  Aren’t we both being creative?  The fact that this means that women had to choose between parenthood and career while men could reproduce and work without having to sacrifice either just didn’t seem like a problem.  Any woman who wants to be treated like a man can simply give up having children, and the problem is solved—except that reproduction is a fundamental human right and need, as is vocation, and a system that demands one person choose while another doesn’t is unjust.  Kymlicka points out that if women had made the rules, we wouldn’t have such notions as “reproduction is a luxury so pregnancy is either an illness or a vacation.” We probably wouldn’t allow companies to require high-level executives to work eighty hours a week, and we’d probably accommodate children in the workplace.  But where the rules are made by one group which has power, the rules tend to reflect the interests of that group.[1]  Once the rules are in place, there is no need for “arbitrary discrimination;” just treating everyone “the same” will be sufficient to keep women in second-class status.  In some cases, it may be that neither the women nor the men really even see an injustice, since everyone is treated “the same” and no one has asked whether the rules themselves might be skewed.  But when the rules are questioned, it may lead to changes.  Some years ago, Publix Supermarkets had a policy of hiring women as cashiers and men as stockers.[2]  This seems like a chain of common-sense assumptions with little deliberate malice:  women are more personable so make them cashiers, men have the upper body strength so make them stockboys, stockboys get to know what makes the store run, its merchandise, so they are the logical choice for management.  The fact that this meant that women could work for years and see grocery bagboys get promoted to become their bosses again and again just seemed like a natural reality, I suppose.  But the women saw it as un unfair system, and eventually the EOC and Publix settled with Publix paying damages and agreeing to change its management recruitment policies to be more gender-neutral in fact, not just in word.
In sexual harassment law, principles are even more confused.  The standard position, championed by such legal authorities as Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, is the “reasonable person” principle:  an act is sexual harassment if a “reasonable person” would consider it to be so.  But who is a “reasonable person”?  In the court case Ellison v. Brady, 924 F. 2d 872 – Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit 1991, the Court applied what has become known as the “reasonable woman” standard:  what would a reasonable womanconsider harassment?  Is the complainant being rational from her own perspective?  I can best illustrate this from a television drama:  A woman, wishing to reconcile with an ex-boyfriend, uses her key to come into his apartment, light candles, and strip naked to wait for him.  It turns into a fiasco when he comes home with another woman.  Later, she and another woman are discussing the incident, and one points out that if a man did such a thing he’d be arrested for sexual assault.  What is for a man perhaps flattering or perhaps embarrassing can be, for a reasonable woman, a mortal threat.

The contrary argument is that people are people, and that, as Richard A Wasserstrom put it, gender should be no more relevant than eye color.[3]  His basic argument is fairly simple and plausible, and is essentially the same one behind the Brown v. Board of Education ruling:  “separate” means “unequal.”  Once you start distinguishing between groups and declaring one to need special treatment, you designate some as inherently less capable than others.  If past attempts at psychological monism have led to a tendency to treat males as more “human” than females, that is not so much a refutation of monism as it is a refutation of an overly narrow and sexist vision of “human nature.”  Similarly, some racists define the ability to visibly blush as an essentially human trait, so that darker-skinned people are not human; it’s insane, but the alternative isn’t to just give up trying to find a definition of “human nature” that transcends race.  Likewise, we should find a conception of human nature that doesn’t set gender-related characteristics in the center, but rather one that recognizes them and marginalizes them appropriately so we can focus on a true and full understanding of what it is to be human.  This is the logic behind much of the current law concerning sexual harassment law.  Jurists such as Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg favor the “reasonable person” standard, whereby gender policy is judged according to what a hypothetical “reasonable person” of any gender would consider acceptable.  To do otherwise, it is argued, would create two legal standards for “person,” and rob the law of its objectivity and universality.

