For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Work and Labour"

by Hughes, John (2013)


… of work , while these realities, the conditions of the newly emergent ' working classes', were … Weber's account in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism famously linked the spirit of modern capitalism to specifically religious causes in the puritan ethos of work as proof of …

Key Passage

The ‘question of labour’ is a peculiarly modern one, describing a set of connected concerns, which arose in Europe through the processes of the industrial revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The rapid changes in working conditions, due to new technologies, which encouraged mechanization and urbanization, led to the foregrounding of this question of labour, particularly in the thought of radical and progressive figures in Britain, France, and Germany. For these thinkers, traditional ways of thinking about human work were too aristocratic and agrarian to make sense of the new realities of work, while these realities, the conditions of the newly emergent ‘working classes’, were the key to the future of Europe. Initially this debate happened largely outside of specifically theological discourse and was often quite anti-theological in its desire to cast off more traditional ways of thinking (even if it was still shaped by earlier theological ideas). However, by the end of the nineteenth century, theologians had begun to engage directly with the question of labour, which, with the rise of Marxism in the east, became a key philosophical concern in the early and midtwentieth century. This theological engagement may be thought to have reached its high point in the various activities of liberation theologians, industrial missions, and Christian labour movements, and the development of normative principles for the ethics of work by ecclesiastical reports and other teaching documents. (p.149)


Protestant Work Ethic, Theology, Protestantism, Catholicism, Christianity, Working Class, Working Conditions, Weber


Religious Views on Work

Links to Reference



How to contribute.