Why do we do what we do?

August 24th, 2009

We spend most of our waking lives at work.  And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations mean to us.  Alain De Botton (The Architecture of Happiness, How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel) in his new book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work explores the joys and perils of the modern workplace, evoking what other people wake up to do each day—and night—to make the frenzied contemporary world function. With a philosophical eye and his signature combination of wit and wisdom, Alain de Botton leads us on a journey around a deliberately eclectic range of occupations, from rocket science to biscuit manufacture, accountancy to art—in search of what make jobs either fulfilling or soul-destroying.  Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet?