A 5.1.1 Response to Exercise


Here is how the ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ senses of work were explained in Unit 4 (screen. 4.1.5).  (This Response paraphrases what is on that screen in a few places, so is not identical with it.)

Any work can be seen as having two aspects – one to do with the worker him or herself, and one to do with the external outcomes of the work.  The first aspect is about how work is experienced by the worker, including in terms of the costs and benefits of doing it – costs such as physical exertion or even injury, and benefits such as personal fulfilment and wages.

The second aspect is what the worker is actually bringing about through their work, the outcomes he or she produces.  To give examples of this second aspect of work, a worker might sell train tickets, or nurse ill people, or administer the council’s housing office, or look after a young child, or report news on the radio.  Or, more controversially, he or she might sell high-interest loans to poor people, or grow opium in Afghanistan, or lay anti-personnel mines near civilian populations.  All these things are the results his or her work has in the world – its practical outcomes for other people.

These two aspects of work – how it experienced by the worker, and the outcomes of the work – are always distinguishable, at least in principle.  Pope John Paul II refers in Laborem Exercens to these two aspects of work as, respectively, ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’.



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