ECONOMY, WORK AND EDUCATION
Prof. José Tomas Raga
Teacher of Political Economy, University of San Pablo CEU, Madrid
A long time has elapsed since Pope Leo XIII tackled the issue of workers and social problems. That was the forma and systematic beginning of what we know today as the corpus of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Humankind has experienced major changes over more than one century of events. Some have elevated it, while others have humiliated it. However, the New Things described in Pope Leo’s encyclical continue to be as relevant today as they were in 1891, though they have adjusted to modern times and their circumstances.
Today’s economy has become more complex than ever. Manufacturing processes in any of the production sectors required human labor for the processing of raw materials, so that human requirements could be fully met, and employed teams of human resources to make the work less difficult and more efficient. In recent times, however, such processes have been made unviable by new information and communication technologies, which have almost completely changed the behavior of businessmen.
In turn, precisely thanks to the opportunities offered by these new technologies, commodities, goods and services markets have opened up and have become increasingly generalized in this globalization process. As we can expect this process to generate bountiful fruits, we certainly cannot pay attention to the harm that it may bring the more unprivileged sectors of society. The attempt to expand markets has definitely characterized humankind over time; suffice it to consider the intense commercial activity of the Phoenicians, the silk or spice routes, or the routes that developed between the old and new continent after the discovery of America. However, it is equally true that today more than ever, we must consider man as the center of all economic processes, since their only target is man himself, and it is in man that they find their raison d’etre.
In contrast, the positive dimension of economics has changed very little. The effectiveness of the regulations which have governed economic transactions over the centuries, both in the public and private sphere, has always been curtailed by the positive dimension given to business by economic science. So much so that when the so-called economic laws have been ignored, the system has failed, causing a great waste of available resources and suffering for the population.
As great changes have occurred in the economic activity of individuals and communities, so have labor relations. This is true both in terms of the exercise of work as a transitive human activity, and the social interrelationship which develops between those supplying labor, that is workers, and those who demand it, namely employers. It does not really matter whether an individual is involved, or a business organized as a community of individuals assisted by capital.
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