work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

labour and legitimacy

05.24.2010 · Posted in Uncategorized

i’m happy to see my paper “reciprocity, recognition and labor value” published in the journal of social philosophy this spring.  i’ve written a first version back in 2001 when it was commonly understood that there is no more link between work and capitalism’s legitimacy. now that casino capitalism imploded (a bit) and the electorate is made up by “hard working families” once again i think i’ve recovered some plausibility here..

according to a number of anonymous reviewers the paper’s tendency is neoliberal/orthodoxmarxist/flimsily-postmodern.

here’s the abstract

Marx’s labor theory of value can be read, counter-intentionally but productively, as a moral anthropology of commodity exchange in capitalist societies. Using this theory as blueprint I will try to develop a moral grammar of capitalist market exchange involving notions of (qualitative) equality and (negative) freedom – both finding recognition through the allocation of (abstract) property as expression of (social) utility.  I will argue that exchanges in consumer and labor markets carry a presupposition of equitability and an acknowledgement of productive contribution, suggesting a web of balanced reciprocity and recognition. Yet, while this constitutes an implicit promise of justice and respect among free and equal market citizens, it is a promise that cannot be kept because of the inevitable inequality arising from capital accumulation. Against the background of that broken promise inequality and exclusion are also to be understood as structural misrecognition.

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