Work is only human when the worker is able to express him/herself via the process of work itself. Labouring in a way that only has the interest of making money and is devoid of any opportunity for self-expression, is a demeaning process for any human being and, because of that, it is anti-human.
However, from this idea we run headlong into the question of what self-expression is, or more importantly, what would self-expression be in an authentically human society or civilisation? In an authentically human society self-expression has to be imbued with a human worth … But what does that mean?
As the product of rational (in the most part) or creatively irrational beings (at another level) all human activity, whether positive or negative adds to the richness of the experience of being human as long as it contributes in a favourable way to our standards of living and to human progress in the world. But progress can only be positive, and the quality of life can only be good, if the environment we live in, our world, is also cared for. Because of this, non-favourable human activity like the exploitation of other human beings and the rampant abuse of natural resources, intended for the simple aim of maximising profits, can only be considered morally reprehensible.
Yet this ethically unbearable praxis is exactly what our current economic system is designed for, and is meant to foment and propagate. As such, almost all of the daily activity in this global-economy fuelled world is a moral abomination for any authentic view of humanity. And this means that, in order to create an authentically human society, our economic model and its economic conceptions have to be completely demolished and revolutionary (or transcendentally) reconstructed.
Traditionally, the idea of work has encompassed negative notions of uncritical sacrifice and devotedness. However, labour seen as a process of self-expression transforms those negative notions into positive concepts – the ideas of sacrifice and duty in the realm of self-expression are positive drives.
Likewise, as self-expression by a human being embodies an authentic human experience, the same human authenticity is embedded in every individual human-being’s sacrifice-through-self-expression to humanity. In other words: I express myself because I am human, and because of that my self-expression is a labour geared toward the whole of humanity. In this way, self-expression for humanity becomes a moral duty for all members of an authentically human society.
By aiming one’s self-expression towards our common humanity, human purpose becomes visible and feasible. And once clarity of human purpose becomes comprehensible and tangible, then it becomes more difficult for individuals to operate badly without abandoning that purpose.
Religions have always failed in their task of achieving moral rectitude precisely because the great monotheisms have always held human nature as something profoundly flawed and negative in itself. One cannot expect human civilisation to get better by following a precedent that all human beings are, by nature, bad. Quite the contrary: civilisation will only become meaningful for human beings when it is constructed on a bedrock of faith in humanity itself and embedded with an idea of human purposiveness.
Hegel talked about spirit not yet finding its truly real substance. The human spirit will only be able to reach its truly real substance when it looks for it in the realm of humanity itself. A human being can only be really conscious of his or her substance when he or she is truly aware of him or herself as a human being amongst a civilisation and within a world full of other human beings.
We are all the same in our condition of being human, and separated by our individuality, and it is our individuality which is the only authentic separation we have. All others: gender, race, nationality, religion, or ideology, are non-authentic segregations and parts of our anti-human historical process that need to be rectified in favour of human authenticity.