Alas, the Protestant Work Ethic Ruined a Good Thing
The work ethic is not a traditional value. Work hasn’t always been held in the high regard that it is today. Many of our ancestors, in fact, would have rejected the Protestant work ethic outright, considering what it signifies.
Indeed, some of the best-known ancient Greek philosophers thought that work was vulgar. Working, just for the sake of working, signified slavery and a lack of human dignity. Socrates felt that because manual laborers had no time for friendship or for serving the community, they made bad citizens and undesirable friends. The early Greeks and Romans relegated all activities done with the hands, done under orders, or done for wages to the lower-class citizens or to the slaves.
Other early Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, cited total leisure as ultimate wealth; leisure was desirable as an end in itself so people could use it to think, learn, and develop themselves. Conversely, pursuing wealth, power, and status through work was considered a form of voluntary slavery that failed to enhance the human condition. Plato and Aristotle were critical of people who kept working after they had satisfied their basic needs. They concluded that these people were working and pursuing luxury and power in an attempt to cover up their fear of freedom.