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Brawer, N. (2014). The Meaning of Work in the Twenty-First Century: A Spiritual Perspective. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 14(1):168-177.

(2014). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 14(1):168-177

Speaking Out

The Meaning of Work in the Twenty-First Century: A Spiritual Perspective

Naftali Brawer

A cursory reading of the early chapters of the Bible leaves the reader with the distinct impression that work is a curse. Yet a closer inspection yields an entirely different picture. It is not work per se that is a curse but rather meaningless work. Work itself is the greatest blessing. This paper explores the definition of meaningful and meaningless work through the prism of the bible and early rabbinic writings. It also draws on contemporary thinkers and thought leaders in the fields of religion, philosophy, and logotherapy as well as the rapidly expanding field of “spirituality in the workplace”.

The axis upon which meaningful work turns is the idea of individual agency being clearly manifest in the end product. This is an enormous challenge for large companies, firms, and organisations in the twenty-first century when the connection between agent and product has been weakened by globalisation and outsourcing.

CSR (corporate social responsibility) however is not the answer. Rather the solution to meaningless work comes about through companies and organisations asking existential questions about their greater purpose. This paper points to the practicalities and application of such thinking using various business models, in particular that of the banking industry by highlighting the enormous changes it has undergone in the past century.

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