This book examines the importance of work in human well-being, addressing several related philosophical questions about work and arguing on the whole that meaningful work is central in human flourishing. Work impacts flourishing not only in developing and exercising human capabilities but also in instilling and reflecting virtues such as honor, pride, dignity, self-discipline, and self-respect. Work also attaches to a sense of purposefulness and personal identity, and meaningful work can promote both personal autonomy and a sense of personal satisfaction that issues from making oneself useful. Further still, work bears a formative influence on character and intelligence and provides a primary avenue for exercising complex skills and garnering esteem and recognition from others. The author defends a pluralistic account of meaningful work, identifying four primary dimension of meaningful work: (1) developing or exercising the worker’s capabilities, especially insofar as this expression meets with recognition and esteem; (2) supporting virtues; (3) providing a purpose, and especially producing something of enduring value; and (4) integrating elements of a worker’s life. In light of the impact that work has on flourishing, the author argues that well-ordered societies provide opportunities for meaningful work and that the philosophical view of value pluralism, which casts work as having no special significance in an individual’s life, is false. The book also addresses oppressive work that undermines human flourishing, examining potential solutions to minimize the impact of bad work on those who perform it.
Comment (from this Blueprint): Veltman's text can be used first, to introduce students to the concept of meaningful work and philosophical analysis of its core characteristics; and second, to facilitate discussion on the importance of meaningful work in society, such as discussion about what types of activities counts as meaningful work, whether all people should have access to it, or what role the state plays in providing it, etc.