The Protestant Understanding of Work
Work must be redefined, expanded and created if everyone should participate. In the last phase of turbo-capitalism, the economy often appears as a steamroller or exclusion machine. Our challenge is to see the economy as part of a larger reality and not to idolize work. Wolfgang Belitz is an industrial pastor in the Ruhr region of Germany.
Work in the Information Society
The Debate over the Transformation of the Work Society
by Rudolf Schmiede
[This article originally published in: Forum Wissenschaft 1/96 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.th-darmstadt.de.]
[At the congress "Information Society, Media and Democracy", one study group concentrated on the transformation of the work society. Against the thesis of the "end of the work society", a fundamental restructuring of work has begun which permanently intensifies the general dependence on work and also entails a new level of abstraction, disqualification and polarization of working conditions.]
The debate over the `information society' in Germany has long been wanting in information. On one hand, the technical infrastructure (`information superhighway' etc) has been the focus of interesting discussions. On the other hand, the information explosion is joined with particular phenomena of mass consumption (like duplication of TV possibilities, `tele-shopping' and `tele-banking'). Social problems like the standardization tendencies of work or the ecological consequences of individual transportation through `tele-work' are dismissed. There has hardly been a serious interest in the perspectives and problems of society's increased information.
The retreat of the dominant socioeconomic view occurs unconsciously or in an ideologically affirming way without critical reflection on consequences for the position of the individual in our society.
The change of the whole structure of work was thematicized in theories and anlyses describing this change as a shift between aggregate economic sectors. The theories of the post-industrial society proclaiming the thesis of the approaching "service society" in the seventies (Touraine, Bell) were reformulated in the eighties as theories of the "information society" (Bell, Masuda) or expanded with new facets (Toffler, Schaff). The following features are regarded as characteristic for the `information society':
* Knowledge-workers (Machlup) or information workers (Porat) develop into the majority of workers in modern society and play an increasingly key role.
* Information becomes generally available. This is the basis for decentralization of decisions, intensified participation and democratizing effects. Thus the `information society' is also an informed society and as such a foundation of free individuality.
* Through the globalization of information and communication. the `information society' encourages the most modern technologies. The reduction of the North-South gradiant contributes to solving the development problematic.
* A new information culture arises which leads to a cultural synchronization between different parts of society and around the globe. New forms of communities become possible which are no longer bound to the local milieu.
The development to the `information society' is envisioned implicitly or explicitly as a "march through the sectors" solving central social problems and forcing economic, social and political progress. In the present development, the genesis of a new dominant 4th sector characterized by information work is striking. The question whether this sector is qualitative and has an independent character in relation to its economic function or not is decisive. When this question appeared to informed observers almost two decades ago, it stood in the center of the debate around the `service society' in relation to the 3rd sector.
The English sociologist Jonathan Gershung argued theoretically and showed empirically that the expansion of the so-called service sector leads to a stronger configuration of a "self-service economy". Services in the sense of direct personal services are historically declining. They will increasingly be replaced by unpaid work in the households who will make increasing investments for industrially manufactured consumer goods. He names private transportation, television, radio and household equipment as the most important examples. The largest part of the so-called service sector is production-oriented for the industrial production of goods, so-called "producer services".
In an input-output analysis of the goods and services streams between the production, information and end-consumption from 1947 to 1972 and a computer projection up to 1990, the American economist Charles Jonscher found analogous trends for the dynamic of the information sector. In summary, 1. The information sector has grown considerably stronger thanthe production sector in this time period. 2. The output of the information sector was utilized first by the industrial proeduction of goods and less directly by consumers and 3. The flow of goods which has increased most intensely was the flow of the industrial production of goods inthe information sector to provide its means of production.
Thus the dynamic of the information sector can be explained in large part fromthe intensive social divisionof labor. Essentially it is production-oriented, not consumer-oriented... The `information society' is hardly visible as an informed society, as a new step to the free individual. A brief reflection on the massive income redistribution in favor of profit income and the intensified limitation of mass purchasing power in the eighties and nineties in Germany and internationally corroborates this assessment.
The two tendencies described in these analyses of the `service' or `information society' will presumably intensify through the spread and further development of information- and communication technologies and the restructuring strategies. If one considers the realized possibilities in banking, trade and leisure industries, service functions may shift to households or private unpaid reproduction work. The present and continuing rationalization dynamic in the economic and administration pursued under terms like `lean production', `lean administration', `total quality management' and `re-engineering' affects above all the middle management hierarchy. Through the massive use of the techniques of informational interconnection and control, thisw middle and upper strata of employees has become the preferred object of rationalization desires...
A computer calculation for the US shows that in 1978 scarcely 20% and in 1990 only 17.5% of those employed in the information sector fell under the definitionof "knowledge workers" (occupied with the "creation and development of the stock of knolwedge", "lasting information" or "information capital"). The remaining 4/5 or 5/6 of information workers are occupied with routine information projects (with functions of "management and coordination of economic activity" and with "current" or "transient information").
The debate around the `service society' and the empirical reality of the development of work calls into question the optimistic assumptions and prognoses about the future of work in the `information society'. A brief survey on the most important empirical developmental tendencies of work can make clear the skeptical view about the promises of the `information society' for dependent employees.
Reduction in Employment and Polarization
A marked reduction of jobs is discernable in all large employment areas. While this was evident over many years for employment in industry, it is also increasingly manifest for the large areas of so-called service employment. In the US, productivity in industry increased 35% from 1979 to 1992 while the number of employees decreased 15%. The annual growth rate of productivity rose from 1% at the beginning of the eighties to over 3% at the end of the eighties. In the trade and transportation of the US, fewer employees worked at the end of the eighties than in 1960.
Commercial banks in the US plan the reduction of 30-40% of jobs by the end of the decade. The share of persons employed by the state to all employed persons in the US declined from 18% at the beginning of the eighties to 16.4% at the end of the eighties. In Germany the number of persons employed in public service and in the trade and transportation sectors has also fallen for several years. The growth of workers in banks and insurances has come to a standstill. The systematic reduction in employment has already begun there.
