Understanding work and work – BusinessWorld

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PEGGY AND MARCO LACHMANN-ANKE / PIXABAY

The month of May marks the country’s labor day. As such, it would do us well to take a step back and examine the concept of work and work, which will hopefully help us address the challenges that workers around the world face today. There seems to be a preponderance in considering work only in terms of its economic dimensions and effects, but such a vision is very limited. Work and work, being fundamental human activities, certainly have social, political and cultural dimensions which must be highlighted. I suggest starting our thinking on this topic by defining how work and work play a role in making up ourselves, how human beings relate to their world, and finally, how this work relates. to our relationship with each other as human beings. .

So what does work have to do with being human? The answer to this question is simple: it is because work is one of the means by which the human person is able to define himself as having a conscience. For example, the eminent thinker Karl Marx, in his earlier works German ideology, tells us that:

“Men can be distinguished from animals by conscience, religion, or whatever you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a stage which is conditioned by their physical organization. By producing their means of subsistence, men indirectly produce their real material life.

Such a vision is hardly original for Marx and is in fact a widely accepted line of thought on the relation of the person to the work. Marx’s original contribution to our way of thinking about work lies in his insistence that it is the material conditions of the human person that constitute his essence. In the same work he says: “What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with the way they produce. The nature of individuals therefore depends on the material conditions determining their production. Such links between human activity and the argument for its determinism as to their essence, however, are a subject widely debated and should be discussed elsewhere.

The key to remember here is that work and work are important facets of our being because they affect not only the person doing the work, but also the physical world around them. In other words, work is one of those human activities which not only falls within the realm of internalized thinking, but which is also necessarily an activity which has meaning and which necessarily changes the world around us.

But what then is the difference between work and work? In this regard, the work of Hannah Arendt is enlightening. For Arendt, work and work can be broadly differentiated by defining work as the type of activity we undertake in order to produce what is needed to support uniquely our biological life. Arendt, in his essay entitled “Labor, Work, Action” (and more broadly in his book The human condition), argues that work encompasses the view of the person as animal laborans. More precisely, for Arendt, if we “follow only the etymological and historical evidence, it is obvious that work is an activity which corresponds to the biological processes of the body… By working, men produce the vital necessities which must be introduced into the process. of life. of the human body. “

Work, on the other hand, encompasses the vision of the person as homo faber, where with the use of a person’s work, talents and tools, the person is able to create the world of things around them beyond what is needed for their biological survival. For Arendt, work or the human person as homo faber means that:

“The work of our hands, as opposed to the work of our body, manufactures the infinite variety of things, the total sum of which constitutes the human artifice, the world in which we live. They are not consumer goods but objects of use, and their own use does not make them disappear. They give the world the stability and solidity without which it cannot be counted on to house the unstable and mortal creature that is man.

We can thus establish, from both Marx and Arendt, that our human consciousness is shaped not only by the way we construct ourselves inside our head, but also by the way we human beings, we relate to and situate ourselves in the world of the objects that surround us. . This relationship of the person to the world of things thus anchors us in reality and allows us to make sense of changes in ourselves and in the environment and to measure them against the same world that we have made. Arendt further argues that: “It is only because we have erected a world of objects out of what nature gives us and that we have built this artificial environment in nature, thus protecting ourselves from it, that we can see nature as something “objective”. Without a world between men and nature, there would be an eternal movement, but no objectivity.

The last source I will talk about here is Laborem Exercens, the papal encyclical of the Catholic Church which dealt specifically with the theme of human labor. Laborem allows us to locate the definitions that we have sketched so far and to contextualize them towards a vision of the relationship between work and the dignity of the human person. The document allows us to affirm that “work is a good thing for man – a good thing for his humanity – because, through work, man not only transforms nature by adapting it to his own needs. , but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more of a human being”. ” Laborem affirms that all work accomplished by the human person must be situated “not only through personal effort and labor, but also in the midst of many tensions, conflicts and crises which, in relation to the reality of work, disturb the life of societies individuals and also all of humanity. These disorders come in many forms, but their most fundamental aspect is in the reality of poverty. Laborem recalls that “the” poor “appear in various forms; they appear in various places and at various times; in many cases, they appear to be the result of the violation of the dignity of human labor. “

Our contemporary discourses on work and all its elements, from wages and working conditions, to unemployment and workers’ benefits, must all be guided by a preponderance of human dignity. This vision can only be successful if we also keep in mind that work is an inherently social and mundane phenomenon. It’s a building block of how we relate and make sense of the world around us, and it’s also one of the main arenas in life where we relate and make sense of our own. value and the existence of others.

It puzzles me then as to why the circumstances of our work seem to be surrounded by so many layers of intricacies and unnecessary secrets. We should remove our pretensions around a secretive and individualistic work culture that diminishes the social aspect of work and be more open to freely discuss issues such as wages, hiring policies, security, benefits, between. other.

The three sources I have cited here today, Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, and the social teachings of the Catholic Church, despite their fundamental disagreements and the nuance of the view of work and work, all point to a in a way, a kind of solidarity which puts human dignity back at the center of the work. Marx points to a kind of class consciousness in order to cultivate a sense of being-species, Arendt defines politics as human action in the political domain as the highest expression of our ability to live and work together in concert , Laborem Exercens affirms the “principle of the priority of work over capital” and the fundamental character of the right of association, the right to form unions, among other things because it is through these forms of solidarity that the demands to build are expressed. a society towards the common good out and updated.

It is therefore a major challenge for the security of our future that we must understand more deeply and fundamentally change our relationship to work, and therefore also change our relationship to ourselves, to others and to our world. The problems posed by the current global crisis and the damage already too real at the time of the Anthropocene, give us the opportunity to cultivate a new type of work which is not fundamentally rooted in the exploitation of ourselves. , our environment and our neighbor.

Miguel Paolo P. Rivera is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Ateneo de Manila University.

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