The Desire to Work as an Adaptive Preference

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Abstract

Many economists and social theorists hypothesize that most societies could soon face a ‘post-work’ future, one in which employment and productive labor have a dramatically reduced place in human affairs. Given the centrality of employment to individual identity and its pivotal role as the primary provider of economic and other goods, transitioning to a ‘post-work’ future could prove traumatic and disorienting to many. Policymakers are thus likely to face the difficult choice of the extent to which they ought to satisfy individual citizens’ desires to work in a socioeconomic environment in which work is in permanent decline. Here I argue that policymakers confronting a post-work economy should discount, or at least consider problematic, the desire to work because it is very likely that this desire is an adaptive preference. An adaptive preference is a preference for some state of affairs within a limited set of options formed under unjust conditions. The widespread desire for work has been formed under unjust labor conditions to which individuals are compelled to submit in order to meet material and ethical needs. Furthermore, the prevalence of the ‘work dogma’ in contemporary societies precludes nearly all individuals from seeing alternatives to work as live options.

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Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

The Duty to Work.Michael Cholbi - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (5):1119-1133.
Work and Social Alienation.Chris Bousquet - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (1):133-158.
Philosophical Approaches to Work and Labor.Michael Cholbi - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Relational Sufficientarianism and Basic Income.Justin Tosi - 2019 - In Michael Cholbi & Michael Weber (eds.), The Future of Work, Technology, and Basic Income. New York: Routledge. pp. 49-61.

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Sour grapes: studies in the subversion of rationality.Jon Elster - 1983 - Paris: Editions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme.
Analyzing Oppression.Ann E. Cudd - 2006 - New York, US: Oup Usa.
Rationality and Freedom.Amartya Sen - 2005 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 67 (1):182-183.
Meaningful Work.Andrea Veltman - 2016 - New York, US: Oxford University Press USA.

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