The massive reduction in employment extends across retail trade, office employees and secretaries, frommiddle management to areaslike libraries, information, documentation and increased productivity through information science which goes along with stagnating tendencies of aggregate economic growth will accelerate in the not too distant future. The thinning of personell in internal and aggregate information structures will be forced. As a result, a constantly decreasing number of dependent employees and a corresponding increase of unemployment (whose rate has been between 10 and 20% in european countries for many years) can be expected. The `information society' in no way ceases being a `work society' but increasingly becomes an `unemployed society'.
The same tendencies of polarization of work can be seen on the national and international planes. While the rationalization of traditional worker activity continues, a massive attack on employment and working conditions of the middle classes and middle management occurs under `lean strategies'. On one side, a minority group of estranged high-tech workers arises whose existence is characterized by high-tech stress and overwork. Their permanent employment perspective is uncertain as the increasing significance of phenomena like `mobbing' or `burn-out syndromes' illustrate. On the other side, we see the combination of the growing simplicity of work, increasing speed of production and labor, increasing burdens, new forms of gentle pressure and subtle intimidation often through pressure ;in group work and teams for a large number of employees.
The extension of common forms of underemployment, undervalued and marginal employment and precarious working conditions summarized under the slogan `flexibility' is immense. The number of part-time employees in west Germany is already around 4.5 million and continues to grow. 2 of 3 newly employed persons in Germany between 1970 and 1993 were part-time employees. Their share climbed from 9 to 17%. In the US this share amounted to 19% in 1993 and was particularly high in retail trade and services.
The number of temporary workers in the US rose ten times as fast in the eighties as the total employment. Temporary work firms employ around 1.5 million workers. The largest temporary work firm, Manpower, is the largest employer in the country with 560,000 employees. 2 of 3 new positions in US private enterprise were filled in a temporally limited way in 1992. 25% of all employees in the US have either a part-time employment or a limited work contract today. An increase of this group is forecast by the year 2000.
In Germany, the proportions are similar. The different forms of independence and pseudo-independence through outsourcing and franchising should be calculated which are increasingly represented in the `information sector'. Below this strata of employed persons lies the group of so-called marginal employed persons who are usually not counted statistically. In Germany their number was estimated at 3 million in 1992. For this "Just-in-time-employment" (Rifkin) a new reserve army has appeared in the "two-thirds-society". The glitter world of the high-tech office of the `information society' has its backside of a majority of increasingly burdened, uncertain jobs and "bad jobs".
The polarization of working conditions is also reflected in an intensified polarization of the social structure. This is apparent in income distribution... Mass purchasing power is declining for vast parts of the population. The strongest redistribution in favor of profit- and assets income in the history of Germany took place in the eighties. The number of people on social security or income support has surpassed the 5 million mark. Income poverty is estimated at 10% of the population and the number of homeless at 300,000. In Europe there are 80 million poor..
A picture of US social security compiled from several studies is unmistakably clear. At the top of society is a little super-rich economic elite of 0.5% of the population who determine the life chances of the population by their possessions and their economic power. Under them is a new group of highly qualified knowledge workers or `symbol analysts' who have very good training and steer the new high-tech economy. They constitute 4% of dependent employed persons. This small group is complemented by another 16% of employed persons who also earn much money with the help of their intellectual abilities. These two groups, 20% of workers in the US, have a higher absolute income than the remaining 80% of the working population. They are the catalysors of the `information society' and its profiteers.
The majority of the losers which extends far into the so-called new middle class is on the other side. The large and growing group of under- and poorly employed persons is also lodged here. This division or disintegration of the US in the poor and rich leads to massive social disintegration and numerous subsequent social and political problems. They appear particularly in congested urban areas where many poorly paid service workers are concentrated. Comparable models can be discerned for the groups that have increased most strongly in Germany since the beginning of the eighties, security personell, guards, and cleaning personell. Offices, office windows and perhaps soon the living quarters of knowledge workers must be cleaned and guarded. Neither power nor riches can be gained here.
In the international standard, an intensifying polarization of working conditions occurs with increasing automation and informatization. Jeremy Rifkin points to the fundamental structural change of agricultural production and to the cancellation of work possibilities through automation and the formation of high-tech islands. Dordick and Wang show the opening gap between highly deverloped and less developed countries in equipment with devices of information and communication.
The optimistic prognoses and hopes which pervade the theories of the information society are only realistic perspectives for the ruling classes, the minority groups sharing in power. To clarify the key role of informational work, the qualitative change of work in the information society should be emphasized. With informational work, there is a new push to immediate and abstract communities.
The information problematic and information technologies are not as new as they may appear to contemporaries of the computer age. With the genesis of commercial and financial capital, the industrial-capitalist way of production molded the formalization of social realities through its economic valuation and formally rational organization. The information concept, setting knowledge particles in a form that allows their organization and technical association and thransorms them into operable units, is based on these two tendencies. Information technologies accompany this development, from double accounting to constantly improved calculators, from mail on horseback and telegraph to the telephone and radio, from payroll, memo systems, stocks and cards to the keypunch machine...
Since the 19th century, rapidly growing problems of information and regulation from the train system and the military to bureaucracy have occurred with increasing speed and complexity in the technical sense. The treatment of the workforce according to this technical model, through information-based controls and subordination, is characteristic for the 20th century. This tendency described by Marx as the "real subsumption of labor under capital" found its contemporary expression in Taylor's contemporary economic consolidation of industrial- and labor organization. If this process is understood as an important stage in the abstraction of work, this is true in an expanded sense for work characterized by association with information.
By its nature, the production of information, its manipulation, transmission and transformation on the basis of specific rationality calculations, is the reason of formal processes. The illustration of reality in abstract system connections and the indirect change of reality by the alteration of these connections requires the rule-guided sovereign control of these steps and planes of abstraction. Abstraction is marked by the elimination or control of all disturbances in favor of the pure form. Therefore it is abstract work in the literal sense.
