This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Work and the human person

“Work is a good thing for man—a good thing for his humanity—because through work man not  only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves  fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a  human being.’ ”[1]

Work, much like the Sabbath, was made for man, and not man for work.[2] It is a good. And not only is work good, but it is also an obligation:

“Work is, as has been said, an obligation, that is to say, a duty, on the part of man. . . Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and because of his own humanity, which requires work in order to be maintained and developed. Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family, but also for the society he belongs to, the country of which he is a child, and the whole human family of which he is a member, since he is the heir to the work of generations and at the same time a sharer in building the future of those who will come after him in the succession of history.”[3]

Because he senses these goods, we can assume that under normal circumstances man desires to work. He is not inherently lazy, as the social pessimists would have us believe. He feels compelled to action through the drive to develop his faculties and exercise his personality through productive activity. This is what work is for, and it is through the fulfilment of this purpose, and not merely by providing for material needs, that work is considered good. Devoid of these “supra-economic” benefits, work is not good because it is no longer human. Considered as a means of material production and nothing else, work becomes mere mindless toil.

The fact that in modern times men are taught to be grateful for any kind of work whatsoever, simply because it is more or less “productive,” is evidence of an idolatry of work.[4] That it is possible for there to be work which is productive yet not good does not find a place in our thinking, but it is found in Christian philosophy. C.S. Lewis acknowledged it, and not many would call C.S. Lewis a pessimist:

“…the great mass of men in all fully industrialized societies are the victims of a situation which almost excludes the idea of Good Work from the outside…Unless an article is so made that it will go to pieces in a year or two and thus have to be replaced, you will not get a sufficient turnover. A hundred years ago, when a man got married, he had built for him (if he were rich enough) a carriage in which he expected to drive for the rest of his life. He now buys a car which he expects to sell again in two years. Work nowadays must not be good.”[5]

Lewis provides two examples—prostitution and advertising—which he classes together as analogous (although not morally equivalent).[6] The point is that for work to be good, it needs to fulfill certain subjective needs of the human being in addition to producing a good effect in the material world.[7]

[1] LE, 9.

[2] LS, 128.

[3] LE, 16.

[4] SRS, 28.

[5] C.S. Lewis, “Good Work and Good Works,” The World’s Last Night and other essays.

[6] Ibid.

[7] SRS, 29.

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