Relationship between Labor and Capital and the Problem of Alienation
term "alienation of labor" in a Marxist sense. Rather, the Church is using this economic term to describe the phenomenon of estrangement or alienation between human labor and capital caused by the disordering or confusion of ends and means or of efficient and instrumental causality.
Essentially, alienation occurs when material goods are held in greater esteem than man and his work which have spiritual, subjective realities. The spirit of alienation exists if we find Gerard Manley Hopkins' pen to be better than his poems and better than Gerard Manley Hopkins himself. Similarly, it occurs in the economic realm when we find our investment in equipment to be more valuable than the labor of the worker who uses the equipment, and more valuable than the worker himself.
The Church understands the term "labor" quite broadly to encompass any form of human contribution to production. The Church also understands that the alienation of labor occurs both quantitatively and qualitatively, and that this alienation of labor can be very subtle since it involves spiritual truths. Therefore, she warns: "One must not fall into the error of thinking that the process of overcoming the dependence of work on material is capable of overcoming alienation in the workplace or alienation of labor. The reference here is not only to the many pockets of non-work, concealed work, child labor, underpaid work, exploitation of workers--all of which still persist today--but also to new, much more subtle forms of exploitation of new sources of work, to over-working, to work-as-a-career that often takes on more importance than other human an necessary aspects, to excessive demands of work that make family life unstable and sometimes impossible, to a modular structure of work that entails the risk of serious repercussions on the unitary perception of one's existence and the stability of family relationships." (Compendium, No. 280) These are all examples of alienation of labor.
This is obviously not Marxism. It is, to borrow from Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "To what serves Mortal Beauty," simply the Christian and common sense observation that:
Our law says: Love what are love's worthiest, were all known,
World's loveliest-men's selves.
The labor of "men's selves" is more worthy than what men have, capital. And most worthy of all are "men's selves." And if we alienate ourselves from "men's selves," which is nothing than a form of hate, we ultimately have alienated or estranged ourselves from God. For anyone who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar. (1 John 4:20)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: labor, capital, human capital, social justice, dignity, work, market, economy, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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