Ora et Labora?: On the Ritual Refusal of Work Open Access

Tau, Kyle (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/fb4948624?locale=en


This dissertation demonstrates the ways in which current constructions of work exhibit a range of pathologies tied to the commodification of time and the exploitation of waged labor. Modern economic forces have steadily eroded the benefits of work, even as its supposed intrinsic virtues and rewards are trumpeted by politicians, arm chair moralists, and many theologians alike. In light of this, the author argues that time has been structured as a means to reinforce social inequality, paying particular attention to the modern disciplining of the poor through the moral rhetoric of time thrift and monetary compensation as the just reward for one's industrious attention to constant work. Traditional theological analyses of work have failed to mark a distinction between purposeful activity more generally and work that is socially obligatory and necessary. Thus, they fail to radically challenge the dominance of the waged form of work over human life. Leaving this fact unchallenged ignores the possible variety of freely offered forms of soladaristic activity that are crowded out by paid work and reinforces a form of the work ethic tied to alienated labor. This project offers a strategic challenge to such theologies of work by arguing for an initial refusal of work on the basis of Christian daily prayer. Daily prayer is presented as an ongoing interruption of the day with a ritual rehearsal of one's covenantal identity as constituted by the ever-present address offered by God through the resurrected Christ. This address defines the good end and ontological grounding of human life in God's Sabbath joy, celebration, freedom and rest. From such a vantage point the author argues that human life is fundamentally defined in non-instrumental terms and that obligatory and necessary waged work ought to be limited as much as possible so as to increase the time and space available for spontaneous and free delight in God, creation and neighbor. Daily prayer thus ritually refuses the dominance of work over life in order to enlarge the arena in which the dual love of God and neighbor may be exercised outside the coercive confines of waged labor.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 - Liturgical Ordo and the Christian Life

Chapter 2 - Pathologies of Work in a Wage Based Society

Chapter 3 - The Commodification of Time and the Temporal Structure of Inequality

Chapter 4 - Covenant, Memory and Hope: The Interruptive Force of Christian Daily Prayer

Chapter 5 - The Relationship Between Vocation and Work Reexamined in Light of Daily Prayer

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