Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Jos de Beus Lecture 2019: Elizabeth Anderson

Jos de Beus Lecture 2019 by Prof. Elizabeth Anderson (Michigan)

Date & time: Friday 11 October 2019, 15.00-17.00 hrs.
Location: REC A1.03, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, Amsterdam
Entrance is free, registration not required.

“The Work Ethic: Its Origins, Legacy, and Future”

The work ethic was invented by Puritan ministers in the 17th century.  At the turn of the 20th century, sociologist Max Weber argued that it trapped workers in an “iron cage” of meaningless drudgery for the sake of interminable wealth accumulation.  In the 21st century, anarchist anthropologist David Graeber has condemned it for consigning workers to “bullshit jobs.”  They are only half right.  At its origins, the work ethic contained principles that could be, and were, developed in both pro-worker and reactionary directions.  This talk highlights the forgotten pro-worker history of the work ethic and considers its promise for today.  Puritan principles offer a surprisingly astute critique of contemporary neoliberal capitalism.

Professor Anderson is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies. She teaches courses in ethics, social and political philosophy, political economy, philosophy of the social sciences, and feminist theory. Her research focuses on democratic theory, equality in political philosophy and American law, racial integration, the ethical limits of markets, theories of value and rational choice (alternatives to consequentialism and economic theories of rational choice), the philosophies of John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, social epistemology, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. Professor Anderson is currently working on the history of egalitarianism, with a special focus on the social epistemology of moral learning, taking the history of abolitionism as a central case study.