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 institutional Churches in Europe, with some exceptions, were initially suspicious of the revolutionary and sometimes anti-Christian intentions of the working-class political movements in mid-nineteenth-century Europe, with the inclusion of ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ among Pius IX’s 1864 ‘syllabus of errors’ being an extreme, but not unrepresentative example. By the late nineteenth century however this situation had shifted significantly, with moves which would mark the beginning of the modern development of the Church’s tradition of social teaching. Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum on the condition of labour (1891) continued to reject the atheism, materialism, class warfare, and revolutionary intentions of much of modern socialism and to insist on the necessity of private property, but it also applied traditional Catholic teaching on economic justice to the contemporary situation of the working classes in such a way as to draw some radical conclusions. The pope rejected the free market view that the supply and demand of labour should determine wages purely through the free contracting of employers and employees. Instead he pointed to concerns of natural justice to insist upon decent working conditions, just wages, and the duties of employers towards their employees: ‘Workers are not to be treated as slaves’ (Leo XIII 1983: 20). The encyclical insisted upon the duty of the state to intervene to protect the vulnerable and encouraged the organization of workers to defend their rights, although it looked for more corporatist models of collaboration between the state, employers, and employees, rather than the confrontational model more common within the trade union movement.  (p.161)


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


Religious Views on Work

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