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Philosophy of Management

Volume 1, Issue 1, 2001

One of the Greatest Discoveries

Robin Attfield
Pages 41-48

Meaningful Work and Full Employment

This paper affirms the continuing importance of full employment, as the best prospect for most people of the goods of meaningful work and of self-respect, and welcomes the failure of new technology in Western societies to engender mass unemployment, despite predictions to the contrary. It also replies to criticisms from John White (in Education and the End of Work) of a previous paper of mine, 'Work and the Human Essence (1984). Employing a different sense of 'meaningful work related to agents major goals in life. White claims that little work is meaningful, or capable of becoming so, and that social policy should recognise this and exonerate most people from expectations of employment. His argument embodies a distinctive understanding of human flourishing, and a critique of my earlier argument from the human essence. This paper defends that argument, plus a separate argument of my earlier paper from self-respect, which White apparently ignores, for meaningful work as crucial to human flourishing. Most employment, I maintain, is capable of being modified so as to become meaningful work, and since this is most peoples best prospect ofthat good, policies of full employment should not be discarded, either in the West or in the Third World.

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