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Work is primarily a means of satisfying our needs. Our needs are the most primordial things, comes way before the societal milieu within which we interact with each other and create relationships. Unless and until these needs are met, we cannot possibly reach a state where collective action is possible. Marx denotes satisfaction of needs as the very first historical act that gives rise to history. Throughout human history, one of the constant things that have persisted is the satisfaction of needs, as without which human existence is just not possible. This fundamental drive to fulfil one’s needs, I see, is the force that has persistently induced our ancestors to strive towards a better and more secured form of living. This common factor that induces all individuals eventually gets shaped in the form of a collective force and gives rise to various modes of production, as highlighted by Marx. As I understand, mode of production is a form of organizing that aligns our actions in such a manner so that everyone's need gets satisfied without impeding each other's. I see, the relationship between the mode of production and satisfaction of needs is a two-way process, where the latter gives rise to a form of former and once a specific form of the former is in place it determines how the latter will be fulfilled.
As indicated, the mode of production has gone through transformations, and three prominent modes can be found in history: feudal, industrial, and the current post-industrial one. Throughout these modes, I see, the purpose of work has also gone through transitions. In feudal societies, as land figures as the central node around which other activities are structured, work was directed towards controlling and taming various natural forces for maximum exploitation of natural resources. In the context of Australia, feudalism is brought in by the British when they colonized this part. Then feudalism proliferated in Australia, particularly for sending revenue back to the British emperor. In feudal societies, as human beings are integrally connected to the land and other natural resources, one’s needs get fulfilled immediately or rather one works directly for fulfilling needs. With the advent of the industrial revolution in the 19th century's Europe, there was a major shift in the mode of production. As Australia was already a colony, it did not take long when industrialization was introduced in Australia as well. In this industrial era, instead of land, the industry becomes the centre of the production, and human became labours from farmers. With this change, the main purpose why we work, changed significantly as people started working for their share of wage and that is seen as the means to procure things that can meet one's real needs. So, in a way, the result of work was not directly meeting needs, rather was mediated through industrial processes. In the current post-industrialized Australia, I observe, increasing focus is on service sectors, such as the hospitality and social service sector, as in post-industrial societies, the main focus is on the creation of a service economy (Bell 1976: 14–15). Along with it, the focus is on the differentiation of the economy as much as possible as it is perceived that if an economy gets concentrated on a specific mode of production like as it happens in the integration of an economy, then that can lead to a collapse if the necessary raw materials ran out. For example, excessive reliance on mining in Australia is not desirable as with depleting natural stock; we can hit a recession in the future. Moreover, the increasing importance of creating new knowledge and technologies, I see, is making us more alienated as for satisfying basic needs, we are now entirely dependent on a subsidiary food production and an industrial system.
The transitions between various modes of production can be found by analyzing the contribution of various sectors to the overall GDP of various OECD countries (Bell 1976: 16–19). In Australia, almost 50% of our GDP is produced by the service sector, and only about 1/10 is by the agricultural sector (Ibid.). I find this as a clear depiction of how far we have come from just the satisfaction of our basic needs. This also possibly explains why there are widespread unhappiness and discontentment in society. We need to understand our basic needs and have to identify the most simplified way of fulfilling it. It is not enough that our needs are met; it is more important how it is meet and at what cost. We also need to revive the primordial role of work and should reorient our work to directly satisfying our basic needs; I feel that is the right way forward.