Friday, October 17, 2008

What's in a name? Adieu, Work Research Foundation

I'm a big fan of Comment magazine, which I regularly press into the hands of students. It's engaging, accessible, intentionally Christian, deals with things that really matter, and is theoretically rigorous without having to wear its theory on its sleeve--which is just to say that it is thoughtful without being plagued by 'academese.' If you haven't subscribed, do so today.

Comment is one of the many fruits of what was the "Work Research Foundation" of Canada. Today they announced a new name, Cardus, which they explain as follows:
The Cardus was an ancient north-south road that connected the people of Roman cities to their major public spaces. On the Cardus Maximus governments, markets, temples and more lived and worked to build a common life for the good of the city.

Today’s North American cities are connected by high speed highways, and asphalt roadways, bringing their occupants in encased metal bodies from point A to point B. Global culture generates a huge amount of data, but it is segmented, disconnected and isolated. Our think tanks have concentrated on politics, but forgotten the importance of culture. Professors and policy advocates are world leaders in minute areas—but who paints the bigger picture? Our institutions, like our people, function in a new kind of social and intellectual isolation. Policy is made without a place for religion, religion is practiced with little thought to the common good, and work is done without connecting the "why" to the "how".

Enter Cardus. We believe that economic, social and religious patterns have a deep influence on each other, and that we ignore these to the peril of each. These forces do not operate independent of each other, and neither do their institutions. Public life is sustained not just by social or political effort, but by a plurality of institutional cooperation.

Thus—this is the moment for a think tank to bridge politics and culture, to rethink, research and rebuild an integrative vision of North American social architecture. And Cardus isn't merely rethinking and researching an alternative vision for public life—we're actively working to renew and rebuild. Cardus is a North American public policy think tank, equipping change agents with a strategic public theology to renew North American social architecture.
Fair enough, and makes sense. But I'm going to miss "the Work Research Foundation." And I hope it's not churlish to say that I have my doubts or reservations--that this feels like a bit of an "upwardly mobile" move, a move from a focus on labor to a concern with more bourgeois structures. I don't think that's really the case, but I do think that what began as the sort of organization that found its roots or antecedents in Christian labor unions has found itself more comfortable with bankers and entrepreneurs. This is just the sort of trend which has made me skittish about the Kuyperian project in North America. But these are just the mild laments of a friend who will miss the solid blue-collar reminder I always heard embedded in the "Work Research Foundation."