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Day 2:00pm-3:00pm3:15pm-4:30pm4:45pm-5:45pm6:00pm-7:00pm
Wed 2 June

Comments by:
**Opening remarks 3:00-3:15 pmDebra Satz

Samuel Freeman
Sabine Tsuruda

Daniel Markovits
Grant Rozeboom

Gopal Sreenivasan
Thu 3 June

Comments by:
Iñigo González-Ricoy

Lisa Herzog
Nico Cornell

Mitch Berman
Michael Cholbi

Alexander Motchoulski
Pierre-Yves Néron

Véronique Munoz-Dardé
Fri 4 June

Comments by:
Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen
Erin Beeghly
Clara Lingle

Rahul Kumar
David Silver

Amy Sepinwall
Sat 5 June

Comments by:
Julian Jonker

RJ Leland
Nien-hê Hsieh

Andreas Schmidt
Brian Berkey

Han van Wietmarschen
Niko Kolodny (Keynote)

Jed Lewinsohn


Debra Satz, “The case for democratizing work: why labor is not just another commodity”: Human beings show a disconcerting penchant for hierarchical forms of organization: witness popular support for authoritarian rulers as well as the multitude of civic associations with hierarchical organization (e.g., religious, military, many NGOs). Firms and businesses are typically organized in an extremely hierarchical manner, with little or no worker input into decisions. While philosophers have spent a great deal of time making and exploring the case for democracy in the political sphere, there is far less attention to the issue of democracy (or its lack) in the economic sphere. To give one obvious example, the great theorist of democratic equality John Rawls mentions the existence of managerial hierarchy only in passing. A “parallel cases” argument popularized by Michael Walzer and Robert Dahl, argues that the same case for democracy in the political realm supports democracy in the economic realm. This talk explores another response to problems with limiting democracy to the political sphere: what might be called the “mutual support” argument, looking at the ways that labor markets and labor organization can affect human capacities with implications for political democracy.

Iñigo González-Ricoy, “Self-employment and independence”: One in seven workers in wealthy countries and half of the global workforce are self-employed. Yet contemporary philosophizing about work has neglected self-employment. This neglect is particularly puzzling when it comes to republican and relational views of work, at the core of which is the value of independence. For independence from a boss is precisely what self-employment seeks to deliver. I here inspect the link between self-employment and independence and ask whether it yields pro tanto reasons to protect and to promote self-employment. I first map the ways independence has been conceived of in recent relational egalitarian thought and distinguish instrumentalist and intrinsic views of its value. On the intrinsic view, dependence on others’ will is objectionable as such, and self-employment is valuable as it involves independence from managerial authority. But the view, I argue, is contentious. For if dependence on others is objectionable as such, then relations of dependence in the family, the school, or the state are also, implausibly, ex hypothesi objectionable. On the instrumentalist view, by contrast, what is objectionable is dependence on abusive management, which may be vertical or horizontal. Vertical dependence is dependence on alien authority, which employers wield over staff and self-employment tackles by removing managerial authority altogether. But things get more complicated, I argue, when we factor in horizontal forms of dependence on suppliers and customers. And more so when we consider how self-employment may affect employees– employees in general, who may be liable to more objectionable forms of dependence on their bosses due to competition from self-employed (and in particular gig) workers, and employees that the self-employed may hire in particular, whose dependence on their self-employed bosses, given that small firms are more prone to abuse, may be greater than that of employees working for larger firms.

