A Timely Idea: Working Citizens
How interesting, when one thinks about it, how we in the West have separated the spheres of working and the sphere of citizenship. For much of the Classical tradition, only those who had leisure time had time for civic engagement. For most of the modern period, commercial or property relations, not civic relations, have defined relationships at work. That may seem quite natural to many, since they have accepted this design as the way things are. The problem, however, is that if the design of work is to be adequate for our current global issues, we need civic conversations in many different spheres, including the worlds of work, to create the new social designs our time demands of us.
A few years ago, after working for around 20 years in the field of business and organizational ethics, I asked myself who I am in doing this work. Before this question, I said that I was a teacher, consultant, and writer. But these labels didn’t give me a clear perspective from which to approach what I was doing. I decided to identity myself in my work as a citizen—a member of the civic—a realm that included everyone and rested on the moral claims of inclusion and moral equality. In 2005, I wrote Corporate Integrity from this perspective. “What must corporations do to have integrity from a civic perspective?” Later, in Civilizing the Economy, the civic served as the platform for framing an economics of provision.
There are many types of work, of course, from care-work to marketing-work. My question is how would these working practices change if we did them as citizens. What would happen, in other words, if we saw our civic identity not as something outside the work we do, but rather as the perspective from which we do it? Is it possible, in other words, to be a working citizen?