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Salon: Hunting the wild hacker; book review - 'The Hacker Ethic'

Feb 07, 2001, 17:57 (2 Talkback[s])

"Himanen's core thesis is that hackers have a new, improved relationship toward work. As opposed to those poor souls beholden to the famous Protestant ethic, outlined in Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," hackers don't treat work as a duty or "the most important thing in life." Instead, hackers make their work subservient to their life, feeling a sense of joy and passion in what they do, rather than responsibility for what they feel they should be doing."

"One reason free software is able to flourish is that most hackers are able to earn their livelihood relatively easily, with enough leisure time to hack for the public good. The hours that they do spend working for the Man are well enough compensated to allow them to construct the rest of their lives in whatever fashion they might desire. A McDonald's cashier or a taxi driver is not so lucky. Free software is built on the reality that programmers are an elite class of worker, both indispensable and relatively rare. The hacker ethic, then, is a luxury."

"...it's a point worth contemplating, particularly in the current "dot-com downturn" era. Of all the various classes of people getting laid off right now, programmers have the least to fear, and demonstrate the least anxiety. Their skills will always be in demand -- no matter how bad the economy gets, technological progress will not stop. "The Hacker Ethic" is engagingly written and provocative, and indubitably commendable in its vision of a transformation of how all of us relate to our working life, but without rigorously examining the paradox of how it is that hackers are able not to care about money, it is significantly flawed."

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