Dejours on work

A predisposition to abstraction is one of the great legacies of the era of technical rationalism. In fact many cannot find their way out of it. Ask them to tell you about love and they will want a definition that starts with “What is love?”

They have got used to a world in which the way we talk about work is seen as the equivalent of doing it. ISO Standard descriptions of work are seen as sufficient to describe work. If you do the manual you are blameless…

Abstraction is a wonderful gift of the mind and a necessary tool in stepping up to the challenge of living well. But it gets misapplied, and we end up defining things that are inherently human as though there is no human present.

But “… those disciplines that operate with thin definitions of work, ignoring the subjective element, end up doing great injustice to the subjective demands of workers, notably by forcing reality to conform to the abstraction….” Deranty, What is Work 2009 p.82

This is what the work of Christophe Dejours sets out to redress. And for Just Knowledge, this is a key theme. How do we have conversations – the core technology of knowledge work – that are true to who we are as humans and aligned to the way our brains really work?

“Dejours manages to demonstrate that all work, including the most mechanical, is never reducible to poiesis or techne, that is, to an action are obeying pure instrumental rules, but always constitutes also a form of praxis, insofar as it involves the whole ethical character of the individual, relies on coordination and cooperation, and necessitates fundamental ethical norms, like trust and the symmetrical exchange of justifiable arguments (1998: 180)” Deranty 2009 p.84


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