U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Searching for Meaningful Work

I just received the fall 2012 issue of The Hedgehog Review* in the mail and it’s another beautiful piece of work. Its theme this time is “Work and Dignity,” and as such seems doubly or triply apt for readers of this blog: our own field is beset by the dearth of jobs (and has been for decades now) that afflicts so many in these hard times, so that many if not most must earn a living by other means, and even many of those who do land academic jobs encounter recent developments that threaten valued ideals and practices; an ongoing conversation here concerns the nature of the work we are, or think we are, doing; and the scholarship of so many of us addresses, to differing degrees, questions that are related to changing notions of work and its meaning. Presumably we choose this work because we find it meaningful, so as we explore recurring questions concerning why we do, it is helpful to read the reflections of those who have thought deeply about the connections between work and meaning.

Just a few highlights that might be of special interest here include: a conversation with Matthew Crawford, who has written so stirringly about craft as source of meaning in work and life, most famously in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work; Gene McCarraher’s delicious take on Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, with a response to him and the other contributors to this book forum, Juliet Schor and Eva Illouz; and a short but very sweet bibliographic essay on “Human Agency and the Ethics of Meaningful Work”; among other tidbits.


*[I’m honored to have been invited to join the advisory board of the Institute of Advanced Study in Culture, which publishes the journal.]