In his book Moral Politics, George Lakoff presents a short description of Work as viewed from the conservative and the liberal frames of reference. His description reads like a manifesto comparing the Tea Party with OWS.
In the book he describes the conservative view of work as Work Reward metaphor as one where the employer has legitimate authority, the employee is subject to that authority, work is obedience to the employer’s commands, and pay is the reward for that obedience. These imply that obedience is key, that the employer is the superior, and that the employer knows best.
In the Work Exchange metaphor, work is an object of value which the worker possesses; the employer possesses the money, and employment is the voluntary exchange of work for money.
The Work Reward metaphor reminds one so much of the feudal system in the Middle Ages, where the peasants offered work and obedience and the lord offered protection in return. It is easy to see why individuals adhering to the Work Reward metaphor dislike trade unionism and the notion that employees should have some power, which unionism represents. It also explains much of the tone of conservative commentary on OWS, a tone which I mentioned in my critique of one commentary in a post a few days back, that those at the top of the heap, the “1%”, deserve what they have, and deserve obedience to them, since they are the superiors in the relationship with the “99%”.
The Work Reward metaphor also somewhat explains the Elizabeth Warren comment that went semi-viral on Facebook recently, that while the rich should certainly feel free to keep some measure of their gains, they need to remember that it is the working people who created the foundation on which the wealthy make their money, and that there is essentially this contract that the people deserve some of the reward for their labor.