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ANR funded project

Innovations (DS0801) 2014
Projet PhiCenTrav

Philosophical Approaches of the Centrality of Work

The assumption that our program will try to confirm is this one: the changes and 20 last years social innovations replaced work in the centre of the challenges of the social change. If the social change went towards a reinforcement of the autonomy of the actors of work, this profit was translated for these actors (positively) by new expectations of recognition in and by work, and (negatively) by the weakness of the individuals who do not have any more the nets of a hierarchical organization of work, so that they pain to face new expectations of autonomy with which they are confronted and to the height of which they are supposed to bring up themselves.

The topic of the end of the work, which dominated the debates in the years 1990, did not resist the increasing public attention whose evils of work were the subject in the years 2000: debates on flexibility and precariousness, the evaluation, the suffering with work and the suicides at work. One assisted these last years at the return of work as a subject of ethical and political major concern. But Philosophy generally remained away from this movement and the question of the centrality of work remained under theorized overall. The PhiCenTrav-Project aims to mitigate these gaps.

To speak about centrality of work amounts using a geometrical or physical metaphor to support that work is at the same time a reality and a central value in the individual and collective life. This metaphorical dimension could cause suspicions. However, these geometrical and physical metaphors have identifiable conceptual contents which can be clarified via the following reports:

1) work occupies a considerable place in our existences,
2) it influences the share of our existences which does not relate directly to work,
3) and it constitutes a normative challenge on the individual and collective plans, either directly because the activity of work and the institutions of the production define specific and decisive normative problems, or indirectly because the capacity to cultivate proper values with the life out-work depends itself on work.

There are thus three implicit theses in the idea of centrality of work. Firstly, work does not occupy a negligible place in the individual and collective fields (just as a centre is not simply a position among others in a figure). Secondly, the experiment of work and the institutions related to work produce effects on the experiments and the institutions not directly related to work (just as the centre of gravity of a body influences its movement). Thirdly, work constitutes a normative decisive challenge, as well moral as political.

A unified vision of work, which would make it possible to recognize its centrality, pains to emerge. To try to make commensurable various scientific prospects on work, to articulate them with fundamental concerns concerning work, to wonder on the epistemological validity of the first and the theoretical and political implications of the seconds, amounts engaging in a philosophical reflection on the centrality of work from the point of view of an epistemology of sciences of work and of a social and political philosophy of work. In return, such an approach results in wondering about the place which work occupied in the history of philosophy and on the reasons for which it ceased being the central subject which it was at least until the Fifties of the 20th century, to end up being reduced today to an under-problem of the philosophy of the technique or political philosophy.


CREPHAC - UNISTRA Centre de Recherches en Philosophie allemande et contemporaine (EA 2326)

IHPC (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon) Institut d'Histoire de la Pensée classique

SOPHIAPOL Sociologie, Philosophie et Socio-Anthropologie politiques (EA 3932)

ANR grant: 96 267 euros
Beginning and duration: octobre 2014 - 24 mois


ANR Programme: Innovations (DS0801) 2014

Project ID: ANR-14-CE31-0012

Project coordinator:
Monsieur Franck Fischbach (Centre de Recherches en Philosophie allemande et contemporaine (EA 2326))


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The project coordinator is the author of this abstract and is therefore responsible for the content of the summary. The ANR disclaims all responsibility in connection with its content.