Clara Lingle, “Scanlon on status inequality”: Meritocracy is a system for the distribution of finite goods, and particularly for the distribution of jobs: it distributes these goods competitively, on grounds of merit alone. This chapter argues, against Scanlon, that meritocracy can create objectionable differences in status. That is because some meritocratic social arrangements are needlessly competitive with respect to the positions they allocate i.e. they allocate one position to one qualified individual when they could just as well allocate two or more positions to two or more qualified individuals. Those shut out by such systems have reason to resent this, precisely because there are equally good alternative arrangements that shut out fewer, equally qualified competitors. Needlessly competitive meritocracy tends to mark out some as superior, giving rise to more or less widely held attitudes that they are more entitled to certain goods or more suitable for valued forms of personal relationship. In contrast, Scanlon believes the differences in status arising from meritocratic procedures are only ever apparently objectionable, since complaints about such differences characteristically arise when we value accomplishments in the wrong way. But a more substantive account of status makes clear that not all such complaints must be based on evaluative error, but may instead be objections to the distribution of social inequalities. This kind of complaint is presaged by Rousseau, who holds that the social conditions in which one finds oneself may lead to inflamed amour-propre, if and when those conditions are such that one cannot achieve adequate standing in the eyes of others.

David Silver, “Hobby Lobby and the moral relationship between employers and employees”: This chapter considers the Hobby Lobby case, in which a closely-held corporation whose shareholders shared the religiously-informed belief that certain forms of contraception involved the wrongful killing of human life sued to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to offer these forms of contraception within the health insurance plan they offered to their employees. The chapter explores two different ways of thinking about the ethically appropriate way to address the interests of Hobby Lobby’s shareholders to not pay for health care plans they find morally objectionable. One way holds that laws should be structured in a way that affords the greatest liberties that can be shared by all. The second way of thinking looks to employees’ interest in being recognized both by their fellow citizens (through the law), and by their employers (through how they relate to them) as persons fully capable and entitled to govern their own lives, including in how they make reproductive choices and in how they morally assess various forms of contraception. The idea here is that a recognition of the employers’ interests in not being tainted by paying for objectionable health insurance coverage clashes with employees’ interests in being recognized as autonomous persons in charge of their own lives and own moral beliefs.

Sabine Tsuruda, “Cooperative Production: This paper advances a liberal ideal of cooperative production according to which working as equals requires implementing both substantive and procedural elements of democracy in the workplace.  Substantively, ensuring that employment is not subordinating requires that employers accommodate our needs and interests as moral agents.  Procedurally, employee co-management rights can help ensure that although we labor for others, it is an expression of our free agency.  Unilateral changes to the purposes of our labor, the identity of our managers, and other material aspects of our jobs can vitiate our initial consent to work.  Workplace democracy thus helps to ensure that the very interests that make consenting to an employment relationship so important are not undermined by the relationship itself.

Nicolas Cornell, “Exploitation”:

Michael Cholbi, “Justice in human capital”: What does justice require with regard both to contributions to human capital and distributions from human capital? From the standpoint of the traditional Friedman-inspired theory of firms’ obligations, the answer is straightforward: firms should try to minimise their human capital contributions and maximise their distributions. Nevertheless, recent sociopolitical developments illustrate the moral limitations of the traditional approach. For firms, particularly those in the corporate sector, appear increasingly willing to use the instruments of law and policy to offload the costs of human capital development onto others while hoarding its benefits. The resulting state of affairs is, intuitively, unjust. This chapter offers a complex diagnosis of the extant injustice in the development and allocation of human capital, one wherein the injustice sits at the nexus of mutually reinforcing distributive and relational facts. Distributively speaking, the present state of affairs runs afoul of what we might call a fair shares approach to human capital development and allocation. As an approximation, an allocation of burdens and benefits in human capital is fair just in case it satisfies a variant of Dworkin’s envy test i.e. if, under that distribution, no one prefers another’s bundle of benefits and burdens. Some reasons influencing individuals’ preferences are straightforwardly distributive: individuals have reason to want a just share of the rewards of a cooperative scheme organised for mutual benefit. Other reasons that inform the preferences shaping the results of the envy test have a decidedly relational cast though.

