For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Utopia reconsidered"

by Dobson, John; Libri Publishing (2008)


This paper challenges Alasdair MacIntyre's assertion that the modern firm - such as Google, Unilever, or Microsoft - is inimical to human flourishing within an Aristotelian framework. The paper begins by questioning MacIntyre's rendering ofutopian communities. It then addresses four specific criticisms ofthe modern firm to be found throughout MacIntyre's oeuvre, namely compartmentalisation, myopia, inequality, and loss ofcommunity. Arguments are made to the effect that these criticisms do not vitiate the institutional role ofthe modern firm in an Aristotelian context. The paper concludes with an invocation ofthe modern firm as institutional ideal within an evolving utopian vision ofhuman flourishing. This is a utopian vision in which the modern firm plays a constructive, not corruptive, institutional role.

Key Passage

Rather than simply destroying community as such, there is evidence that the modern firm is simply creating different types of community: more fluid, more all-embracing, more virtual, and no less virtuous. For example, in Global Microstructures: The Virtual Societies of Financial Markets, Cetina and Bruegger find evidence of the emergence of ‘virtual’ communities among foreign exchange traders: ‘ forms are bound together by electronic information technologies . . drawn together as if they were in one place’. In their extensive empirical study the authors find foreign-exchange traders – typically characterised as the most red-in-tooth-and-claw-type of financial agents – developing their own social norms, their own conceptions of excellence within the practice of foreign-exchange trading (although the authors do not use this MacIntyrean terminology), and even their own language. Similarly, just casual observation of some modern firms – Microsoft, eBay, Google, and Apple, for example – indicate that, far from destroying communal ties, the modern firm is continually developing new communities. Indeed, most recently, the rapid growth of social-networking through internet sites such as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook is all about building communities. Furthermore, these new communities are far more dynamic, all-embracing and geographically diverse than their antecedents. (p.73)


Alasdair Macintyre, Management, Aristotle, Firm, Modern Firm, Business Firm, Human Flourishing, Utopian


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