Axel Honneth and Bernard E. Harcourt


The Democratization of the Workplace

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Columbia University


In his writings on the democratization of labor, 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. In this work, Honneth traces the history of the conceptualization of labor since the birth of theories of the value of labor in modern political theory, noting that the concept of labor was not valued prior to the advent of modern political theory. Honneth shows how the concept of labor, as valuable, was first limited to the idea of an individual laboring on an object, which effectively marginalized agricultural labor and service work. He traces the history from Locke through Hegel and Marx, showing how the definition of labor crystallized around the model of industrial production and put aside other forms of care services and domestic labor. Honneth then shows how the concept evolved and enlarged, somewhat reluctantly, to include not only domestic labor of third parties in the home, such as housekeeping or health care assistance, but to include as well the work of homemakers, especially women in the unpaid economy of the family.

Honneth’s history of the concept of labor as a valuable performance is remarkable. It demonstrates well the different contours of the valued object: labor. Join us to discuss and relate Honneth’s argument to worker cooperatives and other forms of democratic cooperation.

Welcome to Coöperism 12/13!