Edited By Soli Shahvar
7. A Bahá’í Perspective on the Meaning of Work and Values
In recent decades, fluctuations in the state of the economy, pressures imposed by the emergence of a global marketplace and the steady introduction of new technology spawning ‘the fourth industrial revolution’1 have had wide-ranging implications for the nature and meaning of work from both individual and organizational standpoints. The traditional understanding of work as a paid activity – with well-defined temporal, situational and even behavioural boundaries – as the foundation of a ‘work society’, is open to question,2 and new paradigms of socio-economic interactions are emerging, representing ‘the outlines of a new society’3 based on a reconceptualization of the meaning and purpose of work as a characteristic of the human condition.4
The Bahá’í perspective on the meaning of work and the role of values offers a unique basis for interpreting these significant changes, presenting a model of work stemming from teachings about the purpose of human existence. In those teachings, the dynamic state of the world is acknowledged; writing in 1935, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, stated:
Whatever the progress of the machinery may be, man will always have to toil in order to earn his living. Effort is an inseparable part of man’s life. It may take different forms with the changing conditions of the world, but it will always be present as a necessary element in our earthly existence …5
The Bahá’í writings emphasize a transformation of the meaning of work from a predominantly utilitarian,...
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