For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Meaningful Labour, Employee Ownership, and Workplace Democracy: A Comment on Weidel"

by McGranahan, Lucas (2020)


Timothy Weidel has argued that Martha Nussbaums list of central capabilities should be amended to include a capability for meaningful labour. This paper extends Weidels ideas, arguing that meaningfulness in the workplace cannot be addressed without critically examining the formal ownership and management structure of businesses. Through specific examples, I argue that capabilities scholars and practitioners ought to encourage the proliferation of employee-owned and democratic businesses as a part of their human development strategy.

Key Passage

Nussbaum and Weidel are right that human beings need not just work but quality work. My point has been that the structure of work determines its quality. Formal structures of firm ownership and control pervasively affected what countless human beings can be and do, with ripple effects throughout families and societies. They condition the very possibility of the kind of cooperation and mutual recognition that constitutes meaningfulness in the sphere of labour. Absent an enquiry into these structures, we default to the neoliberal assumption that an economy dominated by autocratic firms owned by absentee investors is optimal and that development consists in finding the right levers to pull within this system—say, inward investmentfrom multinational corporations—so that it may spread its benefits widely. (p.7)


Weidel, Nussbaum, Marx, Meaningful Work, Ownership, Political Economy, Democracy, Socialism


Workplace Democracy, Self-Management, Meaningful Work

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