Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Just Work, Russel Muirhead

In an interview with Mallory Stark, HBS Working Knowledge, Russel Muirhead says..

That we should avoid work to which we are ill suited, that we should not be miscast in one of our life's main activities or stuck serving purposes we cannot embrace, is of obvious importance. In this respect, the concept of fit addresses the basic question "Why is it right that I am doing this?" This is a personal question, though not a trivial one, as it reflects an understanding of both who we are and what we deserve. Its answer hinges on an understanding of how we might fit our work. In one sense, work is a good fit when it calls on the aptitudes and talents through which we can best contribute to society (or the market). When our abilities are aligned with the tasks or jobs society needs performed, work fits. This "social fit," between individual aptitudes and the tasks society generates, is necessary if people are to be moderately successful and societies efficient and productive.

But this is only part of what the idea of fit involves. Even when we are able to do our work well, we might still find that the work fails to engage our interests, purposes, and most distinctive capacities. To map our aptitudes onto social needs is one thing; to find work fulfilling is another. A "personal fit" with work, where work contributes to our own development and expression, may elude us even when we fit our work from a social perspective. The difficulty of combining social fit with personal fit reflects a provocative question at the heart of justice: Can we each get our due while at the same time contributing to the common good? When some do work that fits them badly yet contributes to socially important ends, another version of this question surfaces: Why ought some be constrained so that others or the whole may thrive? At the other extreme is an ideal of fit with work "where love and need are one."2 According to this ideal, work is aligned with our purposes or good development; it engages us in the service of ends we endorse, expresses something of who we are, or develops our powers in ways we experience as good.

HBS Working Knowledge: Organizations: Is Your Job Just Work?
Just Work,Russel Muirhead

from book publishers review

This elegant essay on the justice of work focuses on the fit between who we are and the kind of work we do. Russell Muirhead shows how the common hope for work that fulfills us involves more than personal interest; it also points to larger understandings of a just society. We are defined in part by the jobs we hold, and Muirhead has something important to say about the partial satisfactions of the working life, and the increasingly urgent need to balance the claims of work against those of family and community.

Against the tendency to think of work exclusively in contractual terms, Muirhead focuses on the importance of work to our sense of a life well lived. Our notions of freedom and fairness are incomplete, he argues, without due consideration of how we fit the work we do.


Post a Comment

<< Home