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Good work: The importance of caring about making a social contribution

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  • Jens Jørund Tyssedal
How can work be a genuine good in life? I argue that this requires overcoming a problem akin to that studied by Marx scholars as the problem of work, freedom and necessity: how can work be something we genuinely want to do, given that its content is not up to us, but is determined by necessity? I argue that the answer involves valuing contributing to the good of others, typically as valuing active pro-sociality – that is, valuing actively doing something good for others. This makes work better in one way, and may even make work something we are genuinely glad to have in our lives. Contemporary philosophical thinking about good work tends to focus on how work can be good for the person doing it, by providing, for example, self-realization or social relationships, while underappreciating the special importance of valuing social contribution. People will typically only really want work if they want a part of their lives to be about the good of others. This also means that work may be a part of the best life, something we should take into account when discussing work-related policies and the desirability of a ‘post-work’ future.
Translated title of the contributionGodt arbejde: Betydningen av at ville yde et bidrag til andres vel
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitics, Philosophy & Economics
Pages (from-to)177-196
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

    Research areas

  • work, pro-sociality, social contribution, the good life, Marx, freedom, necessity

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