This process represents a disqualification of work which is logically something different than the de-qualification of work (in the center of industrial sociology debates). An increasing disregard of the concrete process of production and work occurs, the loss of the experience of different qualities which were connected with trade and industrial work...
The erosion of `normal working conditions' coupled with increasingly differentiated and diffuse demands of work is directly connected with this development as its reverse side. Disqualified, abstract work is easier to subdivide and arrange according to purely quantitative proportions. The spread of part-time work, overwork, precarious working conditions, informal work, black and gray markets, the striving to orient working times by operating times illustrate the increased exchangeability of work particles.
This development should not be underrated in its social significance. Together with the concrete practical value of traditional industrial work, normal working conditions had identity-giving functions. Firstly, normal working conditions were a basis of personal identity through the uniqueness of work, method and product. Secondly, normal working conditions provided collective identities since the common work experience and world of work established the milieu and organization. Factory collectives, unions and worker milieus arose on this foundation.
In two regards, we face massive tendencies to "outer-directed ways of life" (cf. David Riesman, The Lonely American. An Analysis of the Changes of the American Character, 1958) or as Adorno said, the degradation of persons into a mass. Individualization, as Ulrich Beck argues, can become the negative utopia of social development. "The idea that people are created free and equal if true and misleading at the same time. People are created different and they lose their social freedom and their individual autonomy when they try to be equal to one another." This loss threatens them the more they are made equal through the waltz of social formalization advanced by the informatization of work.
The Protestant Work Ethic and the New Understanding of Work
by Wolfgang Belitz
[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.amos-blaetter.de.]
I. Introduction: In the Sweat of your Face
In a Westphalia church community, a church group discussed the "Future of Work" in the setting of a Bible week.
In a participant-oriented way, I asked what the Bible says about human work. The people reflected and then came to different conclusions. Three biblical passages were cited. Gen 3,17-29. Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground for out of it you were taken."
Our life lasts 70 years, at most 80 years. If life is precious, it is also toil and labor (cf. Ps 90.10 in Luther's translation which does not correspond to the original text but reflects a protestant perspective). If any one will not work, let him not eat (2 Thess 3,10). This is the biblical foundation for the protest-ant understanding of work, the fulfillment of life with nonstop, diligent labor.
"Their life was only work." This also characterizes the current type of protestant work ethos in its local non-calvinist varient. The catalogue of virtues is impressive: high achievement motivation, diligence, sense of duty, discipline, abstinence. From the middle class protestant work ethos, I'd like to separate Luther's great idea that all work, whether master or servant, monk or maid, can be understood in the calling (vocatio). An upgrading of everyday work and an equalization of all work occurs and the realm of everyday conduct is reclaimed for the service of God.
Luther emphasized serving obediently, selflessly and in earnest fulfillment of duty in the state in which one is called. Later we read in the protestant hymnal: "Govern me by your spirit to avoid idleness... Don't ask about the harvest. Don't measure your wage. Joy and delight must be forgotten. Look only to your duty." Such an understanding of work is not full of bright joy but gloomy seriousness. The laborers in the vineyard and work in paradise (Gen 2,15) could also be recalled.
For many representatives of Christianity and for many of its critics, the idea became firmly fixed that according to the Old Testament work is even God's curse upon humankind, a consequence of expulsion from paradise, punishment for sin. With the expulsion of humankind from paradise, the remembrance of paradisaical work was driven from us. This was not without consequences. Without heavenly remembrance, the corresponding promises fade. In the sweat of your face, dream the future and listen to the Lord. Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when after sowing and harvesting, the mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills will be fruitful (Am 9,13).
In times of mass unemployment, the protestant work ethic falls into crisis as millions want to work and achieve but cannot, when the young generation seek to join the work society and in part must remain outside. This ethic aggravates the situation. Nevertheless the spirit of the protestant work ethic also remains effective in the crisis. Now it blows differently. Everyone who wants to work finds work. Whoever is unemployed is a shirker and idler who only wants to rest in the hammock of the social net and work illicitly. Whoever doesn't want to work should not eat. This attitude which further torments the affected in their psychological misery and their material distress is one of the most depressing experiences since the first years of mass unemployment. Holding to the spirit and logic of the ethic of the universality of work, the wisdom of the past is heard in the discussion around reducing working hours for the prevention of unemployment. A crisis can only be mended by working more, not less. A dangerous attempt at the reformulation and modern adaptation of the protestant work ethic to the changed conditions is encountered increasingly in protestant circles.
Life is more than gainful work. There are an abundance of meaningful, useful, joyful and necessary activities as in the varied fields of work in the church. We need a new understanding of work, an expanded concept of work to recognize that the so-called jobless are only unemployed but not out of work. A hymn of praise can be sung for housework, bringing up children and all forms of voluntary work. This is right and dangerous, inhuman and cynical since the income aspect is simply left out of consideration. In giving meaning to jobless life, a virtue is made out of the distress.
This perspective is formulated programmatically in a paper of an evangelical study community which prepares for a long time of mass unemployment in a divided society. All the ingredients of the traditional work ethic are urgently commended to the working so they can survive in the modern world of work. The recommendation is made to the church to cooperate in creating meaning for jobless life through a corresponding new protestant unemployment ethic. The double task of this work ethic aims at a society that I don't want.
A new understanding of work is imperative. A relativization of gainful work is only feasible when the difficult hurdle of a proper income security for everyone is overcome. This is my central thesis which I will discuss in the form of a social-ethical outline of the crisis of the work society and the tasks and chances for a new reconciliation of work and life.
