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Introduction

The dichotomy between work as a kind of “spiritual violence” and work as a possible source of meaning underlay almost all of Terkel’s conversations. He always encouraged people to discuss the job they do “in the larger context of society,” how they felt about that job, how they came to do it and what it all meant. Terkel helped people speak about their own work in highly articulate and creative terms and transcended the bare economic perimeters or the simplistic mythologies of different kinds of labor.

As a result, these speaker’s attitudes about work in their own lives will become a powerful lens through which today’s public can see their own struggles to identify and realize meaningful work or a larger calling in life within a deeper societal context.

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