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Title: Theologies of work : the contribution of a theological aesthetic to critiques of capitalism
Author: Hughes, J. M. D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis considers the ‘problem of labour’ from a theological perspective. I begin with a survey of twentieth century theologies of work, contrasting differing approaches to the contemporary reality of work, and the relation between divine and human work. I go on to explore the nineteenth and twentieth century debates about labour under capitalism: Through a reading of Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic, I argue that the triumph of the ‘spirit of utility’ is crucial to understanding notions of modern work, and that this is bound up historically with an anti-theological agenda. In exploring Marx’s critique of labour, I argue that the very possibility of critique was premised upon a version of unalienated labour which Marx derived from the quasi-theological traditions of German Romanticism. This critique was however compromised when these sources were suppressed in favour of the anti-theological prejudices of political economy, creating contradictions that have continued to haunt the Marxist tradition, as illustrated i the work of the Frankfurt School. The English Romantic tradition of social criticism, as represented by Ruskin and Morris, represents another critique of labour, which was more explicit about its theological presuppositions, criticising contemporary labour conditions on the basis of a vision of true work as art, like God’s work in creation. Finally I turn to various twentieth century Catholic thinkers who supplement this aesthetic tradition with classical metaphysical categories which help them to think through the nature of art and the relationship between utility and non-utility in work. Such a perspective enables us to see the ultimate nothingness of utility, and how non-utility can be not only defended against work, but also extended to transform work so that it participates more fully in divine work, and so becomes a liturgical offering.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available