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Lantos, B. (1943). Work and the Instincts. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:114-119.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:114-119

Work and the Instincts

Barbara Lantos

In our analytical practice disturbances of working capacity come next in importance to disturbances of sexuality. Although we have to deal extensively with disturbances of work, the question of what work is is not treated as a problem. We look upon work as an obvious necessity, the mastering of which is a proof of perfect adaptation to reality, whereas disturbances are considered as disorders of the libidinal economy.

Yet it has often proved useful to investigate established concepts as though they were unsolved questions. In our case the question is: What does work mean? In order to find an answer we may first ask: What do we work for?—to which the simplest reply is: In order to earn our living. If this is the case, can we call work a necessity? As a rule, yes. The fact that some people have an independent income as a result of their own former work or of the work of others does not contradict this rule; and the same applies to those who depend on the work of relatives or friends. Thus we may truly say that man is forced to work.

It is further generally accepted that the concept of work can only be used in connection with adults. This may be a hint that it would be well worth while to analyse the concept. The chief part of an adult's activity is undoubtedly directed towards his work. A child is not concerned with what a grown-up regards as his most important activity—although the child is in no way less active than the adult. How, then, do children use their activity?

Let us take as an example one of the first and most important activities of the toddler: learning to walk.

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