“Work Ethic: The idea of productive labor, or work, being valued in and for itself for those who do it, encouraging them to invest greater effort than could be achieved by social pressures, incentive payments, or other devices developed by employers to extract maximum output from their workforces. The concept is a unique product of Western European culture; other cultures rely on different social, religious, and political ideologies to encourage productive labor and the fulfillment of social obligations. The idea was derived originally from the protestant ethic, which presents work as a religious and moral obligation, and is now widely used as a simplified popular version of that concept, especially in the context of explanations for low or high productivity and economic growth. The relevant American and British research in sociology, psychology, economics, and political science is reviewed in Michael Rose, Reworking the Work Ethic (1985).”
Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.