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What is work?

Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University


This course will invite PhD students into a fundamental reconsideration of the nature of work. It will identify the ‘vulgar concept of work’, a conceptual model that maps the main coordinates of what has been generally assumed to be work. This vulgar concept identifies work in the immediate, intentional, instrumental purposive activity of a largely isolated individual. It is argued that this conception of work is historically and today inadequate to the realities of work and furthermore politically dangerous in that it desocialises and individualises work in a way that occludes the previous, ongoing and future work of others.This critical analysis leads to a reconstruction of the concept of work in a way that is more adequate to the nature of work. This renewed concept of work, while more adequate, threatens to unsettle a set of assumptions about action, agency, work and the worker, and therefore forms the grounds for proposals for radical social change.


Students who are not specialists in the history or sociology of work will gain deeper understanding of historical debates and contemporary cutting edge research and debates over the nature of work. Students specialising in the study of work and organisation will be invited to reconsider fundamental assumptions in their respective fields.

Students who are specialists in philosophy, social theory and political theory will see concrete social and economic application of some of the most significant developments in twentieth century continental philosophy and social theory, in particular regarding the critique of the subject, the theory of the other and ideas of transindividual agency.


The course will run over three days. Each day will treat the content that forms the basis of the three parts of the book that the course lecturer is currently completing. Thus:

Day One: (1) The vulgar concept of work, (2) the work of others, and (3) the theory of the other.

Day Two: (1) Rethinking work and agency outside limits of the individual, (2) the nature of things today, and (3) the political economy of contemporary capture of the commons.

Day Three: (1) Why it matters that workers differ from each other and from themselves over time, (2) the material conditions from which work arises, and (3) the politics of the work of others. 

Target group:

PhD candidates in philosophy and the history of ideas, sociology, economics, politics, management and organisation studies.




Lectures and group disucssion. A small set of readings will be provided in advance of the course which candidates will be asked to read in advance of the course in order to discuss during the session.




Associate Professor Campbell Jones, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dates and time:

31 January - 2 February 2018, 9:00-17:00.


Aarhus University, Katrinebjerg, Finlandsgade 21, building 5335, room 091, 8200 Aarhus N


Please apply for a spot via no later than 15 January 2018.


Course dates
31 January 2018 - 02 February 2018
Campbell Jones
Aarhus University, Finlandsgade 21
building 5335, room 091
Aarhus N
5 points

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