Why We Work: An Eye-opening Tour of the Purpose of Work in Our Lives

UC Berkeley

Barry Schwartz is a Professor at the Haas School of Business, U.C. Berkeley and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College. He has written several books about human behavior on topics like choice, wisdom, and motivation. He is also the recipient of the Class of 2016 Commencement Award.


Why do we work? The question seems so simple. But Professor Barry Schwartz will demonstrate that the answer is surprising, complex, and urgent. His class is an eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture, including a focus on how people can find their own path to happiness in the workplace. We’ve long been taught that the reason we work is primarily for a paycheck. In fact, we’ve shaped much of the infrastructure of our society to accommodate this belief. Then why are so many people dissatisfied with their work, despite healthy compensation? And why do so many people find immense fulfillment and satisfaction through “menial” jobs?

Reasons Why We Work

Professor Barry Schwartz explores why so many believe that the goal for working should be to earn money, how we arrived to believe that paying workers more leads to better work, and why this has made our society confused, unhappy, and has established a dangerously misguided system. Through fascinating studies and compelling anecdotes, Why We Work by Barry Schwartz, dispels the myths of work. It takes us through hospitals and hair salons, auto plants and boardrooms, showing workers in all walks of life, showcasing the trends and patterns that lead to more fulfilling workplaces.

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Stuart Greenman


Inspiring, passionate, articulate, entertaining, and enlightening, Prof. Schwartz delivers one of the best One-Day U. presentations I’ve had the privilege of seeing. And, without being burdensome at all, he finally issues a surprising ethical challenge to us as workers, supervisors, and even as parents.

Bravo, Professor Schwartz!

2 years ago
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