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The University of Haifa Lectures in Bahá’í Studies

Edited By Soli Shahvar

This volume brings together a selection of essays from the Lecture Series in Bahá’í studies at the University of Haifa. Each chapter explores an aspect of the Bahá’í religion, including its history, community, culture and theoretical perspectives on contemporary issues. The authors discuss topics including the family and descendants of the Báb (founder of the religion from which the Bahá’í Faith emerged), the influential role of Bahá’í schools in the modernization of education in Iran, the process of introducing the law of monogamy into the Iranian Bahá’í community, early connections between Swiss citizens and Bahá’ís in the Middle East, the rich and varied landscape of Persian Bahá’í poetry, and the role of African Americans in the development of the US Bahá’í community, particularly with regard to race relations and the principle of the oneness of humanity. Also presented in this volume are Bahá’í perspectives on contemporary topics including changing conceptions of work and work values, the role of apologetics in interfaith dialogue, and the issue of ‘defamation of religions’ in international human rights discourse. This book will be of interest to readers in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who want to become informed in more depth about a wider range of topics in the emerging field of Bahá’í studies.
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7. A Bahá’í Perspective on the Meaning of Work and Values

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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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