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Work and Emancipatory Practice: Towards a Recovery of Human Beings’ Productive Capacities
Res Publica (2008)
  • Keith G Breen

This article argues that productive work represents a mode of human flourishing unfortunately neglected in much current political theorizing. Focusing on Habermasian critical theory, I contend that Habermas’s dualist theory of society, on account of the communicative versus instrumental reason binary which underpins it, excludes work and the economy from ethical reflection. To avoid this uncritical turn, we need a concept of work that retains a core emancipatory referent. This, I claim, is provided by Alasdair MacIntyre’s notion of ‘practice’. The notion of ‘practice’ is significant in suggesting an alternative conception of human productivity that is neither purely instrumental nor purely communicative, but rather both simultaneously, a form of activity which issues in material products and yet presumes a community of workers engaged in intersubjective self-transformation. However, we can endorse MacIntyre’s notion of ‘practice’ only if we reject his totalizing anti-modernism and insist on the emancipatory potentialities of modern institutions.

  • alienated labour; ethics; Habermas; MacIntyre; practices; self-transformation; work
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Citation Information
Keith G Breen. "Work and Emancipatory Practice: Towards a Recovery of Human Beings’ Productive Capacities" Res Publica Vol. 14 Iss. 1 (2008)
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