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Why Do People Work? Individual Wants Versus Common Goods


  • Helena Lopes


Empirical evidence strongly suggests that something other than pay is sought in work. By emphasizing consumption over production, the worker as a producer was eclipsed by mainstream economics and replaced by the worker as a consumer. The analysis of the relational dimension of work life was also discarded. We argue that the decision to work and behavior at work is very much driven by the search for relational goods and moral goods, defined as intangible entities that emerge from social interactions. The "goodness" of relational and moral goods stems from their being commonly shared. Two properties of both goods — commonality and immanence-in-action — rule out the possibility of their being captured in a utility maximizing framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Helena Lopes, 2011. "Why Do People Work? Individual Wants Versus Common Goods," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(1), pages 57-74.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:45:y:2011:i:1:p:57-74
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624450104

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    Cited by:

    1. Mann, Stefan, 2013. "“Work”? On utility in the market and in the unpaid sphere," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 86-91.

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