Historical Perceptions of the Meaning of Work

  • Sharlene G. BuszkaEmail author
  • Timothy Ewest
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Workplace Spirituality and Fulfillment book series (PSTWSP)


Studs Terkel was known to many as author, actor, and radio personality. But, the one-time scholar-in-residence for the Chicago History Museum was also a noted historian, recording American History in radio and books (Corley, 2008). Among his many top-selling and Pulitzer prize-winning books is the book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (2011). Terkel’s book broadly interviews various types of workers as they engage in their work. These voices include: executives, receptionists, stewardesses, financial planners, chiefs, actors, welders, and gas meter readers to name only a few. The indication from these interviews was that work can vary in importance, but work does provide meaning for those performing the work. Besides taking on personal meaning for each person, work takes on varying degrees of meaningfulness. One voice, Bill Talcott, an organizer, thinking on the nature of work said, “history is a lot of people getting together to work deciding they want a better life for themselves and their kids” (Terkel, 2011, p. 355). And, as valid as this simple perspective may be, the collective historical understanding of work can be viewed as evolving based on changes in culture and society, as well as having a formative effect on the same.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Daemen CollegeAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Houston Baptist UniversityHoustonUSA

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