Julian Jonker, “The workplace as a political institution”: Our normative understanding of the workplace is torn between two competing conceptions. The voluntarist conception views the workplace as constituted by contractual relations between private firms and private individuals. Opposed to this is an institutional conception which views the workplace as a shared condition that shapes individuals more than it is shaped by them. Individuals escape this general condition as a matter of exception rather than entirely free choice, and its regulatory contours determine important aspects of social life and social outcomes beyond the workplace. This institutional picture recommends that the workplace be constrained in the same way that other political institutions are constrained by liberal egalitarian theory, that is, by a requirement of public justification: workplace measures that are coercive in effect must be justified by reasons that can be shared by all reasonable members of society, even though they have divergent comprehensive conceptions of the good. Liberal egalitarian arguments also recommend that institutions which shape outcomes relevant to justice have, as an ensemble, primary responsibility for maintaining background justice. The approach recommends constraints that are potentially asymmetric in their impact upon employers and employees, but the chapter shows that these asymmetric constraints are not in conflict with the ideal that individuals relate to each other as equals, when the ideal is properly understood.

Grant Rozeboom, “Good enough for equality”: The ideal of relating as equals is, in part, an ideal of virtue – the attitudes and dispositions that support social relations of equality. These are standardly taken to involve accepting the Equal Authority of all persons, giving all persons Equal Consideration, and treating the interests of all persons as having Equal Importance. What unifies and grounds these three elements of relational egalitarian virtue? My aim is to provide an answer to this question focused on adult autonomy, using the workplace as an apt setting for exploring the resulting conception of relational egalitarian virtue and its opposing vices. I first consider and reject Samuel Scheffler’s interest-focused conception of relational egalitarian virtue, which treats Equal Importance as central. Scheffler’ s view allows for paternalistic attitudes that are incompatible with social relations of equality. I then develop my autonomy-focused view which treats Equal Authority as central, what I call the “Authority-Centered Relational Egalitarian” virtue (ACRE). ACRE avoids the paternalistic implications of Scheffler’s interest-focused virtue. I conclude by exploring the implications of ACRE for workplaces: (i) I show how to derive structural prescriptions from ACRE about the kinds of policies and legal protections that support sustaining and enacting it within workplace settings, (ii) I explain some of the specific virtues managers must maintain in order to realize ACRE in exercising organizational authority over their employees, and, finally, (iii) I consider what sorts of managerial vices directly oppose ACRE. I focus specifically on the vice of managerial entitlement, which disposes managers to ignore and flout the equal moral standing of their employees and thus undermines Equal Authority.

Brian Berkey, “Relational egalitarianism, institutionalism, and workplace hierarchy”: Most relational egalitarians believe that certain kinds of hierarchical authority structures, including many of those widely found within firms, are not necessarily incompatible with achieving relational equality. The conditions that must be met in order for those at different levels of a hierarchy to relate to each other as equals, however, are plausibly quite demanding. Many political philosophers, including many relational egalitarians, also accept some version of Rawlsian Institutionalism i.e. that the principles of justice apply to the institutions of the basic structure of society, but do not apply directly to the conduct of individuals and private associations such as firms. But Relational Egalitarianism, Institutionalism, and the view that firms should be legally permitted to be structured in familiar hierarchical ways are mutually incompatible. This chapter argues that the best response to the incompatibility is to reject Institutionalism, and accept that private actors, including individuals contributing to the determination of firm policy, and perhaps firms themselves, can be obligated as a matter of justice to promote the realization of egalitarian relations among firm members. There are a range of things that firms, and individuals toward the top of their hierarchies, could do to advance relational equality in a hierarchical workplace. For example, they could support policies that provide all employees with robust opportunities to suggest changes to firm policy, and promote and comply with norms that encourage engaging with suggestions in a serious and open-minded way. A second example is that those higher in the hierarchy could support a policy that aims to limit pay inequalities among employees across the firm. This is important because large pay inequalities that align with inequalities in authority within a firm are especially likely to generate inegalitarian relations among members. In fact, this is one  problem that cannot be resolved by a progressive taxation scheme that limits post-tax inequalities, but must (like other such problems) be addressed internally within the firm.