II. Social-ethical Outline of the Crisis of the Work Society
1. The message of the harsh prophets
This winter 10 years have passed since mass unemployment reappeared in our society. This prognosticated crisis has surpassed all anxious expectations. Attributes like "cyclical" or "seasonal" unemployment fade. The emphasis now is on "secular" and "endemic" unemployment. One of the greatest world problems has taken root in rich and less wealthy industrial nations of the western world. After 10 years, the question is raised: is the sickness incurable? Diagnoses and therapies are offered in a dizzy abundance: excessive labor costs, low demand, stagnation, high birthrate years and shirkers. The view extends from the jobless individual to the world-encompassing economic empire.
Standing above this variety, the message of the harsh prophets for growth and full employment has great power. Growth creates employment; more growth brings more employment. More growth is caused by more investments; more investments require a better return situation. This ideal condition arises through low costs, better conditions and less narrowing and costly legal expenditures.
In short, the profits of today are the investments of tomorrow and the jobs of the day after tomorrow. Altogether this represents a pleasure-burden problem of investors. Investors must be primarily concerned that the profit situation improves. Then jobs which are so urgently needed for the life of little people will result at the end.
John Galbraith calls this the horse-sparrow theory. Whoever wants the sparrows to live must feed the horses well. Only well-fed horses assure the existence of the sparrows.
Wilhelm Krelle explains the process more clearly: "When one hinders entrepeneurial initiative in a market economy which depends on free entrepeneurial initiative in relation to employment and alarms and insults entrepeneurs, an investment climate favoringt new jobs is not created. On the other side, a favor of the entrepeneur to create more jobs means the disadvantage of the employee. A greater inequality in the distribution of income and assets arises. This must be tolerated to a certain extent. As a rule, nothing can be attained without sacrifice. A deterioration of distribution is the purchase price, so to speak, with which one can bring about more jobs in a market economy. Transcribed to the creed of the harsh prophets of growth and full employment, the profits of one through the sacrifice of the other are the investments of tomorrow and the jobs of the day after tomorrow.
Transferred to the picture of Galbraith, a fattening of the horses necessitates an emaciation of the sparrows so that the horses have something to eat. Krelle declares: "This is not convincing from the standpoint of Christian ethics where the `poor' are the focus of attention, not the `rich'.
If the free market economy is a social economy, this cannot be the last word. A series of questions can be posed to the message of the harsh prophets of growth and full employment:
1. How can one urge the revitalization of the economy driven by reacceleration in the old times of growth without intensified destruction of the natural foundations of life?
2. How can job-creating expansion investments be expected with unused capacities?
3. Who will invest when money increases more quickly elsewhere?
4. Investments nowadays are always and in the first place rationalization investments which cause the opposite of increased jobs.
5. What happens when the upswing in economic growth occurs without appreciable employment effect through exclusion of the working or non-working population?
In 1983 the gross national product grew 1.3% compared to the previous year while the number of employed persons declined by 47,000. The economy grows and work shrivels. Is the message of the harsh prophets a "counterpoint attitude immune to facts"?
2. The Expulsion of Work and the Microelectronic Revolution
With this last question, we turn to a development and a perspective which is given too little attention in the present discussion of unemployment: work is slowly but constantly expelled from production. Several statistical references can be mentioned:
* In the years of strong economic growth 1960-1973 before mass unemployment, the number of jobs did not increase but stayed the same.
* From 1972-1982, the economic output rose from 1.230 bill DM (at 1981 prices) to 1.603 bill DM. The total of working hours decreased in the same period from 51 to 44.1 bill. hours. The number of employed persons fell from 26.7 to 25.6 mill. and at the end of 1983 to 25.1 mill.
* With the three largest businesses in terms of sales in 1981/82, the energy conglomerate VEBA increased its sales around 1 bill. DM while the number of its employees fell simultaneously by 2500 persons. Siemens increased its sales 5.5 bill. and cut 14,000 positions. Daimler Benz had 2.2 bill. in greater sales and 24,000 fewer employees.
* The annual working time per employee declined from 2084 hours in 1960 to 1683 in 1981. For 2.3 mill. to 3 mill. persons, working time has presently fallen to zero hours.
All observers are agreed that the fall of the growth rate and the development of the productivity rate are reasons for the reduced work volumes and essential causes for unemployment amid the increase of potential workers. Many analyists are convinced that growth rates will not strongly increase.
Some observers point out that the productivity rate will grow more vigorously in the future than in the past and in comparison to the gross national product. The gap between production and productivity will widen further. Work will be driven out from production more intensely through technical development.
We should now speak of the technical changes in the world of work which have sparked a lively discussion of the future of work under the theme "The new industrial revolution". All the technologies based on the application of microelectronics could be included here.
The 1982 report of the Club of Rome declares: "The most important element of the microelectronic revolution is the silicium microprocessor. Instruments or gadgets can be equipped with a tiny calculator and a tiny memory at a modest price."
The computer has now been developed a second time, miniaturized universally at very reasonable prices. "No other invention or discovery since the steam engine has such far-reaching effects on all areas of the economy." The possible applications of the new technology seem inexhaustible:
* In process engineering: control of large integrated industrial plants with continuous operation through microelectronics
* In production engineering: equipping of machines with microprocessors, machine operation, installation and packaging work with industrial robots
* Automation of transportation and warehouse work
* Computer-aided construction
* Integration of production in the fully automated factory (the "deserted factory")
* Microelectronics simultaneously penetrates the realm of office and administration: processing, archiving, reopening and forwarding of information through electronic equipment and procedures (the paperless office)
* Services offered more and more automatically.
The advance of microelectronics occurs as a silent infiltration of society. The consequences, dangers and chances are judged differently and are vigorously contested. According to A. Gorz, an open technology is arising whose modes and goals of application could be used for the well-being of everyone.
No one knows at the moment what is ahead and what is behind in technology. Therefore we speak of technical change with more or less epochal dimensions, not of technical progress. Our attitude is ambivalent. We hear slogans like microelectronics - curse or blessing, liberation from work or threat of jobs, forecourt of hell of a pathological society or ways in paradise. The effect of this technology on the number of jobs will be highlighted here. Attention will also focus on other effects in the factory and society.
