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8 - The Political Philosophy of Meaningful Wage Labour

from Part II - Theoretical Traditions in Analysing Meaningful Waged Work

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2023

Knut Laaser
Affiliation:
University of Stirling
Jan Ch. Karlsson
Affiliation:
Karlstads Universitet, Sweden
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Summary

Engaging in normative discussions about the characteristics and requirements of a good life in a good society, Political Philosophy has a long-standing history in identifying the economic, political and social requirements for turning waged work into a practice that contributes to human flourishing. Meanwhile, a widely shared scepticism towards meaningful work under capitalism is another powerful theme in the field, arguing that the alienating nature of waged work cannot be overcome. This chapter argues that contributions to meaningful work in the realm of Political Philosophy have a strong tendency to incorporate both positions, presenting an ambivalent understanding of wage labour as activity that is burdensome and alienating for the many and emancipatory and meaningful for the few. Discussing two of the most significant schools of thought in this field, virtue ethics and political materialist contributions, the chapter identifies and compares their ontological understandings of work and its nature under capitalism, the conceptualisation of labour agency and the guiding principles of meaningful work that they promote.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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