A previous article dealt with the anthropology of contemporary work. Now let us come back to the considerations of a think-tank on the human dimension of work, which examined the embedding of work in its economic, ecological and social context. Work is intended to care for nature and society, but this care must also apply to the worker. Work is sometimes constraining, as the previous article reminded us, by referring alongside its excesses, to the positive role of compliance (conformity to laws, regulations, rules, procedures and protocols). One does not need the support of Socrates to understand what it means to submit to standards. There is no automatic effect here, for compliance requires an essential ingredient: the hope of a fairer management of business and of fairer relations between stakeholders. This is what gives meaning to work, both for managers and employees, and it is the condition required for the spiritual of work to manifest itself. Work that has no meaning, that is only identification with a routine or mechanical submission to regulations, can in no way be humanizing for the worker. What is mechanical is inhuman.
In this article, by investing in the three dimensions mentioned in the previous article (economic, ecological and social), work is contemplated – against a widely held opinion, it must be said – as a spiritual reality. What does “spiritual reality” mean? This is a tricky question. Our individualistic culture places spirituality somewhere between the meaning of personal religious experience, intimate consciousness, addictive substances that can carry the imagination into psychedelic universes, individual mystical, alcohol-fueled or even erotic ecstasy. In a word, spirituality is, in the eyes of our contemporaries, a mishmash of meanings, feelings and sensations.