It was not by chance that the Middle Ages was the first civilization in history to abolish slavery. Nor was it by chance that the Church ennobled and facilitated manual labor to the point that the Benedictine Order claimed prayer and work were complementary. There was a reason why this happened.
As Lynn White explains: “The labor-saving power machines of the later Middle Ages were harmonious with the religious assumption of the infinite worth of even the most seemingly degraded human personality, and with an instinctive repugnance toward subjecting any man to a monotonous drudgery which seems less than human in that it requires the exercise neither of intelligence nor of choice” (White, Machina Ex Deo, 73).
We might contrast this consideration for human nature with the quote attributed to industrialist Henry Ford: “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?” (Matthew Stewart, The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong [New York: W.W. Norton, 2009], 57).
(Taken from Return to Order:…)