Articulating an Augustinian treatment of the nature, limits, meaning, and end of work, this volume will push Augustinian studies toward a more-detailed engagement with issues of political economy.
Zachary Settle argues that we inhabit a culture that insists that our life’s meaning is bound up in our work; we experience constant pressures at work to be more efficient and productive; and we know the ways in which our work-structures contribute to a seemingly ever-growing, corrosive system of poverty and oppression. These cultural assumptions regarding work, along with a cluster of other labor-related problems (i.e. automation, wage depression, wage theft, the rise of a flexible labor force, a lack of worker representation, over-work, and productivism) have rightfully raised a number of questions about the nature, meaning, and limits of our working lives and working structures.
This book sets out the ways in which St. Augustine offers us—in piecemeal fashion—elements with which we can assemble an alternative vision. By examining his understanding of the role of work in the context of the monastery, we see his understanding of both the ways we should undertake our work and the ends toward which we should direct that work during our lives in a sinful world. Settle draws on these piecemeal treatments of work scattered throughout St. Augustine’s varied writings in order to develop and articulate a unified theology of work.
How we approach and value "work" today seems primed for a radical, and spiritual, transformation. In this attentive book, Zachary Settle makes a compelling case for reading St. Augustine as a guide to our liberation from work-idolatries, who points us to a better way. -- Ian Clausen, Villanova University, USA Zac Settle's On the Nature, Limits, Meaning, and End of Work is a judicious engagement with Augustine's texts on work and labor that not only fills an important gap in Augustinian studies, but also shows us how humanists might integrate economic data and analysis within theological treatments of work, labor, and economic action. The result is genuinely Augustinian: labor and our economic life in general is shown to be an important part of our life in liturgy and in prayer without resorting to grandiose and universalistic claims of labor and its regimes. I hope On the Nature, Limits, Meaning, and End of Work will become a model of how to engage in conversations at the intersection of theology, work, labor, and the economy. -- Jonathan D. Teubner, Australian Catholic University, Australia