18,000 Hostess Jobs Gone – The Root of the Issue

Hostess_twinkies-2The reporting of the debate between Hostess and its bakery union is not getting to the core of this issue, a critical one which profoundly affects the economy today: The foundation of amicable employer – employee relationships.

Tragically, under this rule of money, men adopt a corresponding set of values that takes root in society.  We see an entirely different way of looking at life where social, cultural, and moral values are put aside. In their place is a set of values that attaches more importance to quantity over quality, utility over beauty, matter over spirit.

With this set of values, the rule of money undermines society, as Lewis Mumford notes: “Money, as the nexus in all human relations and as the main motivation in all social effort, replaced the reciprocal obligations and duties of families, neighbors, citizens, friends.” 1


Separate from Social Life

We can cite as an example of this separation from social life the modern outlook toward labor. In pre-industrial times, productive activities were embedded in the social, cultural and religious organization of society. Employers assumed family-like links with those whom they employed, as might be seen in the family-like ties in the guild system. There often existed cases where reciprocal social obligations and affection between employer and employee would span generations.

The tendency of modern economy is to turn labor into a mere commercial and abstract relationship where labor represents a unit of effort to be put on the market. As economic historian Karl Polanyi observes, “To separate labor from other activities of life and to subject it to the laws of the market was to annihilate all organic forms of existence and to replace them by a different type of organization, an atomistic and individualistic one.” 2

Likewise, property loses its social significance in the rule of money. It too becomes a commodity bought and sold indifferently on the market without regard for any Subscription8.1connection it might have had with family, history, or society. Inside the rule of money’s set of values, such human sentiments have little commercial value.

When these values take hold in a society, everything can be commercialized. This can be seen, for example, in the sad commercialization of Christmas in which the great mystery of the Incarnation is overshadowed by festive yet soulless holiday spending, and Thanksgiving can now be called Black Thursday.

Notes:

  1. Lewis Mumford, Technics and Human Development, vol. 1 of The Myth of the Machine (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1967), 281
  2. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Times, 2nd ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001), 171