The difference feminists argue that this sort of “assimilationist” model perpetuates sexism rather than preventing it; and they have an ally in Darwinian psychology.  For example, Robert Wright has argued that evolution has shaped female and male brains differently, and given them different needs, desires and capabilities to fit the requirements of survival in the savannahs where humans originated.[4]  This leads males to be less selective sexually, since quantity of mating opportunities is a better strategy for the gender that does not have primary responsibility for nurturing the unborn and newly-born young.  This in turn leads males to have different attitudes towards sexual harassment, suggesting that legal protections should take gender into account; and it raises many issues concerning maternity leave and worker’s rights regarding on-site childcare, for example.  Males have testosterone, the hormone most associated with competitiveness; this suggests that some of the reason men tend to rise to the top of organizations is because men are driven to do so while women are content to stop.  Wright thus argues that the equity feminists have it all wrong; male and female minds are in fact different, and any ideology that ignores this essential human reality will fail.  Wright has more sympathy for the “radical feminists” like Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, who at least admit the existence of essential psychological differences based on gender.  Equity feminists have resisted Darwinian arguments, fearing that evolutionary theory could be used to justify all manner of oppression of women.  The classic example is the argument that men are inherently unfaithful so women should just accept it, while women are inherently monogamous so one who cheats is not only wicked but unnatural.  Less blatantly self-serving, the argument can be made that since women don’t compete for high-ranking executive jobs, we should just accept that men will run society.  But Wright argues that this is a mistake.  First, it is possible that women’s different psychology can be beneficial to society, and it should be encouraged.  Second, this is a variation of the naturalistic fallacy.  The fact that women don’t tend to promote themselves as vigorously as men says nothing about whether companies should accept that fact, or actively combat it by proactively seeking to recruit women to management positions.  Saying women and men have “different’ brains does not say one should be considered inferior.  It doesn’t really say anything at all about public policy.  What we do with the insights science provides is a matter of value judgment and moral priorities.  Essentially, Wright argues in favor of the “difference” approach:  laws and social policies should recognize the different needs and contributions of the two genders, and seek to provide equal opportunities for individuals to pursue their needs and offer their contributions, even where providing equal opportunities might mean taking gender differences into account.

Scientifically, there is too much evidence that male and female brains/minds differ to deny it.  The argument rather is how much they differ, and whether these differences are significant enough to require legal recognition and accommodation.  And partly because the science itself is unresolved, and partly because it is resisted by some and distorted by others, it is unlikely that we will resolve the legal and moral questions anytime soon.  Certainly, gender and changing gender roles has affected how Americans view work as much or more than any other force.  At this country’s inception, gender roles were largely accepted.  It was even seen as pointless, by men and by many women, to allow women to vote, since their husbands or fathers would handle that for them.  Women ruled the home and men the rest of the world, and both were considered essentially unsuitable for the other’s role.  In law and in the minds of most Americans, it was assumed that there were two human natures.  That began to change with the suffrage movement  in the 19th Century, with women finally gaining the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920.  In the Second World War, women flooded the workplace as men left for war overseas; and in the 1950’s a second wave of feminism was born as women sought to hold onto the rights that labor and economic independence had given them.  Today, the once “common sense” differences between men and women in the workplace are being renegotiated and relitigated  daily.  Do men and women have essentially different natures, and essentially different agendas at work?  Is the “glass ceiling” a result of male oppression or female choice?  How far should the law go to enforce equality?  What is the difference between sexual harassment and natural interaction between males and females?  How far should the law, or employers go to prevent harassment?  Should all dating and sexual interaction between coworkers be banned?  Should employees be allowed to socialize and keep their private lives private?  Can employers be held liable for the results of relationships between coworkers that go bad?  Can females sue employers for not promoting enough females? Can males sue employers if they feel they were passed over just to maintain a balanced number of male and female promotees?  Should women get special treatment, such as extended maternity leave and leave for sick child care while still being eligible for promotion, while men continue to work 60+ hours a week to earn promotion?    Or should men, too, be allowed extended paternity leave at employer expense, exactly the same as the women who actually did give birth and actually may be nursing?

