Wednesday, June 29, 2016
I have always suspected that the movie "Wall-E" was a more accurate glimpse of the future than I care to admit -- how do we get our minds around a world in which technology has made systemic underemployment a permanent and growing reality? An experiment in Oakland is hoping to begin providing some answers from a public policy standpoint. For MoJ purposes, how does and should the Church engage this (apparent) social trajectory? The Church has taught the "value of work not only because it is always something that belongs to the person but also because of its nature as something necessary." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church para. 287) But how do we honor its necessity to human identity and meaning when it is no longer necessary to the economic functioning of society? Our political leaders are unlikely to provide much guidance in the near term -- bringing jobs back to the U.S. by negotiating "great deals" -- is not a long-term answer. In addition to the other grounds on which the Church has resisted certain technological innovations, should we also resist innovation that defies the commitment to work as a necessary expression of the human person's dignity? I think the answer to that is no (or we should have been protesting long before now), but here's the unavoidable question that follows: what is the role of work in an authentic anthropology of the human person when work is no longer economically necessary for a large portion of the population? If these questions have already been explored through the lens of Catholic intellectual tradition, I'd welcome pointers on where to find those conversations.