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Humanistic Era Reflection Paper

The humanistic era was characterized by the rise in individualism and challenges to the established order of things and authority. People began to question the religious order of the day and the whole concept of blind adherence to faith was severely challenged. It was at this point that the protestant movement began to emerge as an antithesis to the Roman Catholic Church and its feudal system.

The aristocrats and the class system that subjected the poorer classes to a life of servitude faced challenges from the humanists who refused to accept the status quo (Makdisi, 1989). Democratic systems began to replace the kingdoms that existed all over Europe and intellectual freedom led to the development of various philosophies by thinkers who had been previously subdued. In the 1930’s and 40’ the humanist era influenced the working classes to seek greater say in the matters of employee – employer relations.

At the end of the First World War women emerged with a realization that they too could provide for their families by working in the factories as their men went away to war. They challenged the status quo that prohibited women from working in the industries and agitated for better and equal pay from the employers who discriminated against them on the basis of gender. The proletariat in general began to fight for the right to form associations that would enable them to working conditions seek better pay and improved working conditions.

As a consequence of these developments, the Congress passed the Wagner Act of 1935 which established the structures that would allow for workers to form unions to protect their welfare. This act reduced the power of the employer to misuse the employee and introduced new rules detailing what constituted unfair labor practices. The act also gave employees the right to form unions, to strike and to participate in collective bargaining for the salaries. Most employers were against the act as it overturned the established order of things and gave the worker significant privileges.

With the right to strike and form unions, a lot of workers joined the labor movement during the great depression and some scholars say this contributed to the prolonging of the adverse economic conditions by leading to work stoppages and factory closures. Unionized workers engaged in wildcat strikes, factory takeovers and militant actions which led to a general lack of investor confidence as financiers were unsure of their investments. The Roosevelt administration supported the workers in their demands because they considered the business class responsible for the depression.

Businesspeople were generally perceived during this period as being greedy for profit and thus the lack of sympathy for them from the administration. Prior to the humanist era, society was organized on the basis of class and the privileged few lorded over the rest. The top hierarchy in the churches, aristocrats and kingly rulers were more or less above the law and could treat the rest of society as they willed. Workers had no rights and were regarded as slaves. They could not organize themselves in unions as this would challenge the power of the ruling class and propertied elite.

Further, enlightenment of the workers was likely to lead to demands for more pay which would reduce the profits of the employer, a situation most employers did not favor. Individual freedoms and rights of expression that the humanist era ushered in contributed to greater democracy not only in the factories but also in the political arena. With regard to authority, the workers began to question the right of leaders to keep them in perpetual servitude and subjection.

In seeking to free themselves from the shackles of slavery, the proletariat sought to organize themselves in unions to be able to agitate for their demands. Dante, Petrarch and Machiavelli contributed a lot to the literature on humanism and stressed in their essays the need for individual freedom and expression. They advocated the overthrow of the feudal system in favor of a political and social dispensation that was all inclusive and democratic. These philosophers posited that mankind was better off applying rational thinking rather than resorting to superstition and traditional beliefs (Lamont, 1997).

Abraham Maslow and his theory on Hierarchy of Needs contributed a lot to the current managerial practices applied in the workplace. Managers realized that the worker is motivated not only by monetary gain but by other non tangible things like praise and recognition. Towards this end most organizations have in place a system of rewards for those employees that perform very well (Salaman & Storey, 2005). Such performers are rewarded on special days set aside for that purpose.

To cultivate better working relationships between the workers and the employees, teambuilding is encouraged as it helps the organization operate more smoothly as all team members perform better when they relate well to each other. In conclusion, the humanist era allowed the workers to assert themselves and agitate for better working conditions. As a result, the relationship between the employer and the employee changed radically in favor of the latter despite attempts by the employers to fight back and reverse the gains through laws like the Taft – Hartley Act.

Modern labor practices have adopted the individualism of the humanist era to employee – employer relations and ensured that the worker is able to achieve self actualization through their unique individual skills and creativity. References Lamont, C. (1997). The Philosophy of Humanism, Eighth Edition. Amherst, New York. Humanist Press Makdisi, G (April-June 1989), “Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (2): 175–182 Salaman, G & Storey, J (2005) Strategic Human Resource Management. London Sage Publications

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