Review of Why We Work

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  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Swarthmore psychology professor and TED Talk speaker Barry Schwartz addresses issues surrounding work in contemporary life. He investigates why work so alienates most people and how people in the working class can enjoy the job satisfaction that skilled professionals, financial wizards and creative people savor. He sets out to inspire you to think about the intersection of industry and individualism. Schwartz offers singular, prescient insights into how work corrupts, gets corrupted, rewards and punishes. In the process, he asks thought-provoking questions. getAbstract recommends this taut, focused text to employers who want to create better workplaces and anyone who aspires to a better, more meaningful work life.  

About the Author

Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz’s other books include The Paradox of Choices and Practical Wisdom.


Unfortunately, Schwartz doesn’t fully answer the questions he asks, but perhaps no one could. He jumps from subject to statistics-filled subject. His data about the percentages of US workers who feel disengaged seems less fresh than a lot of his other information, since these numbers seem to crop up in other workplace analyses. Schwartz’s earnestness may hold your interest, but after reading 50 or so pages of this 96-page book, you’re ready for him to tie his disparate threads into a useful conclusion.

As he works toward a theory of work, the author offers these lessons and highlights:  

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