The objections to the centrality of work lean on a massive historical assumption that remains largely unquestioned, namely that work only became a central institution with the rise of Western capitalistic modernity. This article aims to initiate a critical survey of this historicist background underpinning the main objections to the centrality of work. Identifying the main references in this field enables us to disentangle the different arguments involved and offer a rejoinder on two fronts. At an empirical level, historical and ethnological scholarship tends to demonstrate the psychological and social-political centrality of work across societies. Drawing on this historical material from a conceptual perspective, a counterimage of the anthropological significance work can be outlined, which places the latter at the heart of social ontology.