For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The Republican critique of capitalism"

by White, Stuart (2011)


Although republican political theory has undergone something of a revival in recent years, some question its contemporary relevance on the grounds that republicanism has little to say about central questions of modern economic organization. In response, this paper offers an account of core republican values and then considers how capitalism stands in relation to these values. It identifies three areas of republican concern related to: the impact of unequal wealth distribution on personal liberty; the impact of the private control of investment on popular sovereignty and pursuit of the common good; and the impact of capitalism on the level and quality of political participation. In view of these concerns, we can see some of the likely requirements of a distinctively republican, but contemporary political economy.

Key Passage

[T]he set of concerns relating to the impact of capitalism on republican political participation is not limited to this extension of the distributional critique discussed above. As Sandel also explains, a second line of labour republican argument focused on how the experience of working in an authoritarian workplace allegedly undermine the character, or deprives individuals of the skills, necessary for active republican citizenship (Sandel 1995, pp. 185–186). Denied any opportunity to exercise democratic control of their working lives, wage workers will allegedly lose the skills and/or inclinations necessary for democratic control of their polity. (p.572)


Republicanism, Skinner, Sovereignty, Workplace Organisation, Authority, Liberty



Links to Reference



How to contribute.