In Philosophy for Business Ethic

Guglielmo Faldetta, Edoardo Mollona & Massimiliano M. Pellegrini (eds).



This chapter aims to describe the relationship between work and technology in light of three philosophers’ perspectives, namely Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Alasdair MacIntyre. Although mostly considered intellectual antagonists, Smith and Marx’s approaches to human activity share a focus on its external dimension. From a Smithian perspective, strongly rooted in individualism, even when workers’ moral development is desirable for the firm, it is not its main responsibility, and if the firm causes any moral damage to employees based on the use of technology, the public authority, not the firm itself, must step in to amend it. Marx refuses Smith’s proposal in a critical manner, providing the principle of technological determinism, that is, the idea that technology always inflicts damage on employees no matter the way technology is organized within the firm. Because of their reductionist anthropological assumptions, both Smith and Marx failed to give a sustainable and realistic account of the meaning of work and its contribution to individual flourishing and the common good. We will analyze their understandings of the work-technology matter in light of the thought of Alasdair MacIntyre, a prominent critic of both Marx and Smith. By rehabilitating the idea of a practice, MacIntyre offers a more realistic and robust approach to understanding the way technology might affect work in terms of corruption, but also recognizes it as an opportunity for excellence in the modern corporation.