While recognising that there will be similarities in the attitudes to work between one nation with attitudes to work in others, a nation's own institutions and environmental conditions significantly contribute to its population's attitudes to work. Arriving at what are the dominant ideas of work in Australia requires the examination of the attitudes to work present in its major industrial and social institutions. In Australia, these institutions would include the churches, whose social influence was very strong prior to World War II; the mercantile and employer organisations which represented the individuals who were organising the different methods of work; the unions which represented a large number of employees working under these methods; the state, its governments, and statutory authorities (such as the industrial tribunals and the departments of labour) which have intervened in work methods; and a number of political parties and social movements which have risen with the object of influencing the organisation of work.
Introduction: Old World Ideas
Before the rise of the institutions of the European nation state, attitudes to work were shaped by the social thought of the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Two traditions were evident in their social doctrines dealing with work. Max Weber and R.H. Tawney delineated these two traditions of work attitudes during the early twentieth century.
CHAPTER 1: Life is Work (1890-1914)
The Protestant tradition held that work was morally good and should be the goal of life. Australian Protestant Churches implanted the Protestant work ethic in Australia. Australia's mercantile elite of the late nineteenth century, who were mostly Protestant, then
CHAPTER 6: No Work For Work's Sake (1934-1947)
As a response to the depression and World War II, a new spirit of collective action emerged in Australia. The greater influence of the state in work increased recognition that work was not be an end in itself. This trend encouraged the demand for leisure, and culminated in the introduction of increased annual leave and a five day working week during 1945 and the 40 hour week in 1947.
CHAPTER 7: Extra Reward For Extra Work (1947-1970)
To maintain full employment and rising standards of living, greater production was demanded from work. Work as a civic duty in the community needed to be revived. However, this new value of work, because it saw work as the means to obtain greater material wealth, was distinct form the older work ethic, which had been based on self denial.
CHAPTER 8: Leisure and the Quality of Life (1971-1983)
During the 1970s, the onus shifted from the work ethic's view of work as a civic duty involving an act of self denial to a new perspective of work as an avenue for seeking personal satisfaction. Work was to be a subservient to the idea of the individual seeking the goal of personal fulfillment. It was argued that the individual should be able to obtain in his work the same degree of personal satisfaction he used to receive during his leisure; and, if work could not be made to be like leisure, increased leisure time was to be granted to the worker.
Conclusion: National Attitudes to Work
In Australia, as in other modem countries, although the vestiges of the Protestant work ethic have been evident from 1890 to 1983, the idea that leisure should be preferred over work - a leisure ethic - has increasingly challenged the Protestant tradition of work.