Department of Finance


Date of this Version



In Holiness through Work: Commemorating the Encyclical Laborem Exercens. Martin Schlag ed., 2022 Saint Augustine Press.


The objective dimension of work involves the person acting on external objects through the process of economic production. But because persons tend toward self-realization, and because work is an integral part of this process, the person is also the subject of work. The subjective dimension of work involves work as a creative process operating on the person performing the work. In the encyclical Laborem Exercens, John Paul II argues that the subjective dimension of work is primary and that the primary basis of the value of work is the subject: man himself. This does not mean that the economic value of work is independent of the work performed, nor that the wage paid cannot reflect the marginal value of the work. However, John Paul II states that the primary value of work is not economic at all since the wage itself represents a secondary value. By identifying the historical roots of this error, John Paul II also identifies the starting point for economists who seek to re-integrate the subjective dimension of work into economic and financial theory. This paper summarizes the subjective dimension of work as presented in Laborem Exercens, presents a framework that integrates the subjective and objective dimensions, and highlights the changes to our financial logic when this subjective dimension is given its proper place in economic and financial models.