Long, long time back we studied an interesting theory about place of 'work' as an idea in western cultures, along with other theories of motivation, especially achievement. The theory was called Protestant Ethics by Max Weber.
Here was the idea that, for protestants, work was almost like worship...
quoting from wiki:
"The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in sociology, economics andhistory, attributable to the work of Max Weber. It is based upon the notion that the Calvinist emphasis on the necessity for hard work as a component of a person's calling and worldly success is a visible sign or result (not a cause) of personal salvation.
It is argued that Protestants beginning with Martin Luther had reconceptualised worldly work as a duty which benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Thus, the Catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to work diligently as a sign of grace. Whereas Catholicism teaches that good works are required of Catholics to be saved (viewing salvation as a future event), the reformers taught that good works were only a consequence of an already-received salvation.However, the Calvinist and Lutheran theologians taught that only those who were predestined to be saved would be saved, by grace alone through faith in Jesus alone. Since it was impossible to know if one was predestined (since one might not receive the "grace of perseverance," and one's conversion might be only lip-service), the notion developed that it might be possible to discern that a person was elect (predestined) by observing their way of life. Hard work and frugality were thought to be two important consequences of being one of the elect; thus, Protestants were attracted to these qualities, seeking to be obedient to God to whom they owed their salvation.
This is so funny because although I have noticed something similar in some people, but I never connected it to this theory, which I had really enjoyed in my social psychology classes. I guess clinical side had over-powered me in between, before 'total liberation' happened :) This is also funny that some of the people who visibly continue these behaviors would cringe to think of a religious basis to their charity and workaholism.
Unlike many other ideas which I get nowadays, this was not at all dangled within ;)
This came up in a conversation with a very interesting American scientist, when I asked what he thinks of the emotional reactions of many Americans to capitalism, apart from it being a known comfort zone invested with one's identity in a particular world-view, ... if there was something more... and after thinking for a moment he mentioned, it might be due to protestant ethics (which he too had studied in college much earlier than I did).
And although the theory has been criticized, some people do fit the bill. Though for how long things will stay same, i do not know, especially in the ever changing economic-political-psychological-spiritual world.
And this reminds me of the 'Hindu ethics' or what was called a 'Hindu rate of (economic) growth', one which is lazy and slow. With increasing growth rate in India, I'm afraid we now are beyond this point and it won't be too long before it would be re-named as... 'Saraswati ethics' for diligently working and 'Lakshmi ethics' for wealth creation. Ah! all-flexi theories of modern world.