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Veltman, Andrea. Is Meaningful Work Available to All People?
2015, Philosophy and Social Criticism 41 (7):725-747
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

In light of the impact of work on human flourishing, an intractable problem for political theorists concerns the distribution of meaningful work in a community of moral equals. This article reviews a number of partial solutions that a well-ordered society could draw upon to provide equality of opportunity for eudemonistically meaningful work and to minimize the impact of bad work upon those who perform it. Even in view of these solutions, however, it is not likely that opportunities for meaningful work can be guaranteed for all people, which carries an implication that, even in well-ordered societies, it is likely that not all people will flourish. The author argues that the limitedness of meaningful work is not a reason to reject the normative claim that meaningful work is integral in flourishing, nor is it a reason against working to transform social and political institutions to increase opportunities for meaningful work.

Comment: This paper highlights the central importance, for an equal society, of answering questions about distribution of meaningful work, and more specifically, whether it is even possible for all people in such a society to have some access to it. It addresses the normative challenges that arise when thinking about routine, or as the author describes, 'eudaimonistically meaningless' work in a society in which the flourishing of any member is presumed to be equal in importance and value to that of any other member. As such, this article would be useful as a secondary or supplementary reading when examining the topics of labor distribution, divisions of labor, meaningful work and work as a finite good, as well as courses that more generally cover topics in political theory, justice and fairness, critiques of capitalism, and socialist philosophy. In this text, Veltman surveys an wide array of the philosophical and adjacent literatures on meaningful work and work distribution, and as such, may also be a useful resource for getting a broad sense contemporary academic discussion on these topics.

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