For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Good work"

by Clark, Samuel (2017)


Abstract Work is on one side a central arena of self-making, self-understanding, and self-development, and on the other a deep threat to our flourishing. My question is: what kind of work is good for human beings, and what kind bad? I first characterise work as necessary productive activity. My answer to my question then develops a perfectionist account of the human good: (1) the good is the full development and expression of human potentials and capacities; (2) this development and expression happens over a lifetime through appropriate practice. Work is thus a problem of human development, and I address that problem by considering three central human capacities: that we are passionate choosers, skilled makers, and social negotiators. For each, I ask: what does this capacity need from our work if it is to develop towards full and flourishing expression? Answering that question leads to a three-part account of good work as requiring: (1) a distinctive kind of pleasure, involving both unselfconscious flow and supervisory self-attention; (2) skill, which I describe via the ideal of craft; and (3) democracy, which I define as a form of life in which each is able to develop and use both expressive and receptive capacities.


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