The End of Work: Theological Critiques of Capitilism / Edition 1

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Surveys twentieth century theologies of work, contrasting differing approaches to consider the “problem of labor” from a theological perspective.

  • Aimed at theologians concerned with how Christianity might engage in social criticism, as well those who are interested in the connection between Marxist and Christian traditions
  • Explores debates about labor under capitalism and considers the relationship between divine and human work
  • Through a thorough reading of Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic, argues that the triumph of the "spirit of utility" is crucial to understanding modern notions of work
  • Draws on the work of various twentieth century Catholic thinkers, including Josef Pieper, Jacques Maritain, Eric Gill, and David Jones
  • Published in the new and prestigious Illuminations series.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These two excellent books provide thematic indices of Christian ways of understanding both power and work. They also illustrate how profoundly the repertoire of Christianity and of its Judaic origins permeates contemporary society in spite of the impossible prescriptions and false descriptions that declare religion confined to the private realm." (Times Literary Supplement, 29 July 2011)

"Adam was expelled from the garden of Eden to till the ground in the sweat of his face, so the bible says, leaving us with centuries of theological argument about how to relate the reality for so many people of work as toil, drudgery and effectively a curse, to the equally familiar experience of work as creative achievement and personal fulfilment. Post-Christian we may now be in Britain, yet in a society still reeling from de-industrialization, with unemployment endemic in certain quarters, with leisure activities expanding vastly, and so on, there is a rich and complex Christian tradition of thinking about the nature of work which John Hughes puts back on the agenda in this provocative book." Fergus Kerr, University of Oxford

"John Hughes has written not about work but about the 'end' of work. But this is the most far-reaching question imaginable in practical reason. To what end do we exert ourselves at all? What do we hope to achieve? Through a tour of reading in nineteenth and twentieth century thinkers that is as subtle and sympathetic as it is diverse and adventurous he has shown us how the ancient struggle between the fine and the useful has been played out dramatically in the post-industrial West, and holds the key to a great deal that we think of as modernity. Here is an exciting new voice contributing to the interpretation of our moral predicaments. I cannot imagine anyone putting Hughes’ book down without having learned something important." Oliver O'Donovan, University of Edinburgh

"Its strength lies in its illuminating discussions of a fairly wide range of writers."
Times Higher Education Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405158923
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/16/2007
  • Series: Illuminations: Theory & Religion Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

John Hughes is Curate of St David’s with St Michael’s Exeter and holds a Cambridge PhD. He has published a number of articles in top journals such as Telos and Modern Theology.

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Table of Contents



Introduction: Work in the Christian Tradition.

1. Twentieth-century Theologies of Work: Karl Barth, Marie-Dominique Chenu, John Paul II and Miroslav Volf.

2. Utility as the Spirit of Capitalism: Max Weber’s Diagnosis of Modern Work.

3. Labour, Excess and Utility in Karl Marx: The Problem of Materialism and the Aesthetic.

4. John Ruskin and William Morris: An Alternative Tradition: Labor and the Theo-aesthetic in English Romantic Critiques of Capitalism.

5. The Frankfurt School: The Critique of Instrumental Reason and Hints of Return to the Theo-aesthetic within Marxism.

6. The end of Work: Rest, Beauty and Liturgy: The Catholic Metaphysical Critique of the Culture of Work and its Incorporation into the English Romantic Tradition: Josef Pieper, Jacques Maritain, Eric Gill and David Jones.

7. Concluding Remarks: Labor, Utility and Theology.



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