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.

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 director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.