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Arbeit - Transformation von Objekten oder Interaktion mit Subjekten?

Gerd Spittler

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Work can be basically conceived in two ways: as transformation of an object (the technical paradigm) or as interaction with a subject (the interactive paradigm). The first paradigm is constitutive of the modern position. But is work indeed purely instrumental? The idea that animals, plants, and even things possess their own sense of self-will (Eigensinn) is widespread in non-industrial, non-capitalist societies. This is demonstrated in this article by analyzing the work of hunters and gatherers, herders and peasants. The most interesting case is capitalist industrial work which is often seen as the prototype of instrumental activity. However, careful studies by sociologists and anthropologists, based on the method of participant observation, reveal the technical paradigm as a biased perspective. Even modern workers deal with machines as subjects. They see machines as partners, as enemies or friends.