Productivity in Perspective: Closing Remarks

Dominique Méda, whose essay on work and value appeared in a post of this series, concludes her article by stating that “economics concentrated all attention on one particular means of creating value, and concealed from view other dimensions, other means of translating human capabilities into value and developing them, in short, other ways of living in society.”1 For me, this statement, and the entirety of this blog series, begs the question: is this really what we want? Moreover, can we as anthropologists ask this question?

I think that we can and that we must. The French case we explored showed that our methods for achieving desired ends may not have the consequences that they intended. It also required that we ask what we as workers, as people, want and expect from our lives, including our work lives. I began my argument with the assumption that life is about the production of proper people. I posed the question: what kind of people are the right, moral kind? After having elaborated on the case of French labor law, we have seen that work and time are core elements in dictating the type of person that our society endeavors to create, using productivity as a disciplinary mechanism in the creation of the hard-working citizen who contributes to the greater good through work. But it stands that we must always be questioning those ideas and concepts that regulate our lives, and with the work of anthropologists, we are off to a good start.


  1. Méda, Dominique. 1996. “New Perspectives On Work As Value”. International Labour Review 135 (6), pg. 640.