4.4.4 Review and discussion of Unit 4

Back to 4.4.3

Unit 4 Contents

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You are now at the end of Unit 4, half way through the module.  This page outlines two ways of reviewing what you have learned in this unit.

Before we come to them, open the Unit 4 Contents page to remind yourself of what has been covered.

A.        Assessing the ‘learning outcomes’

First, look again at the learning outcomes for this unit (given in 4.1.1). As reproduced below, they show where in the unit each of them was most directly addressed.

Learning outcomes for Unit 4

By the end of this unit, you will be able

  • to describe four ‘sectors’ of work and how your (and others’) work fits in relation to these [4.1]
  • to list the main elements in Rerum Novarum’s remedy for the crisis of workers’ conditions in the nineteenth century [4.2, esp. 4.2.8]
  • to communicate a critical understanding of the vision of human work which Pope John Paul II presented in Laborem Exercens [4.3, 4.4.1, 4.4.2]
  • to summarize forms of action for workers’ rights that are and are not consistent with CST’s vision [4.1.44.3.4, 4.4.3].

How easily do you think you could do these things?

The third is the most challenging.  However if you have studied Laborem Exercens in the way the unit enables, you should be able to do what it asks for, even if only after some preparation.

B.       Discussing your study

How you can best discuss with others what you have studied for this unit will depend on the university or other context you are in:

  • If you are studying formally, you may be expected to participate in a seminar on what you have read for Unit 4.  The format of this will be determined by the Module Convenor in your university/college.  One student might be asked to prepare a discussion paper.
  • If you are studying informally in a parish, other Christian community or workplace, it will be worthwhile to join with others to compare and contrast your reactions so far.
  • If you are reading the material alone without opportunity for face-to-face discussion, you may like to post your reactions to it and any questions at Comments on Unit 4.  If you do, I’ll respond.

Whichever of the above applies to you, your study will have provoked questions.  The ‘reflections’ and ‘exercises’ do this directly.  There have been three of the latter in this unit:

  • in 4.1.3 on your own experience of work
  • in 4.2.8 on the main planks in Rerum Novarum’s remedy for the crisis of workers’ conditions
  • in 4.4.1 on the main points that Laborem Exercens adds to what is in Rerum Novarum.

Here are some questions for discussion:

1.  At the start of Laborem Exercens (LE), Pope John Paul said that “human work is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question” (#3).

What did he mean?

Was he right?

2.  Patricia Lamoureux refers to one possible line of criticism of the vision of work in LE in this way:

There is a danger that the very positive and optimistic view of work that flows from the mystery of creation can bestow a false aura of religious legitimacy to social structures that contribute to work that is meaningless or dehumanizing.1

Do you think this is a fair criticism?

3.  Thomas Kohler referred to the “fragile relevance” of LE now, so long after its publication (4.4.2).

In what ways is this encyclical still relevant to working life in the 2010s?

4.  Here, in summary, are three of the views of work we have encountered in this unit:

– the ancient Greek view, articulated most influentially by Plato, that work is a practical necessity and that what fulfils human beings is things other than work, notably leisure or contemplation

– the view of economic liberalism that work is only a means to the end of utility maximization or (in other words) preference satisfaction

– CST’s view – specifically that of Pope John Paul II – that work can and should be inherently fulfilling for men and women, and that when it is they participate in human exercise of dominion in the good creation.

Try to identify some points for and against each of these views.

Which do you think is most convincing? Why?

5.  To what extent are you aware of particular people’s work that really is the ‘way of the cross’ for them – work which they have known they must undertake, even though doing so is genuinely self-sacrificial?  Have you experienced such work yourself?

6.  What could you do to contribute to ensuring that all workers receive at least a Living Wage?

To what extent is ‘community organizing’ a good means for acting with others to that end?  

What pitfalls or mistakes should you avoid?

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End of Unit 4

Go to COMMENTS ON UNIT 4

 

Go to Module A Outline

Copyright © Newman University.  If you wish to quote from this page, see Citation Information. N.B. If you make use of material on this page in a course assignment, you are obliged to reference the source in line with the citation information.

 


  1. Lamoureux, ‘Laborem Exercens’ (ref. in 4.3.2 n. 1), 406 

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