Agreement prevails on microelectronic's effect of raising productivity and its possibilities for the humanization of work. "An advance in production" and an "unparalleled thrust of rationalization" are forecast.
For some, there is the prospect for a more dramatic reduction of jobs considering the rapid advance of industrial robots and computers in the perspective of the "deserted factory" and the "paperless office"...
The optimism or compensation thesis is challenged. Where technology is applied, jobs are lost. New jobs arise where technology is produced. New markets and new products appear. On the compensation thesis, the American Nobel prize winning economist Leontief mockingly remarked that the horses released by cars could have been used by the auto industry. The horses were actually slaughtered.
In the application of technology, product innovation and process innovation correspond to one another. Machines produce machines; human work continues to be expelled.
A judgment on the extent and speed of the technologically conditioned expulsion of work cannot be made here. Discussion of this expulsion should be nurtured.
The revolutionary possibilities of microelectronics may not be realized in a revolutionary way but they will be realized. We are at the beginning of this development. Technological unemployment will burden us in the next years and decades. The end of the end of full employment is not in sight, even if we hope for the ultimate genesis and increase of work about which everyone speaks but no one decisively tackles: rebuilding an ecological infrastructure and other ecological future investments and the development of work in the social realm.
3. The End of Full Employment as a Crisis of Promise
The end of full employment leads the work society into crises which can be described with the keywords promise crisis and distribution crisis.
A socially mediated model of successful life prevails among us, our "way of life", a syndrome of gainful work - consumption - free time as freedom. This model gives meaning and happiness. It is not inherited but achieved. Everyone is the creator of his or her happiness. The pattern is not arbitrary but bound in its core to gainful work around which happiness is ultimately forged.
This model in which gainful work is the central institute of life is obviously not of a Christian nature or Christian origin. Its foundations were laid in the 18th century when it was first said "Work or labor is the source of wealth". Worldly blissfulness was the desired goal. In 1776, it was said "if the quantity of enjoyable things is increased without stopping, the whole society will be happier" (Julius Schlettwein).
This credo continues to our day, the credo of the industrial religion of mammonism. Although we cannot serve God and mammon, the protestant work ethos is very compatible with it and even contributes to its promotion since all its virtues can be affirmatively effective, particularly with view to little people.
This model of successful life blossomed gloriously in our post-war period, a unique period of development from deficiency to prosperity. Nevertheless there were shifts, displacements and postponements.
*Even before the crisis, the model of successful life changed internally. Empirical analyses have shown that the core of the model, nonstop gainful work, has slipped in the human scale of values behind consumer time, free time and family time. Sociologists speak of an "erosion of protestant ethics" and register a change in the value of work. Particularly in the realm of repetitive, shallow part-time work, work atrophies into a necessary evil and a pure means to an end. It is not part of life but its presupposition. Life is outside work. The model of life altogether remains untouched. Only the internal focal points are shifted through erosion of the protestant work ethic.
Before the crisis, there were minorities of the rising generation in the affluent society who put in question our "way of life". They sought another form of the reconciliation of work and life and developed different ideas of happiness and successful life than their parents. A clear shift from material to post-material values occurs here, a change in the value of work which now bursts the traditional pattern in its specific post-war variant. Its supporters seek alternatives.
The end of full employment now leads to a general crisis of this model of life since its legitimacy depends on full employment. The promise of successful life of this kind stands and falls with the plausibility of its fulfilment. Since gainful work is the crucial element, it must be attainable for everyone. If gainful work becomes scarce, the model takes a beating. The promise of successful life can no longer be objectively honored in view of millions of capable women and men ready for service. The promise of successful life can no longer be objectively honored for large parts of the capable generation.
The society reacted to its foundational crisis with severe bandages. Hannah Arendt's early automation thesis could be recalled here that the end of the 70s reappeared to be vehemently mocked. "What is imminent is the prospect of a work society where work runs out, the only activity in which it understands itself. What could be more disastrous?" In other words, when the employed life - consumption - happiness - freedom loses its theoretical universality as a free time model of successful life through scarce work, disaster takes its course. The dangers in which we have fallen for several years through this crisis and the enormous dismissals should be discussed if we are to advance further.
*If the universality of the promise shrivels, 3 million are sacrificed at the cost of 55 bill. DM so that this promise remains intact for 25 million with 40 hours of work. Through sacrifice, it can still continue in effect for a long time. Even if 8 million persons should be jobless, 20 million will still be fully employed. The individual struggle for jobs has begun collectively. On the highest state of technical development in the history of humanity, the natural fight for survival runs according to old models. The strong drive out the weak, the non-disabled the disabled, the young the old; men drive out women and Germans drive out the Turks. The fronts run all over the place. Even persons who are not victims who are in the factories and want to remain in the factories come under a heavy jolt of adjustment..
The rules of the game of the competitive society are firmly anchored in the hearts and minds of members of the work society. Where everyone is the creator of his or her happiness, there are now and then winners and losers. Where everyone is the forger of his or her happiness, one or another can also be the forger of his or her unhappiness. The victims also receive according to the general rules of life. The self-accusation of life which does not succeed also belongs to the social law of the self-justification of life through peformance.
* The necessity of an official sacrifice policy remains since the costs increase. The provision of the victims deteriorates. With jobs, the achievements of social history simultaneously disappear. As in the Weimar republic of the world economy, achievements and claims are reduced. "New poverty" spreads from one of the richest countries of the world.
* The provision of the victim on the lowest possible level corresponds to the rule "bread and circuses" of electronic media in the consumer area. Video arcades for the war of the stars are joined to the amusement arcades. The times in which the freedom of choosing a career is abolished de facto are times in which the freedom of channel selection is intruduced de jure. The technology which produces victims is the technology that pacifies the victims.
* To satisfy the archaic dualization of society, it is useful to reflect on an ethic of meaning for the jobless life and to call and urge victims and potential victims to new agility on a lower level, to board the lifeboats of the poverty economy out of self-help and personal work and take the adventurous journey in the shadows of the wealth economy. Everyone is the forger of his or happiness even in the kingdom of shadows. There are also second-best solutions in the framework of the earlier promise.
