Axel Honneth

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Bernard E. Harcourt | On Axel Honneth and the Democratization of Work

In his new book on the democratization of labor, *The Working Sovereign*, Axel Honneth takes a realist and pragmatist approach, advocating both for alternative democratic changes to the organization of labor and reforms to capitalist labor structures. It is a formidable intervention; but does Honneth’s account adequately take into account that the valuing of labor was itself a motivated project: labor became an object of value—whether in the work of Locke, or the early Protestant work ethic, or Hegel—driven or inspired by a deliberate (though perhaps not fully articulated or conscious) effort to make work appear valuable to laborers. Labor was transformed or shaped into a valuable performance in these philosophical interventions. But these philosophical constructions may be illusions, fabricated ways of trying to convince workers of the importance of their work as a way to reproduce more workers. If we look at it from this instrumental perspective, then the question that would arise is: What work are those philosophical discourses doing? And why might it be important to look at the work that they were doing? [To continue, read here….]