May 14, 2001
Work – a process as familiar to almost everyone as their daily routines – has changed radically in nature over the centuries. Most of these changes have involved revolutionary steps, influencing significantly the way people live and behave. Two of these – the agrarian revolution (when people abandoned their hunter-gatherer lifestyles and grouped together as farming communities) and the industrial revolution (where people began to concentrate in farms and cities) were watersheds in the evolution of work. A third revolution in the way we work and live, driven this time by new technology, appears to be underway in the new millennium. But, old habits and attitudes invest society with an extraordinary resilience to change. Donkin calls it “social drag.” The strongest of the attitudes – the Protestant work ethic-rooted in 16th c. English Puritanism, has led to a make-work society in which values have been distorted.
Blood, Sweat & Tears is a captivating history of work, from the prehistoric times to the present day. It offers fascinating and intelligent analyses of the individuals, assumptions, theories, developments and practices that have so much changed work. Based on detailed research from around the world, the author examines early societies, slavery, the guilds, the creation of trade secrets and the influence of religion on work (such as the humanist ideals of the great Quaker industrialists). Donkin also investigates the ideas of the theorists, such as F. W. Taylor, Max Weber, Elton Mayo, Mary Parker Follett and W. Edwards Deming, and the impact they have had on our lives. And, conversely, the author challenges the work ethic on behalf of all those whose lives have increasingly become subsumed by the demands of employers, asking the question: Why do we do it?
Richard Donkin is a leading columnist and writer for the Financial Times newspaper, specializing in work and management topics. He regularly appears on radio and contributes to other leading magazines on issues relating to business.