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Does Current Economic Theory Impose a Materialistic View of Work?

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Abstract

Standard theory in economics frames labor market decisions around a trade-off between time spent working, which is assumed to be unpleasant, and leisure, which is assumed to be enjoyable. The value of work is framed not in terms of intrinsic value, but in instrumental terms of production, wages, and consumption. This formulation has a significant influence on modern economic life, providing the vocabulary for the workplace, education, and vocational decisions. The broad literature on the theology of work, however, pushes back against this framing. We are reminded that our work can be good in its own right, as a way in which we serve God and others. In this article, we explain the differences between standard economic and theological thinking, and then show that a rich theological account of vocation can change the way we think about important decisions, institutions, and policies.

Steven McMullen and Todd P. Steen, "Does Current Economic Theory Impose a Materialistic View of Work?" Journal of Markets & Morality 20, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 165-178

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