A MacIntyrean Philosophy of Work
This thesis outlines and defends a MacIntyrean account of contemporary work. MacIntyre's virtue ethics seems to entail a wholesale rejection of the modern order; throughout his writings MacIntyre is highly critical of capitalism, large-scale modern institutions, management, regulation, and indeed of our whole 'emotivistic' culture (as he sees it) which he regards as being inimical to our potential to virtuously flourish. MacIntyre's mature period, from After Virtue (2007, originally published 1981) contains much that is relevant to a philosophy of work. I will develop and update MacIntyre's own arguments and I will also argue that contemporary working life can be more MacIntyrean than MacIntyre himself realises. Because both work as a topic, and the relevant parts of MacIntyre's writings are extremely diverse, my strategy will be to examine the different key elements of a MacIntyrean philosophy of work without decontextualising the key notions of practices, virtues and institutions from MacIntyre's wider moral philosophy. I will argue that MacIntyre's key concept of a practice, the first stage in his definition of a virtue, is able to account for productive activities and can survive a variety of challenges. We are best able to make sense of the notion of the narrative unity of a whole life, the second stage in MacIntyre's definition of a virtue, if we distinguish between lived-narratives and the told-narratives that best allow us to understand our lives. Despite his broad endorsement of Marx's critique of capitalism, a MacIntyrean account of work differs from Marx's theory of alienation. I will argue that a fully MacIntyrean workplace will be small-scale, will not pressurise employees to identify with compartmentalised roles, and will allow trust to flourish. However, because MacIntyre overstates the extent to which people accept the definitions of ‘success’ that are dominant within modernity, he is unable to see the extent to which MacIntyrean communities can survive the threats posed by contemporary corporations. Another element of MacIntyre's account of work which needs modification is his critique of the character of the manager, and I will offer an emendation of this in order to make it applicable to contemporary forms of management. Finally I show that distinctively modern phenomena of workplace governance and regulation can serve MacIntyrean ends and can allow us to codify broadly MacIntyrean workplace initiatives. However, because of the deep context-sensitivity of the key MacIntyrean notions: practices, narrative-unity, and communities, such measures resist detailed and explicit formulation. My aim is to defend MacIntyre, to deepen our understanding of what a MacIntyrean philosophy of work entails, and to show that and how good work exists even within modernity.