From my perspective, I want to ask:  how does the possibility of psychological pluralism and gender difference affect our understanding of work?  Does it say anything about the essential rights of workers, or essential needs?  Does it say anything about our attitudes towards work?  Are there “male” workers and “female” workers, or are there “workers” who happen to be male and female—-that is, which is most important to deciding workplace justice and the philosophical understanding of work:  gender or economic activity?

[1] Will Kymlicka, “Sexual Equality and Discrimination:  Difference vs. Dominance;” in Morality and Moral Controversies:, pp. 572-75

[2]  Ellen Foreman, “Publix Suit At Head Of Class:  Sex Discrimination Case Is Largest Class Action In U.s. History”, Sun March 17, 1996 (

[3] Richard A. Wasserstrom, “On Racism and Sexism:  Realities and Ideals;” in Morality and Moral Controversies:  pp. 576-81

[4] Robert Wright, “The Evolution of the Female Mind:  Feminists, Meet Mr. Darwin;” originally published in The New Republic, 28, November 1994

Work and Philosophy, pt. 2: Marx (iii)

December 21, 2011

Work and Philosophy, pt. 2:  Marx (conclusion)

When I was in college, my roommate was a Libertarian activist.  The biggest jerk on campus was an avowed Communist.   Once they got into a public debate that boiled down to this exchange:  “Communism is the only fair system.”  “But Robert, it doesn’t work!”  “But it’s fair!”  And that’s really all the Marxists have:  it doesn’t work, we know it doesn’t work, but it’s fair.  Why doesn’t it work?  And are those our only two choices:  unfair, exploitive efficiency or a striving for fairness that is ineffective at best, and utterly destructive at worst?  Do we have to choose between the Gilded Age and Great Depression, versus famines and cultural revolutions?

As to the second question, those do not appear to be our only two choices.  In the 1930’s we found a way to integrate elements of fairness into the overall structure of capitalist democracy, and have for eighty years avoided both the Communist revolution and the Fascist coup that so many confidently predicted in the 1930’s.  But to more fully understand this, we should look at the first question:  why doesn’t Marxism work?

I would say that the problem with Marxism can be traced to the different implications Marx and I draw from Darwinism.  Marx was an atheist materialist; in the early nineteenth century this was a difficult position to maintain.  If there is no God, then where did all the different animals and plants come from?  While biology and geology were beginning to undermine the literal account of Genesis, there was no really persuasive alternative account of the origins of life.  Darwin, of course, changed that equation.  With Darwin (and a few tweaks from his successors), the materialists had the more consistent and inclusive theory.  Given Marx’s conviction that religion is nothing more than a fraud made up by the oppressor class to keep the workers working, it was almost inevitable that he would embrace Darwinism early and enthusiastically.

But while Marx appreciated Darwinism’s scientific approach and materialist foundation, he doesn’t seem to have let it affect his epistemology much at all.  His view of human knowledge, and human nature, owes more to Hegel than to Darwin.  Hegel taught that human spirit (or mind) evolves historically over time, unfolding according to logical principles.  Marx demystified Hegel’s historical dialectic by understanding it as driven by material, economic principles instead of intellectual or spiritual ones.  As the material conditions of the human being change, the intellectual structures through which the individual thinks are changed, since these intellectual structures are born from this economic substructure.  The feudal European mind was the product of the feudal world, which was in turn the product of the technology and economic system of feudalism.  The individual never did, and never does simply encounter the world; rather, the individual filters and interprets experience through the mental structures of his or her age.  In perceiving the world, the individual creates the world at the same time, organizing sense perceptions using the categories and values given by the age.  Change the social environment, the economic substructure of the individual’s reality, and you change the individual’s very spirit itself.

