From Alienation to Self-Realization: Pathologies of Late Modernity, Work, and the Successful Life
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The “promise of modernity”—the capacity of individuals to lead successful lives comes under severe strain in late modernity. Adopting a formal “appropriative” model of alienated labour which is responsive to individuals’ own conceptions of the good, desires, goals, ground projects, and needs, I identify two principal obstacles to the self-realization of late-modern subjects: (i) social pathologies, which, I argue, contemporary political philosophy is unable to adequately diagnose and (ii) the tyranny of work, which remains peripheral to modern political theory. Both of these factors impede the ability of subjects to establish successful relationships to others, to themselves, and to the world and hence their capacity to lead successful lives. After exploring these in some detail, I put forward four proposals aimed at recapturing the broken promise of modernity beyond the realm of necessity. After laying out the theoretical foundations of the alienation critique (Chapter 1), the dissertation is divided into chapters that follow its novel application across the four tasks of ethical critique: (i) symptomatology and (ii) aetiology (Chapter 2), (iii) diagnosis (Chapter 3), and (iv) prognosis/therapy (Chapters 4 and 5). Chapter 1 makes the case for the appropriative model of alienated labour as the most promising candidate for the alienation critique and the one best suited to overcome the difficulties that plague traditional accounts of alienation. Part II is concerned with the critical-diagnostic dimension of the alienation critique. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the “malaises” of late modernity and discusses the aetiology of these symptoms. Chapter 3 diagnoses three social pathologies missed by current theories of justice: pathologies of individual freedom, pathologies of de-synchronization, and pathologies of organized self-realization. Part III is concerned with the prescriptive dimensions of the alienation critique. Chapter 4 argues that the appropriative model issues in a call for the “refusal of work” which attempts to chart a course beyond the work-based society and its productivist values. Chapter 5 makes the case for four proposals that aim to provide late-modern subjects with a measure of security and stability, decommodify labour, and pave the way to the realm of freedom beyond the tyranny of work.