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Beate Roessler: Meaningful Work - Arguments from Autonomy


Lecture organized by the Department of Ethics


The idea of “meaningful work” has attracted relatively little attention during the past decades. Most contemporary social and political theories hold it to be either superfluous or impossible to conceptualize something like the value, the meaning, the normative or evaluative content of work.

But not only liberal theories appeal to individual autonomy and value pluralism within modern liberal democracies to argue against a normative theory of meaningful work: theories of recognition employ the same sort of arguments with the same results. Value pluralism and the difficulty to neutrally, uncontestedly conceptualize meaningful work lead to the conviction that no normative theory of the content of work is necessary nor feasible. I think that on both empirical and on normative grounds this general idea is mistaken; as I shall demonstrate in the following, the theoretical confinement to the conditions of justice at the workplace is not sufficient: instead, it must be possible to philosophically criticise meaningless work because it is meaningless, undignified, frustrating, alienating. Therefore, what is needed is a normative theory of just working conditions, which includes a normative theory of meaningful work. That is, a theory of the justice of work has to encompass meaningful work; or so I will argue.


Beate Roessler is professor of ethics at Amsterdam University; her research is concerned withproblems in autonomy on the one hand, and with theories of privacy on the other. She is currently supervising an nwo-project on Socializing Autonomy, and one on The Social Value of Privacy. Her publications include The Value of Privacy (Polity Press, 2005); "Autonomie und Ambivalenz", in: Sozialphilosophie und Kritik, hg. v. R.Forst e.a., Frankfurt, Suhrkamp 2009; “Labor, Recognition, Emancipation”, in: Power and Recognition. Articles on the Theory of Recognition, ed. by B.van den Brink & D. Owen, Cambridge UP 2007; she coedited, with Axel Honneth, Von Person zu Person. Zur Moralität persönlicher Beziehungen , herausgegeben mit Axel Honneth, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp 2008.

Wednesday 30 March
15.15 - 17.00 h
Faculty of Philosophy, Oude Boteringestraat 52, room Omega

Everyone welcome!

Laatst gewijzigd:30 oktober 2012 20:39