Work in the Spirit 5

imgresAdam Smith saw labor “not [as] an essential characteristic of human beings without which they could not be human” but as “a means to satisfy the ‘desire of bettering our condition’” according to Miroslav Volf in Work in the Spirit.  In other words, Smith thought “people work, not because work is an expression of their humanity, but in order to satisfy their needs….”  “Work does not have human dignity…[but] only usefulness.”

The division of labor serves to enhance this usefulness of work.  Therefore, even though Smith recognized that division of labor has a way of estranging the workers from their true selves, he “believed that the alienating consequences of division of labor are a burden that must be endured because the division of labor is the key to the progress of civilization.”

I was then surprised to read who decided that “division of labor has to go, and with it the whole structure of a market economy.”  Karl Marx!  Marx was, according to Volf, led by “desire to overcome alienation in work.”  I had no idea that Marx had such noble aspirations at inception!