4. The End of Full Employment as a Distribution Crisis
The end of full employment brings the work society into a crisis that in another regard can be considered a distribution crisis. As we spoke previously of the dangers of crisis under the keyword promise crisis, we will now focus on the chances of crisis starting from the watchword distribution crisis. Kurt Biedenkopf described the peculiarity of the crisis in a 1983 lecture:
"In 1931/32, the gross domestic product in Germany declined 25% within 8 months. Today the gross domestic product hardly changes. The national income is constant or rises slightly. The number of unemployed increases. This means the production that produces the national income is obviously inorder, efficient and stable. There are no signs that the productive part of the German economy will not be able to keep the current domestic product at a high level and the business cycle fluctuations in narrow limits of 1-2%.
The distribution system afflicts people today, not the productive part of our economy, in other words the system in which we persons share in the jointly produced national income. The actual problems and the true locus of our difficulties lie here.
The distribution system that we created to involve all people in national income is affected by the most recent economic and technological developments, the changes of awareness of the population and partly annulled in its functionality. What we experience is a crisis of the distribution system, not a crisis of the economy. This crisis arose in that modern technology manages with less and less labor. As a result, fewer and fewer people share in the organized, division of labor production process and in national income.
The present crisis presenting us with high unemployment is a crisis of the distribution structure, not primarily a crisis of production. All the measures which are targetted at the improvement of the production structure pass by the problem of unemployment. They have as the goal improvement of a structure which is essentially sound and whose marginal improvement cannot remove the actual causes of unemployment."
The gross domestic product grows, work shrivels, the gainful potential rises, the total population shrinks. The result is that millions become jobless. Millions become poorer. This contradiction points to distribution problems. There are more goods and fewer people who share the goods. Many become poorer.
In a generic historical way, through the technical development, fewer and fewer people can produce the same or more social wealth. The postulate of the social control of technical change must be honored through a reform of the distribution systems. Their adejustment to job-saving technical development is necessary.
Whoever relies economically on modern technologies for progress and international competitiveness must support consistently and politically modern forms of distribution.
When the introductionof microelectronics in the factory and office intensifies the process of the expulsion of labor from production and administration instead of opening the option for more jobs, the uncoupling of production and employment is carried out technically, politically and socio-politically through systems of distribution of wealth independent of the labor market.
This logic of a new political economic rationality cannot disregard the fact that we are in a society with certain hierarchies of power and different interests. Distributive justice is not an economic but a social ethical question. Therefore the distribution questions must be raised again in a social ethical way when the end of full employment causews our previous system of relative social justice to collapse. The basic values freedom, justice and solidarity including the human rights to work and income oligate us to these questions. Practically distribution questions are questions of power which are decided in struggle.
III. A New Reconciliation of Work and Life - Tasks and Chances
Three problems concerning the social question of the microelectronic revolution of the ending 20th century should be briefly discussed:
1. The participation of everyone in gainful work (right to work)
2. The assurance of the income of little people (right to income)
3. A new reconciliation of work and life through a complement of gainful work and personal work
The hope for God's reign enables us to hold the mirror of its possibilities to reality in the worldwide dawn. "Producing more with less work, distributing better the fruits of technical progress, creating a new balance between obligatory work and free time, giving all people the possibility of a more relaxed life and varied occupations - these are the new goals for which it is vital to struggle socially and politically."
1. Participation of everyone in gainful life
"We don't need any additional work to produce what we - including the jobless - need to cover our ordinary pretentious needs", said Oswald von Nell-Breuning. In his opinion, it is pointless to increase gainful work instead of distributing it equitably since the 25 million employed could make possible the participation of 3 mill. jobless through reduction of their working time. Adjusting the working times to technical development is sensible. Oswald von Nell-Breuning occasionally spoke of the demand for the 8-hour week to emphasize that as the 6-hour day in the 40 hour week became a social rule after a 70 year struggle, technical development makes possible and necessary a reduction in working times of great dimensions.
Gainful work is and will remain the kingdom of necessity. From my perspective, efforts should be directed at the inclusion of all persons capable of gainful work. The pressure and necessity of the social assurance of livelihood through work belongs to our human existence. Gainful work outside beyond the private enables one to be a useful member of society contributing to its prosperity. Everyone should work in the kingdom of necessity (including more women) but everyone must work less. That is our possibility. Full employment at a lower level instead of full employment through multiplication of work.
There are many proposals for reducing work time and work distribution which applied in different ways could bring us near the goal.
Two problems prevent society from advancing even though the necessity and possibility of reducing work time have been confirmed by more and more people in the last two years. One main objection is: work is indivisible since the metaphor of the cake that can be parcelled out at will is untrue. Work volume depends on costs. When work is too expensive, it diminishes and becomes scarce. Whoever wants more work must lower its price. Then it will increase again. This is a very important argument when one considers how many burdens lie on work which are financially tied to working conditions in the course of social history so that new solutions must be devised here.
With view to our problem, the cost argument cuts no ice here. According to the opinion of the American Nobel prize winner for economics Leontief, this argument can be fiuratively expressed as follows: If one lowers the price of work (at the expense of the affected), the next generation of robots following quickly on one another will soon make up for human work. To maintain the human workforce, human work must be reduced in price. At the end, full employment would be free. Labor costs are also income and thus demand.
The second main problem consists in financing reduced working time and distribution according to our previous systems. The square of the circle consists in managing reduced working time in a cost-neutral and income-neutral way. This can only happen on new paths. Most people seem convinced that reduced working time for distribution of work is only conceivable with wages losses, for moral reasons and with application of common sense.
The protestant work ethos also resonates here: whoever wants to work less should also eat less. This is lodged deep in our hearts. As much as I respect the social-ethical attitude of those who speak of the unified community of workers and jobless with solidarian readiness for renunciation and managed distribution, the social-ethical contradiction that social wealth becomes greater, population shrivels and income of little people must sink if they divide work among one another is not convincing. As a result, I cannot resign. New ways of income assurance are necessary for clear reduction of working time.
