For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

by MacIntyre, Alasdair (1981)

Abstract

[Summary from Google Books] Highly controversial when it was first published in 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue has since established itself as a landmark work in contemporary moral philosophy. In this book, MacIntyre sought to address a crisis in moral language that he traced back to a European Enlightenment that had made the formulation of moral principles increasingly difficult. In the search for a way out of this impasse, MacIntyre returns to an earlier strand of ethical thinking, that of Aristotle, who emphasised the importance of 'virtue' to the ethical life. More than thirty years after its original publication, After Virtue remains a work that is impossible to ignore for anyone interested in our understanding of ethics and morality today.

Key Passage

"The kind of work done by the vast majority of the inhabitants of the modern world cannot be understood in terms of the nature of a practice with goods internal to itself, and for very good reason. One of the key moments in the creation of modernity occurs when production moves outside the household. So long as production work occurs within the structure of households, it is easy and right to understand that work as part of the sustaining of the community of the household and of those wider forms of community which the household in turn sustains. As, and to the extent that, work moves outside the household and is put to the service of impersonal capital, the realm of work tends to become separated from everything but the service of biological survival and the reproduction of the labour force, one the one hand, and that of institutionalized acquisitiveness, on the other. Pleonexia, a vice in the Aristotelian scheme, is now the driving force of modern productive work. The means-end relationships embodied for the most part in such work – on a production line for example – are necessarily external to the goods which those who work seek; such work too has consequently been expelled from the realm of practices with goods internal to themselves. And correspondingly practices have in turn been removed to the margins of social and cultural life."  (p.226)

Keywords

Virtue, Practice, Pleonexia, Modernity, Production

Themes

Links to Reference

Citation


How to contribute.