From the 1990 book Common Culture: Symbolic Work at Play in the Everyday Cultures of the Young, anthologized in the excellent Everday Life Reader, comes this observation from cultural theorist Paul Willis on his concept of “symbolic creativity”:
[There] is another kind of humanly necessary work — often unrecognized but equally necessary — symbolic work. This is the application of human capacities to and through, on and with symbolic resources and raw materials (collections of signs and symbols — for instance, the language as we inherit it as well as texts, songs, films, images, and artifacts of all kinds) to produce meanings. This is broader than, logically prior to and a condition of material production, but it’s “necessariness” has been forgotten.
Necessary symbolic work is necessary simply because humans are communicating as well as producing beings. Perhaps they are communicative before they are productive. Whilst all may not be productive, all are communicative. All. This is our species distinction. […] This is how we manifest and produce the social and dynamic nature of our humanity.