2. Income security
Let me return to this most delicate of all questions in Nobel prize winner Leontief's argument.
Adam and Eve rejoiced before the expulsion from paradise in a life without care in abundance and without work. After their expulsion, they and their descendents had to anxiously find their way, condemned to work from dawn to dusk. The history of the technical progress of the last 200 years is essentially the history of humanity, slowly and steadily creating a paradise. What would happen if we actually found ourselves there? If all goods and services could be gained without work, no one would have to work for pay any more. However being jobless means being without income. Consequently everyone would suffer hunger in paradise until an income policy prevails that is appropriate to the changed production conditions.
Sooner or later - probably later - the increasingly technicized society will have to face another problem: the question of a meaningful distribution of income. To meet the danger of a growing, technically conditioned unemployment in the long-term, state policy should puruse the goal of assuring a more just distribution of work and income without hindering technical progress directly or indirectly.
Income provision is now in the foreground rather than goods production. An income policy with abundle of targeted social and economic measures seems imperative. These measures should supplement the income of employees received by selling their labor power on the job, through revenue from other income sources, above all through sharing in production assets. A carefuylly conceived income policy is necessary." (Leontief is also a victim of the protestant work ethic which forgets that there was work in paradise since they first began work in the sweat of their face on the cursed field).
Ultimately the question is: From where do the little people in the deserted factory receive income? This is a metaphorical question since we can no longer evade the question today about new forms of income security. Expressed in another metaphor, industrial robots can work 365 days a year. They don't need any vacation, accident-, sickness- or old age insurance. However they don't buy the products which they manufacture. The practical solutions which Leontief proposes can be formulated as follows: Measures must be developed so that a whole income can be secured with half a job. This is admittedly an exaction for our understanding and an obscenity for our heart on account of very different experiences.
The experiences of the past and the prescriptions for the present derived from those experiences are less and less suited for better organizing the future. The future must be considered more strongly by raising other questions in the present. We need a new understanding of work and a new understanding of income to adjust present conditions to the effects of work-saving technology. The new understanding of work has another foundation.
If the revolutionary possibilities of microelectronics are not realized in a revolutionary way but gradually as a continuation of rationalization with new methods, little time is left to contemplate the future.
Income must assume a new social form. Its essential function consists in distributing wealth to all members of society which results from the productive relations of society altogether, not from the addition of individual work.
If increasing production can be realized with decreasing expenditure of work, the measure of income is not the working time of the worker but the lifetime of the citizen. The achievement principle remains in force but recedes behind the social principle of the provision of citizens for their lifetime. In other words, work and income must be strongly uncoupled. The right to work for a long time redeemed the right to income. The right to work at a lower level no longer satisfies this connection. For reasons of social justice and on the ground of social possibility, the right to income must be fulfilled through other political measures affecting income. Several alternative possibilities could be mentioned:
* The state must support union- and management parties to make clear reductions in working time with wage equalization. In a cost-neutral way, the state could subsidize new facilities out of the considerable funds when it receives more or spends less as more people are fully paid and fewer people are jobless.
* Wage- and salary income, capital-income and transfer income exist today. Wage- and salary income dominate in most cases. To the extent that work recedes and with it wage and salary income since no new facilities are usually built, the involvement of broad sectors of the population in capital income is of great importance.
* According to Ernst Albrecht, "our society has reached a phase of development in which the basic material needs of people can be largely satisfied without the deployment of manual labor. Serious changes and problems result here. The distribution mechanisms must be entirely reconcigured. The enormous value-added production in the factories must be distributed justly to people..."
* Sooner or later the state must adjust its revenue policy to the changed conditions. The question also arises: where does the state gain its revenue in the deserted factory? In the long run, the taxation of a shriveling number of employees cannot remain the main revenue source for the state. With new revenues and the funds saved from unemployment, the welfare state can supplement and secure income...
These are only several hints. The main task for the present lies in the question of income security. We need a careful, imaginative and socially just income policy...
Let me quote Wassili Leontief again: "It will in no way be easy to adjust existing conditions to the exigencies and effects of work-saving technology. Some time is needed until the ideal of a severe and diligent work engagement is taken from the protestant work ethic."
It will in no way be easy to convince the harsh prophets for growth and full employment of our other possibilities since redistribution of work and income is not their message. If the new distribution of work and income is our possibility, another model of life is anounced marked by a new understanding of work.
3. Can Work and Life be reconciled through Complementing Gainful Work and Personal Work?
Under the presuppositions of a new distribution of work and income, all people will work less but they will all be working and have an income. Unemployment will no longer exist. The old distinction of work and free time is inadequate for describing a new form of reconciliation of work and life.
We no longer speak of work and free time but of the different sectors of active life. Alongisde work in the gainful economic area, other forms of work gain a very new valuation in the free time realm. More time is available for meaningful activities which replace and complement gainful economic work.
In our previous understanding of work and fulfilled and successful life, the broad spectrum of active life, the vita activa, was onesidedly narrowed. One part of active life, employed life, work in the narrow sense, stood for the whole, gave life its meaning, decided over successful life, self-respect and social reputation and gave the society altogether the name work society. For the future, a restoration of the integrity of active life may be possible.
In a strange contradiction, the share of gainful economic work in the life of individuals gradually declines while on the other side work still rules our personal and social life. All other activities recede in their social valuation behind gainful economic work. Housework, private educational work and free time activities of all kinds which frequently provide more satisfaction to people than their gainful work which we describe with the narcissist term hobby are socially useful activities without earnings. We are now experiencing a dramatic quantitative decrease of gainful work which for a long time was the ground and meaning of life for members of the work society. As a result, we are moving to a substantial crisis of society. A change of attitudes toward work goes along with the process of increasingly scarce work. If we can master the distribution questions of work and income, the possibility and necessity of rediscovering the riches of the vita activa could appear.
