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Work and totality: A dialectical approach to the future of work narrative

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Our current confluence of global crises points to the very real possibility of systems collapse. These crises will continue to accelerate under capitalism due to its inherent structural contradictions. Capitalism's profit motive creates its insatiable need for perpetual growth, a growth only achieved through the exploitation of man and nature. Radical systems change is therefore required and only a collective agent can affect this change. While the working class has so far failed to live up to its potential as that collective agent, the human drive to work—to contribute to society and to express itself creatively—will continue to play a primary role in bringing about the required change. Drawing from the philosophical tradition of German Idealism and its progenitors, this thesis positions the future of work in a way that breaks with the current alienated and reified experience of capitalist labour and replaces it with a vision of work that is autonomous, democratic, and part of a collective praxis. It draws upon the thinking of G.W.F. Hegel to show the mediating role that work plays in both subjective recognition and the progress of consciousness. It also draws upon insights from Friedrich Schiller, Herbert Marcuse and Karl Marx to show how work is key to our very being—a form of being that expresses its essence through work. This thesis contrasts labour under capitalism with a normative, post-capitalist vision of work. In doing so it utilizes the critical insights of Georg Lukács and his interlocutors Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Lukács' concept of reification and his bourgeois antimonies, as well as Adorno's and Horkheimer's critique of the positivist worldview and instrumental reason are also brought to bear. Finally, Adorno's negative dialectics and his associated constellation approach are used in a combined methodological approach that examines key policy alternatives related to the future of work. Each policy option is judged upon its relative merits in terms of its ability to negate and replace the structural causes of our current state of crises. In doing so, this thesis presents a novel analytical tool for policy assessment.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Gandesha, Samir
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