“What will we do after the war?” Dorothy Sayers asked this of her readers in 1942 in her essay “Why Work?

““The question that I will ask you to consider today is this: When the war is over, are we likely, and do we want to keep this attitude to work and the results of work? Or are we preparing and do we want to go back to our old habits of thought? Because I believe that on our answer to this question the whole economic future of society will depend.”

Dorothy Sayers “Why Work?”

I had read her essay before, but it took on a new meaning last April when stay-in-place orders forced us to ask questions about work, such as what is an “essential worker” and what does that mean. As Americans, we tend to make work and consumerism our twin gods. If we sacrifice to one, we reap the rewards from the other. Even if we don’t readily acknowledge this, most of us orient our lives around work.

The pandemic forced us to come face-to-face with our unhealthy relationship with work and free time. But, what the pandemic also did was re-introduce a productivity-crazed culture to the concept of leisure.

My essay in Breaking GroundWork After the Pandemic” asks whether we really want to go back to the way things were, the same question Sayers asks us in “Why Work?” Drawing from her essay and the writings of Wendell Berry, Josef Pieper, and Mortimer Adler, I explore three ways work has changed during the pandemic. I argue that we should consider keeping these changes and not go back to normal.

Recommended readings:

  • Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine by Dorothy Sayers (ISBN 978-0-8499-4526-7)
  • Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung (ISBN 978-1-58743-232-3)
  • What Are People For? Essays by Wendell Berry (ISBN 978-1-58243-487-2)
  • Our Only World Ten Essays by Wendell Berry (ISBN 978-1-61902-700-8)
  • Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (ISBN 1-890318-35-3)
  • How to Think about the Great Ideas (Chapters 31-35) by Mortimer J. Adler, edited by Max Weismann (ISBN 0-8126-9412-0)
  • Workism Is Making Americans Miserable” by Derek Thompson The Atlantic