All conduct that serves life is human work. The cultural action and conduct in the life of every individual person from artistic handcrafts to political activity is part of active life. Work is the "active affirmation of human existence", said Karl Barth. Work in a comprehensive sense can be understood as active involvement in the social process", says Jurgen Moltmann. As a result, the term work is expanded to all areas of human behavior from the necessary work to the end of life to voluntary service for neighbors and the distressed, more exactly to all areas of human conduct serving the security, development and organization of the life of individuals and the community.
Such a relation or reconciliation of work and life could be called "creation of God and kingdom of God work" in the theological tradition. For Christian thinking, the direction and line of the active life are shown. In everyday life, work refers to businesses whose fate depends on worldwide economic connections and powers. In the reality of the Christian faith, work is understood above all from creation and God's reign.
If work is referred to the creation, it is a creation commission to people under God's blessing. Accordingly it is the appointment of humankind to maintain life in creaturely work, to preserve life in its social structure and develop and enrich life in cultural and civilization work. Expressed in the words of the Bible, the person is to till and cultivate the Garden of Eden. The nature available for human work is not the environment but the life-world from God's hands which may not be destroyed by human labor but should be maintained, preserved and even advanced.
However the remembrance of creation, from Adam and Cain to the tower of Babel also shows that the person can invert or reverse the creation commission to work through misuse of the freedom granted him and bring the creation to ruin. If we connect human work with belief in God's reign, human conduct happens in correspondence to God's action with humankind. God's work is work for the deliverance of people, for justice and peace. Human work is correspondingly service for the life of people as sisters and brothers. This service is directed to foreign prosperity and one's own prosperity in a brotherly and sisterly way without destroying the foundations of life.
The gainful economic understanding of work of our time is hardly of a Christian nature and Christian origin even if Christian perspectives contributed to the development of work diligence and work discipline. Gainful economic work is marked by competition rathan than brotherliness and sisterliness, more by the desire to increase property than by the readiness to share in solidarity. The efficiency of the person is in the foreground, not his or her neediness. The way to happiness is seen in the increase in things, not in love among people.
The chance of a new development of the different sectors of active life according to Christian values as already happens in part in the praxis of church communities exists in the present crisis of the work society. On account of the technical development of gainful work, more time could gradually be available for meaningful rich human activity with secure income. Different sectors of active life could develop in the future alongside declining gainful economic work. Here are several examples:
* Nature work
The active life can turn to the preserving work of nature, create new living conditions for threatened plants and animals and promote the return of nature in cities and settlements. This would be concrete creation work. Different possibilities of satisfying, life-preserving and human activity lie here.
* Targeted work
The active life can be work for people. What are involved here are fields of self-organized work in the social area of neighborhood and district for children, youths, old and sick persons. Many projects of professional social work could be undertaken for the enrichment of life.
* Peace work
The active life can be work for justice and peace. What are central here are new human possibilities for political activity, political work for the advancement of life and the preservation of creation. In the space of the church, there are many initiatives of this kind in the areas of the Third world, peace and ecology. All this is not the political and social engagement of Christians in the free time realm but necessary and valuable work.
When the work society falls into crisis because its work ends, the contours of a new society could be drawn in the crisis if people don't turn the technical possibilities threateningly and exploitively against one another but use them in a promising way for one another. This assumes a society in which people desire a good life for one another. The church could contribute to this goal by proclaiming a contemporary Christian understanding of active life. In addition, the church can call to mind that the understanding of the vita contemplativa, the spiritual life, depends on the human understanding of the vita activa, the active life.
A new understanding of work also has the consequence of a new understanding of rest. If life is divided in work and free time, rest, leisure and contemplation are drowned out inthe bustle of free time and obscured as important elements of life. If we no longer speak of work and free time but of the different sectors of active life, the question is raised again about the non-active life, rest and the spiritual life. This concerns firstly the sanctification of Sunday. Whoever learns other forms of work, friendly to life, referring to creation and brotherly and sisterly will see Sunday differently than before. Since time immemorial, Sunday is the day of rest from work and according to Erich Fromm one of the great "innovations in the evolution of humanity".
In the present work society, Sunday doesn't have its own weight or importance. It is always defined by gainful economic work, more as restoration of working power than a time of the development of other energies, a dayt of entertainment instead of joy, of diversion instead of cncentration, not a day of rest that first perfects work according to the Bible. In the Jewish-Christian tradition, Sunday and work are referred to creation and the kingdom. It is a day of rest and solemn church service, a day of peace of creation and joy in life. A conscious breather is taken in the conflict between person and nature and among people. Remembrance in creation and hope for the kingdom are alive on the day of rest. It is the day on which we have as though we didn't have, when we can be what we are: God's children, sisters and brothers who eat and drink together. Thus the day of rest is a symbolic anticipation of God's reign. The nature of our work determines our understanding of rest and the character of our celebration. A connection between active life and contemplative life reflects the spiritual elements of human life more than its division in work and free time. Perhaps one may take a step further.
The nature of our work defines our relation to religion generally. A new understanding of work also engenders another relation to religion. The relation to work and the relation to God are closely connected. The person of our work society with its understanding of work promising salvation is entirely focused on himself. He is strong, efficient, the forger of his happiness in competition with others and justifies his life from his own strength. How can he understand a God who shows weakness, who is crucified, who gives grace, who doesn not honor performance, who makes us sisters and brothers and doesn't leave us competitors?
In the crisis of the work society, the rule of the gainful economic understanding of work and its view of the person are shaken if not broken. A new reconciliation of work and life can also lead to a new relation of work and religion.
"Conflicts are also transformations, full of friction and laden with conflict, but healing processes offering new chances. Tangible futures rewarding to anticipate are hidden in all these confused realities" (Josef Huber).
"Crises always have the ambivalent character of either increasing or completely paralyzing the learning capacities of the systems" (Klaus Offe).
"The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9,37).
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