As a theist and an empiricist, I take very different lessons from Darwin.  First, like millions of Christians, I accept Darwin’s basic scientific explanation.  This is said to be apostasy, but a simple historical lesson will show otherwise.  A thousand years ago, the idea of a scientific explanation for rainbows was considered blasphemous.  After all, the book of Genesis clearly states that God created the rainbow as a special sign of His promise to never again destroy the world by a flood.  Before Noah’s flood, there were no rainbows; now, God places one in the sky when it rains to remind us of His promise.  So when Arab scientists invented the new science of optics, and showed how humans could break light apart to create rainbows and how even natural rainbows could have a materialist explanation, many Christians (and I imagine, other believers as well) were offended.  But John Calvin simply replied, I don’t care   how God creates the rainbow; I accept that God, who created everything including the laws of physics, creates rainbows as the scientist says they are created.  We should never fear truth, Calvinists say, since all truth glorifies God; for God is truth.  So Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians can all agree that life arose and is shaped by the principles Darwin describes; how God creates life is one thing, that God creates life is quite a different claim.  What to Marx was a refutation of religion is, to the theistic Darwinian, only a refutation of narrow-minded folly and superstition.

In fact, though, Darwinian theory does reinforce one Biblical teaching:  from dust were we made.  Darwinism says that we humans are the products of the same substance and forces that govern the rest of the universe.  Even our minds, our brains, are shaped by the forces of evolution.  We are the children of four-million year old bipedal apes wandering the plains of Africa.  We have senses that are the products of even more ancient ancestry; our eyes, ears, our other senses and the brain that organizes and interprets this sense data all evolved over time from simpler forms.  Creatures whose eyes saw reality more clearly survived and reproduced; creatures whose senses were less effective were destroyed by the facts they did not perceive.  Knowledge starts with the senses.  Do our senses have limits, make mistakes, and only perceive some fraction of the reality around us?  Undoubtedly, and in that sense the transcendental idealists like Kant and Hegel are right.  We don’t perceive perfectly and we do construct our world in perceiving it.  But how we construct it is itself a product of that same world.  Our senses, our brains, our hormonal responses, everything that gives rise to our minds, our spirits, our selves, our personalities is part of the world; and if our minds were truly cut off from the real world it would have destroyed us long ago.  And these senses and these minds were created slowly, over millions of years.  They are continuing to evolve; but they do not change overnight.

This, I think, explains why Marxism fails.  To the Marxist, knowledge is the result of the encounter with the world as perceived by the intellectual categories which are themselves the products of the economic substructure.  Change the economic reality in which the person lives, and you literally change his or her mind.  The acquisitiveness upon which capitalism is based is itself the creation of capitalism; put the individual in an environment where no one owns property and no one needs to since the community will provide whatever one needs, and people will change from the greedy, lazy and selfish creatures we are now into spontaneously creative, industrious and generous beings of the future.

A more pragmatic, empirical and thoroughly Darwinian view of human nature would say that we are what millions of years have made us.  Sure, we can change our behavior according to new realities.  Put us in a civilized environment, and we will mostly stop killing each other over water holes or fruit trees.  But even the most “modern” person has a brain and body that evolved on the plains of Africa two million years ago.  That essential nature will not go away just because our economic realities change; it will only manifest itself in different ways.  Nature has shaped us to want to enjoy the fruits of our own work, and to resent it when someone takes from us, just as the chimp resents being robbed of his banana by a larger rival and will scheme to try to hide what he cannot hold by force alone.  At the same time, just as chimpanzees do cooperate for the good of the group, so too we humans are able to put aside some of our self-assertion for a higher goal.  Humans seem to function best when they have at least some control over their work and can enjoy and control at least some of the products of their labors.  Just like many other social mammals, humans will put up with a lot if they perceive it as being fair, and if they perceive that it will lead to a desired goal.  And just like other social mammals, we resent having everything we produce taken from us to be distributed by the Alpha Male or the State or Collective or any other entity.  And just like other animals, if our needs are met we will pursue pleasure, or sleep, or possibly do a host of other things that are unlikely to serve the community.  Necessity is the mother of industry as well as invention.