Three normative models of work

In Nicholas H. Smith & Jean-Philippe Deranty (eds.), New Philosophies of Labour: Work and the Social Bond. Brill. pp. 181-206 (2012)
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I suggest that the post-Hegelian tradition presents us with three contrasting normative models of work. According to the first model, the core norms of work are those of means-ends rationality. In this model, the modern world of work is constitutively a matter of deploying the most effective means to bring about given ends. The rational kernel of modern work, the core norm that has shaped its development, is on this view instrumental reason, and this very same normative core, in the shape of advanced technology and more efficient, time-saving production, can help to liberate it. The second model, by contrast, takes the core norms of work to be internal to working activity. Rather than work gaining its normativity from something external to it, from ends to which the work is a contingent means, on this second view the core norms of work are expressions of values or meanings that are immanent to working practices themselves. The expressive model of work regards the actual world of work to be constituted historically by work-specific norms, norms which working subjects themselves have invoked and mobilised around in the course of their struggles for emancipation. According to the third model, the core norms of work have to do neither with instrumental rationality nor authentic self-expression. Rather they concern norms that relate either to individual achievement or contribution through work (in the form of esteem) or to the conditions that must in place for individuals to participate in the exchange of services by which market societies reproduce themselves (in the form of mutual respect).
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