What makes work satisfying? Apart from a paycheck, there are intangible values that, Barry Schwartz suggests, our current way of thinking about work simply ignores. It’s time to stop thinking of workers as cogs on a wheel.


  • drag – pull (someone or something) along forcefully, roughly, or with difficulty
  • overwhelming – very great in amount
  • vanish – disappear suddenly and completely
  • incentive – a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something
  • deprive – deny (a person or place) the possession or use of something


Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets.

  • Do we work exclusively for money? (1:13)
  • Why do people do jobs which are monotonous and unfulfilling? (2:46)
  • Why do people react differently to their poverty? (3:50)
  • How is technology of things different from idea technology? What example does Barry Schwartz use to illustrate the latter? (5:11)
  • What did Adam Smith say about people working on assembly lines? What is your opinion on that?
  • What conclusion does Barry Schwartz reach about human nature?


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

Now, I think this is totally obvious, but the very obviousness of it raises ________ is for me an incredibly profound question. Why, if this is so obvious, why is ________ that for the overwhelming majority of people on the planet, the work they ________ has none of the characteristics that get us ________ and out of bed and ________ to the office every morning? How is it that we allow the majority of people ________ the planet to do work that is monotonous, meaningless and soul-deadening? Why is it that ________ capitalism developed, it created a mode of production, of goods and services, in which all the nonmaterial satisfactions that might come from work were eliminated? Workers ________ do this kind of work, whether they do it in factories, in call centers, or in fulfillment warehouses, do it ________ pay. There is certainly ________ other earthly reason to do ________ they do except for pay.


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