Reading time: 5 min.
Money makes it much easier to exchange one’s work for other services or goods. Nowadays, most of the time, when someone gets money for an activity, we call it “work”. Of course there are many exceptions. A thief for example gets money from the activity of robbing, but it is not considered within the society as work. We could think that it is not considered as work because it is illegal, but actually that’s not true because when someone works in the black market (which is also illegal) we still call it work. It could be that it is the immoral dimension of the activity that makes us classify an activity as work or not, and because robbing is immoral, this activity is not considered as work. But even if we take morality as a criterion to know whether an activity can or cannot be considered as work, we could find examples of an immoral activity that generates money and that is considered as work; we can think for example about the soldier involved in an immoral war and getting a wage for his labor consisting in killing people.
Generally speaking, there is today a big link between work and money. We say that someone is working when the activity he performs generates money, and when it is legal, like an employee in a company or in the government, or an owner (or shareholder) of a business. We don’t call a thief or a drug dealer a “worker”. If someone cleans the streets of his neighborhood every day without being paid, then we don’t call his activity “work”. It is the same thing for someone doing sport, playing music or cooking in his house. We don’t call those activities “work” because they do not generate money. The same activities, when they are compensated with money, become “work”. If instead of making some sport with friends you kick a ball in front of a public in a stadium and TV cameras, then it becomes work and the player will get money for his labor. The same example can apply for someone playing music with friends or selling his art, cooking in his house or cooking in a restaurant, etc.
Under this definition of work, linking it with money, it is not important to know if an activity is useful or not, or pleasant or not, to label it “work”. It is the ability of an activity to generate money that tend to define it as useful or not, and even as good or not. If you manufactured something that you are able to sell (which means that there are people who agree to give you an amount of money to get what you manufactured), then it is considered as a work worth a certain amount of money, which means that it’s worth a certain value. It is not the thing in itself that we assess to consider if it is good or not, and at what extent is it good or bad. There are no clearly known criteria to know the intrinsic value of something. Through variations of the offer and the demand, the market eliminates some goods, and gives value to others. This market is composed of buyers and sellers, all of them continuously exchanging services and goods through the universal use of money.