Pierre-Yves Neron, “Seeing like a firm: working as equals and the challenge of conservatism”: In order to think about the prospects of building more egalitarian workplace relationships,  we need to think about the opposite. We need to take seriously conceptions of the firm that mock the relevance of social equality and focus on the importance of workplace hierarchies. Utilitarian and libertarian views are usually taken to supply such conceptions, but this chapter suggests that conservatism is the proper foil for relational egalitarianism. While libertarians talk of the voluntariness of contracts and exchanges in hierarchical firms, and utilitarians talk of the advantages that accrue to the parties of these exchanges, conservatives tell an importantly different and more deeply inegalitarian story. For conservatives, hierarchical firms represent fortresses against the erosion of a conservative social order. They are, to use Corey Robin’ account of conservatism, private regimes of power and the institutionalization of hierarchies. Contrary to egalitarians, who try to impose constraints on hierarchies and authority, conservatives see hierarchical structures within firms as reflecting a conservative social order. And while egalitarians look skeptically at “self-made man” stories about economic success, preferring instead that economic success be paired with modest attitudes, conservatives will have less hesitation to tell such stories about business elites. The valorization of hierarchies, strong forms of authority and leadership, and various forms of elitism, all of which is very common in the business world, reflects a social order that conservatives appreciate and defend. Using recent works on relational egalitarianism and expressive theories of institutions, the chapter argues that “seeing like a firm” means looking at the world with a deeply conservative lens.

Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, “Workplace discrimination, relational equality, and the comparative view”: It is often, though not universally, assumed that if an employer discriminates against an employee, then the employer treats this person worse than other employees who belong to the relevant complementary group, e.g., if an employer discriminates against a female employee in relation to promotions, then there are male employees and the employer is, say, more disposed to promote them than to promote female employees. Call this the comparative view. One important upshot of the comparative view is that, almost by definition, work place discrimination clashes with the ideal of people relating to one another as equals. Unfortunately, the comparative view is vulnerable to several challenges. First, in some cases there are no individuals belonging to the relevant complementary group, whom the employer treats worse. This challenge can be met by moving to a revised comparative view that uses a counterfactual version of the comparative test. Second, even if we could come up with a plausible account of which counterfactual test the revised comparative view directs us to apply, there is a further challenge that the use of such a counterfactual test gives rise to a misdiagnosis of the kind of discrimination that is at stake. Third, some philosophers argue that the correct judgments are presented by a counterfactual test that compares how the same individual is treated in different possible worlds, not, as implied by the revised comparative view, a comparison of how different individuals are treated relative to one another. This chapter defends the claim that the revised comparative view can be amended and supplemented in non-ad hoc ways such that it is immune to all of the three above-mentioned challenges, while retaining its appeal. An upshot of the defense is that we can retain the view that workplace discrimination, like other forms of discrimination, is incompatible with the ideal of a society in which people relate to one another as equals.

Nien-he Hsieh, “What is special about work?”: Liberal egalitarianism has often been characterized as having little to say about the organization of work at the level of firms. With respect to economic activity, it has been said, what matters are macro-level considerations, such as equality of economic opportunity, effective regulation, and policies formulated by a well-functioning democracy. If these macro-level considerations are met, then justice has little to say about the organization of work itself. An emphasis on relational equality opens a path for liberal egalitarians to say more about the organization of work itself. In identifying how hierarchical workplace arrangements undermine equal standing, the emphasis on relational equality argues for alternative arrangements, including worker cooperatives and worker participation in the management and governance of firms. But a worry about this line of argument for alternative workplace arrangements is whether the relational egalitarian critique extends to economic relations in general, such as that between buyers and sellers or between firms and local communities. If so, there is a sense in which liberal egalitarianism still has little to say about the organization of work itself because the relational egalitarian critique applies to all areas of economic activity. In response, I explore the ways in which work remains distinct as an area of concern for relational egalitarians. In doing so, I extend the relational egalitarian critique of hierarchical workplace arrangements to three areas that are related to work, but that fall outside the boundaries of firms. The first is the gig economy in which workers are not employed within firms. The second is work that takes place within households and caring relationships outside of the formal economy. The third area related to work concerns the distribution of the ownership of the means of production.