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Albin, Einat. Universalising the Right to Work of Persons with Disabilities: An Equality and Dignity Based Approach
2015, In Virginia Mantavalou (ed.), The Right to Work: Legal and Philosophical Perspectives. Bloomsbury
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
Abstract: Rarely do labour law theories draw on disability studies. However, with the growing acceptance that both disability and labour are human rights issues that are concerned with dignity and equality, and that both fields of study tempt to address the social context of disadvantage, an opportunity emerges to bring the two discourses together. In this chapter, I take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the right to work. The interest lies in the new and crucially important direction that Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (hereafter the CRPD or the Convention) has taken. Article 27, the latest international human rights instrument that has been adopted regarding the right to work, offers what I consider to be an innovative and welcome approach towards this right, while addressing some of the main concerns that were raised in the literature regarding the right to work as adopted in other international human rights documents and implemented in practice.

Comment: This text presents several interesting arguments regarding the right to work of persons with disabilities and its relationship with a universal right to work. It can be used, first, to engage students with literature at the intersection of critical disability theory and philosophy of work; and second, to further discuss philosophical questions concerning who should have access to good work and why.

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Estlund, Cynthia. Working Together: Crossing Color Lines at Work
2005, Labor History. 46 (1):79-98
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
Abstract: Amidst signs of declining social capital, the typical workplace is a hotbed of sociability and cooperation. And in a still-segregated society, the workplace is where adults are most likely to interact across color lines. The convergence of close interaction and some racial diversity makes the workplace a crucial institution within a diverse democratic society. Paradoxically, the involuntariness of workplace associations—the compulsion of economic necessity, of managerial authority, and of law—helps to facilitate constructive interaction among diverse co-workers. Where racial diversity is a fact of organizational life (and the law can help to make it so), then employers and workers have their own powerful reasons—psychological and economic—to make those relationships constructive, even amicable. I contend here that it is where we are compelled to get along, and not where we choose to do so, that we can best advance the project of racial integration.

Comment: This text raises interesting questions about the relationship between diverse workplaces and democratic practices, and in particular, makes an interesting argument about the implications for racial integration. It can therefore be used to prompt students to think generally about democratic political structures, citizenship, and equality, while also encouraging discussion in particular about the role that work plays in promoting good civic practices.

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Herzog, Lisa. Reclaiming the System: Moral Responsibility, Divided Labour, and the Role of Organizations in Society
2018, Oxford University Press
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
Publisher’s Note: The world of wage labour seems to have become a soulless machine, an engine of social and environmental destruction. Employees seem to be nothing but ‘cogs’ in this system—but is this true? Located at the intersection of political theory, moral philosophy, and business ethics, this book questions the picture of the world of work as a ‘system’. Hierarchical organizations, both in the public and in the private sphere, have specific features of their own. This does not mean, however, that they cannot leave room for moral responsibility, and maybe even human flourishing. Drawing on detailed empirical case studies, Lisa Herzog analyses the nature of organizations from a normative perspective: their rule-bound character, the ways in which they deal with divided knowledge, and organizational cultures and their relation to morality. She asks how individual agency and organizational structures would have to mesh to avoid common moral pitfalls. She develops the notion of ‘transformational agency’, which refers to a critical, creative way of engaging with one’s organizational role while remaining committed to basic moral norms. The last part zooms out to the political and institutional changes that would be required to re-embed organizations into a just society. Whether we submit to ‘the system’ or try to reclaim it, Herzog argues, is a question of eminent political importance in our globalized world.

Comment: This text, an introduction to a longer work on organisational ethics, proposes and discusses novel arguments about the nature of organisations, and organisational spaces, as moral entities. By challenging long held common sense assumptions that corporate organisations are 'amoral' or outside the scope of human morality, Herzog offers an alternate view. It is therefore useful as a way to examine and discuss alternate visions of organisational structure and the role that human beings play as moral agents within those structures.

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Weeks, Kathi. The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries
2011, Duke University Press
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
Publisher’s Note: In The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks boldly challenges the presupposition that work, or waged labor, is inherently a social and political good. While progressive political movements, including the Marxist and feminist movements, have fought for equal pay, better work conditions, and the recognition of unpaid work as a valued form of labor, even they have tended to accept work as a naturalized or inevitable activity. Weeks argues that in taking work as a given, we have “depoliticized” it, or removed it from the realm of political critique. Employment is now largely privatized, and work-based activism in the United States has atrophied. We have accepted waged work as the primary mechanism for income distribution, as an ethical obligation, and as a means of defining ourselves and others as social and political subjects. Taking up Marxist and feminist critiques, Weeks proposes a postwork society that would allow people to be productive and creative rather than relentlessly bound to the employment relation. Work, she contends, is a legitimate, even crucial, subject for political theory.

Comment: This text serves as an excellent introduction and comprehensive overview of contemporary philosophical critiques of work, as one of the central texts in the literature on anti-capitalist and post-capitalist critiques of work. Although a sociologist by profession, many of the author's questions and arguments are, at their core, philosophical. Therefore, she serves as a good starting point for any broad examination of existing systems and structures of work, and for encouraging creative discussion about alternate visions.

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