Introduction

Perhaps nothing is more relative than human need. Or more widely debated than what's required to meet it.

P.J. O'Rourke, in his 1998 book "Eat the Rich," derides the daughter of a high representative of the United States government. Her folly: Speaking of the collective "hopelessness" of American youths in addressing a crowd in Tanzania, one of the poorest nations on Earth.

The point being made by the wry, pro-capitalist Mr. O'Rourke: High socioeconomic status ought to confer satisfaction.

True? Around the world and across the centuries, personal freedom - highly prized and ultimately a human right - has often been linked to financial clout.

And, by and large, we establish our independence through work.

This section looks at how the role of "typical" workers evolved over a millennium. It explores tangents, from the rise of consumerism to investing for social change.

We don't claim to be comprehensive. It's been a busy 1,000 years - and a dynamic past two centuries.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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