, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 27-45
Date: 23 Apr 2010

Employment as a Limitation on Self-Ownership

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All contemporary societies are structured around work. It could be said that work is the organizing principle of most people’s lives; it structures the way they encounter material and social reality as well as the way they achieve status and self-esteem. Generally speaking, a person must be employed in order to consider herself, and be considered, a responsible and respected member of the community. Work understood as employment constitutes a necessity for most people in this world. Although some people may enjoy their work, and achieve self-fulfillment and status, they still work to survive. Few human beings live in the proverbial Garden of Eden; most people have to work in order to make a living. Welfare-state assistance, for those physically and mentally able to work, is neither eternal nor unconditional.

This paper argues that the need to work violates effective self-ownership. For the sake of analytical clarity, I take a formalistic understanding of “work” as employment. (wage-base ...