Examining legal and philosophical problems for a new social contract that is fair to workers
A Philosophical Inquiry
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Edmund F. Byrne
Many workers today feel that the longstanding social contract between government, business, and labor has been broken. This book examines legal and philosophical problems that must be addressed if there is to be a new social contract that is fair to workers. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, from the popular press to technical philosophy, Edmund F. Byrne brings into focus ethical issues involved in corporate decisions to reorganize, relocate, or automate. In assessing the human costs of these decisions, he shows why, to a worker, "corporations are not reducible to their assets and liabilities any more than a government is merely its annual budget. That they are organizations, that these organizations do things, and that they are socially responsible for what they do."
In support of this assignment of responsibility, Byrne seeks to demythologize corporate hegemony by confronting a variety of intellectual "dragons" that guard the gates of the status quo. These include legal assumptions about corporate personhood and commodification, private property and eminent domain; management ideas about the autonomous employee and profit without payrolls; technocratic dreams of a dehumanized workplace: ideological belief in progress and competition; and philosophical arguments for libertarian freedom, liberal welfare, and global justice.
Because of these and other mainstream perspectives, workers today are widely perceived, in law and in common parlance, to be isolated atoms. But, Byrne emphasizes, work. including work done for a transnational corporation, is done in a community. Since corporate leaders make decisions that have an impact on people’s lives and on communities, involvement in such decisions must be not only corporate or governmental but community-based as well.
"An important gathering of ideas and information on an extremely pertinent topic. Byrne's style and language are generally suitable for a non-academic audience, while his references and argument are thoroughly competent."
"An interesting, stimulating, and very readable book."
Part I: Worker and Community
2. Work and Play: The Obscurity of Obligation
3. Whose Work? Which Ethic?
4. Work and Welfare: A Crisis of Responsibility
Part II: Worker and Corporation
5. “Meaningful Work”: A Two-Edged Sword
6. Worker Organizations
7. Equal Opportunity Employment?
8. Automation: Laborsaving or Dehumanization?
Part III: Corporation and Community
9. Corporation and Community in American Law
10. The Ideology of Corporate Autonomy
11. Global Justice and Corporation-Community Relations
Edmund F. Byrne, Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University, Indianapolis, is the author of Philosophy of Work: A Study Guide and co-author of Human Being and Being Human.