Seminar: Lisa Herzog, 19 June, 2013, GREQAM (Aix-en-Provence, France)

On 19 June, Lisa Herzog (IfS, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany) is invited in the Philosophy-economics-law seminar organised by GREQAM (to 4.00 to 6.00 pm, Salle de réunion, Campus Ferry, Aix-en-Provence). The title of her presentation is “The goods of work” (co-authored with Anca Gheaus).

Abstract: “What motivates people to work, and what kinds of goods can be realized through work, has consequences for how we should evaluate the justice of job markets and of particular jobs. Theories of justice have for a long time unquestioningly taken over the economists’ view about human labour, namely that people are motivated to work by money. But psychological research shows that human motivation is much more complex. Moreover, labour markets are different from the ideal markets we find in text books, therefore individuals often cannot choose between the bundle of goods they achieve in their jobs.

By rejecting the view that financial gain is the sole motivation for work, it is possible to better understand what might be wrong with labour markets and with particular jobs above and beyond the usual charge of being exploitative, and thus to connect theories of justice better to the practical questions raised by contemporary labour markets. As a first step in this argument, this paper shows that there are multiple values that people aim to realize in their work. We suggest four broad categories of goods of work that cannot be replaced by money, and should therefore figure independently in theories of justice in labour markets :

1) attaining various types of excellence (such as knowledge, special skills, creativity or beauty) ;
2) a sense of social purpose ;
3) community, that is the experience of doing things together with others ;
4) social recognition.

We show the analytic separability of these values by drawing on examples in which one or more of these values is missing. Thus, while in practice they may often be only realized together, these values are in principle separable and can occur jointly or separately, in different constellations. We draw on different philosophical traditions to underscore the importance of these values, and also show that such ideas play a role, although a subdued and implicit one, in contemporary theories of justice and public discourse.

If labour markets make it impossible for individuals to realize those of these values that they want to realize in their lives – or if the possibility of doing this is distributed very unequally in society – they are, at least prima facie, unjust. In the conclusion we suggest some first steps of what the practical implications of our view could be.”

Seminar organised by Olivier Bargain (GREQAM, coordinator), Philippe Grill (GREQAM), Gilles Campagnolo (GREQAM) and Jean-Yves Chérot (Center of Law Theory).

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