Acton Institute Powerblog

A more robust vision of labor and solidarity

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Your work is more than your job,” I try to provide a broader perspective on the dynamics of a proper “work-life balance.” My main point, as the title indicates, is that our paid work is just a part–an important part no doubt, but just a part–of our “work,” understood as the service that we are called to do for others.

Rembrandt - Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

The point of departure for this piece is Labor Day, which was observed this week in the United States. A complementary perspective on a more holistic approach to labor appears in Timothy P. Carney’s piece, “Labor unions can be great institutions again.” The main thrust is that labor unions can be, and indeed have been and should be, much more concerned about solidarity in a comprehensive sense rather than just a mechanism for the cartelization of labor.

As Carney puts it, “A union you voluntarily joined that provides training is a true institution of civil society. It brings you in the door with an insurance product, but it also provides mentoring, friendship, and purpose.”

How might labor unions serve the best interests of their members, and indeed of society more broadly, if they were to function more as institutions of civil society than merely as focused on material benefits?

For more on this more robust and authentic vision of solidarity, I recommend Brian Dijkema’s National Affairs essay, “Reviving Solidarity.”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.