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The rise of the “private government”

I have always found it odd (read totally inconsistent) that people rail against government intervention as if it is a blight on our freedom, but ignore the ‘governance’ of workplaces by capital, who seek every way possible to destroy our freedom and initiative unless it is serving to advance their bottom line. We ignore the benefits of collective goods and laws that protect us, but turn a blind eye to the on-going, minute-by-minute, repression in the workplace. I was reminded of this again as I was reading a new book that came out in May 2017 – Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) – by American philosopher Elizabeth Anderson. She studies that way in which corporate America serves in effect as a “private government” minutely and vicariously controlling our daily working lives yet many of us still accept the construction that this is the ‘free market’ operating. It is when the word ‘free’ loses all meaning. I especially like her use of the term “private government” to reinforce the hypocrisy of the elites and the inconsistency of those (workers included) who call for small ‘government’ as if that is the exemplar of freedom.

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Employment as a human right

As I indicated earlier this week, I will progressively add notes to the body of work that will become the manuscript for my next book (with long-time co-author Joan Muysken) on the – Future of Work. As I write bits and pieces, I will post them here for comments and feedback. The book will be published sometime in 2018. At present, I am working on the philosophical considerations that we will deploy to underpin the more prescriptive elements (policy proposals) that we will produce. Today, I have been writing about the ethical basis for work. This is derived from work I did at the turn of the century. Part of the text today was written in collaboration with a former colleague John Burgess and the body of work we produced was subsequently published in several periodicals and book chapters around that time. However, the ideas sketched here were taken from parts of the papers that I mostly wrote although trying to decipher the exact division of labour is impossible. In that sense, I acknowledge the fruitful nature of my interaction with John at that time and the body of work we produced together.

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When Austrians ate dogs

You will notice a new ‘category’ on the right-side menu – Future of Work. It will collect all the blogs I write as part of the production of my next book (with long-time co-author Joan Muysken) on that topic. We aim to present a philosophical, theoretical and empirical analysis of a plethora of issues surrounding the role, meaning and future of work in a capitalist society. As I complete aspects of the research process I will produce the notes via blogs. Eventually, these notes, plus the input from Joan will be edited to produce a tight manuscript suitable for final publication. Today, I am discussing an important case study that needs to receive wider attention. Its lack of presence is in some part due to the fact that it was written up in German in 1930 and escaped attention of the English-speaking audience until it was translated in 1971. In selected social science circles this study provides classic principles that transcend the historical divide. The relevance of the study is that it provides a coherent case for those, like me, who argue that work has importance to societies well beyond its income-generating function. Humans need more than just income and in a society where work is considered normal time-use and frames the time we spend not working, it is an essential human right. Progressives who think that only income should be guaranteed by the state rather than work miss many essential aspects of the issue. The case study is important in that respect.

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