WHAT IS WORKOSOPHY?
Workosophy is wisdom that pertains to work.
Wisdom is knowledge that is inwardly and socially beneficial.
The dimensions of work experience cannot be subsumed within one area of study or expertise. Economics tends to focus on trends in employment related to business cycles; Business and management attempt to optimize productivity and maximize profit; Political science explores equity, fairness, and the distribution of labor; Medicine looks at how illness and impairment impact an individual’s capacity to perform work and the relationship between work and health; Philosophy and the humanities pose useful questions about the meaning, purpose, and existential conditions that govern work.
Yet “work” is a sprawling and continually shifting dimension of experience that is integral to almost every individual human life and the continued health of any civilization. The most useful truths about work and its integral place in society transcend boundaries used to organize academic institutions, fields of study, or professional disciplines.
Workosophy seeks to:
- integrate and synthesize beneficial knowledge about work.
- facilitate thoughtful and beneficial deliberation about work.
Human survival– and civilization – is predicated on work. Hard work, along with the attitudes and behaviors that give rise to it, has been considered virtuous and has to this extent conferred dignity upon the worker. Work has also been the means by which an individual could not only improve his/her situation in life but also contribute to the furtherance of the larger community.
Such axioms have been assumed to reflect our reality since the dawn of civilization.
What has changed?
- The biosphere is being degraded to an extent that threatens mass extinction and our capacity to survive. The work that historically sustained civilization has become the means by which our life-support system is being destroyed.
- Human work, in general, is becoming less necessary, largely as a result of technological advances across occupational fields. Although the predominant concerns among those who have thought about the role of work in society have centered on improving workplace conditions and enhancing the personal experience of workers, an emerging concern resides in the potential irrelevance of work and workers.
- Our capacity to cooperate—to work together— is also diminishing. Work has been inextricably linked to group survival. Several salient social trends undermine our ability to cooperate to address threats, including the:
- Erosion of social trust;
- Proliferation of untruth;
- Relentless attack on expertise and sources of legitimate authority;
- Emergence of an extreme individualism untethered to the reality of our interdependence.
Each trend constitutes both a cause and an indication of our increasing inability to work together. Conversely, our capacity to constructively and creatively address such threats entails reimagining work itself. If future generations are to survive and prosper, we must advance our capacity to cooperate in the setting of forces that conspire to render cooperation – i.e., work – impossible.
What role will work have in our individual and collective futures? Can essential human purposes and needs be fulfilled in the absence of work? For work deemed to be necessary, how will it be systematized and distributed? How do we create attitudes and working conditions that are most beneficial to all stakeholders? How do we restore the vital connection between work, the flourishing of the individual, and the creation of a more just, sustainable, and equitable society? Are there activities that can replace work – but that can also provide the structure, cooperation, and social connection – that we have historically derived from work? How can we work together to reverse trends that threaten our capacity to survive?
The best ideas about work should inform any discussion about contemporary and future work. Many of the articles featured on this site are intended as introductions, or as ways to form foundational bases, for such discussions. Although some of the challenges we currently face are unprecedented, other problems – e.g. unemployment, lack of awareness regarding the proper role of work in mental health, feelings of alienation, and the growing sense that the work that we are being asked to perform is antithetical to human ends – have been with us for a while and have been pondered by some of the most formidable intellects in history. This site also aims to introduce the reader to some of these seminal ideas.