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Herzog, Lisa, Frauke Schmode. ‘But it’s your job!’ The moral status of jobs and the dilemma of occupational duties
2022, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, (Available Online)
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

Do individuals have moral duties to fulfil all the demands of their jobs? In this paper, we discuss how to understand such ‘occupational duties’ and their normative bases, with a specific focus on duties that go beyond contractually agreed upon duties. Against views that reduce occupational duties to contractual duties, we argue that they often have greater moral weight, based on skills, roles, and the duty of social cooperation. We discuss what it would take to make sure that individuals are not unfairly overburdened by such occupational duties, distinguishing between choice conditions (voluntariness, availability of alternatives, full information) and conditions concerning the role and the social structures within which such duties are embedded (feasible role design, existence of support structures, employee voice). These conditions, however, are not fulfilled for many existing jobs, especially for jobs typically occupied by structurally disadvantaged groups such as women or ethnic minorities. This leads to a dilemma between the claims of those who depend on the occupational duties to be fulfilled, and the rights of those who hold these occupations and are unfairly overburdened. We conclude by arguing for the need for structural reform to dissolve this dilemma.

Comment: This paper explores important questions relating to duties within employment and has a wide range of implications for workplace justice. It offers an interesting discussion on the moral weight of such duties and connects the obligation to perform duties to the requirements of social cooperation, drawing on Kim Brownlee's 'moral roles thesis' and her work on conscience and conviction. It would therefore be useful in the context of philosophical courses on a handful of broader subjects, including but not limited to social justice, feminist ethics, applied ethics, and philosophy of work, as well as some introductory contexts studying more traditional political philosophy on obligation and duty. (The article contains some technical language, and is an intermediate to advanced level of difficulty, so if used in intro contexts, might be limited to advanced students or suggested as further reading for students who are working on specific projects/papers.)

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