Why Work? 1

imagesWriting during World War II, Dorothy Sayers asks in Why Work?: “shall we [after the war ends] go back to that civilization of greed and waste which we dignify by the name of a ‘high standard of living’?”

For her, “that [meant] going back to the time when labor was valued in terms of its cash returns, and not in terms the work.”  It meant asking the wrong questions about work: “will it pay?”  “What does he make?”  “Can we induce people to buy them?”  “How much a week?”  It meant reverting to the ingrained “habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money.”

Instead, the proper questions are: “”Is it good”?  “What is his work worth?”  “Are they useful things well made?”  “Will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?”  The proper view is to think about work “in terms of work done,” and “taking the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work — our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure — and making that the standard of all our judgments about things and people.”  

In other words, as Miroslav Volf suggests, the proper view of work is to see it as having an inherent value rather than having solely an instrumental value.


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