When considering the changes in the role and meaning of labor as well as in our attitude towards work, labor is practically identified with wage labor as developed in the modern industrial societies, and as such it is viewed as the basis of social identity, as the most significant factor in determining social status, and as the primary form of social participation. On the other hand, it is also viewed as the most important field for self-realization and personal fulfillment, - as a synonym for 'meaningful life'. This approach, however, is relatively recent in European history. The article examines this modern conception of labor and work, and investigates how it developed over the centuries. The author focuses on and analyzes certain formative historical moments that have transformed labor - which was for long considered as an activity that made one ineligible for genuine and free human life - into the only socially recognized realization of human life; in other words, labor became the human activity per se.
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