Semester of Graduation
Master of Arts (MA)
Productive labor is often treated as a means for various ends—for money, leisure, play, etc. This essay argues that work, depending its scale and its relation to community, can be worth doing for its own sake—as an end in itself. Meaningful work is meaning-investing activity. In small-scale production, which involves an intimate relation with the material and an application of practical skill, the producers can invest products with higher-order meaning, imbuing upon them their personhood by which they manifest themselves in public for recognition as persons qua workers and for the judgment of others concerning the goodness of the product. The qualities of the product (viz., thought embodied as functional and aesthetic qualities) are the reasons offered to another on behalf of their productive activity. The recognition of the qualities as reasons recognizes the producer’s personhood (for reasons are offered only between persons) and thereby affirms that the activity was worth doing for its own sake. But this is not sufficient for the perfection of work. Producers also crave judgment from the community on the goodness of the product. In confirming the goodness of the product in judgment, the community (which must also be small in scale) perfects the work for the worker.
Wolfe, Stephen Michael, "Small-Scale Production and Meaningful Work: Toward a Community of Gift and Craft" (2019). LSU Master's Theses. 4990.