What is work?

Work can be defined narrowly as paid labour or more broadly to encompass a wide range of paid and unpaid human activity.

Work can be described as an interaction between individuals and nature, that creates a change or transformation and paid labour the commodification of this process, although such definitions fall short where activities do not help to transform nature and accordingly Grint defines work as a construct of competing discourses resulting in different material expressions and allocations of the status of worker or workless (Grosvenor and Piggott, 2015: 6).

The dominant representation of work is that of paid work, either for an employer or as self-employment. As this is the conception of work that concerns social welfare and employment law this is the conception of work that I will be referring to when discussing work, although my own conception is broader.

The link with productivity

Paid work within a capitalist industrial society is concerned with the creation of property and surplus value. For John Locke it was the mixing of labour and nature that created and validated the ownership of property. From a Marxist perspective personal labour is then commodified and sold to create surplus value. Productivity is then linked to producing something new or additional.

Barriers to productivity for people who are disabled

Roulstone claims that disabled people have been ‘designed out’ of productivity by industrial capitalism, which privileged norms of effort, strength, awareness of danger and stamina (2015: 259). The production processes of both industrial capitalism and command communism created further structural barriers to work (2015: 259).