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The value of effort

Jenkins, David (2014) The value of effort. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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What is effort and why do we value it? This thesis examines various ways in which effort has been used to answer questions of distributive justice. I begin with effort’s role as the unique legitimate basis for justifying differences in the deserts people receive. This role focuses on either the burdens associated with effort, so that it is only when we try hard and suffer disutility that we deserve anything; or else it is because our effort is the only part of our person for which we can be held responsible. I then discuss the legitimacy of the demand for specifically productive reciprocal effort in light of a society’s institutional structure meeting certain thresholds of justice. I find problems with all three of these approaches because they miss important ways in which we use and understand effort in the course of our lives. I examine the uses to which we put effort, developing a more inductive approach which draws on a particular reading of the concept of burden developed in the first half of the thesis. What are the costs associated with trying hard to do something and why are they important to how our lives go? I then frame this by a particular account of a character I call the ‘craftsman’. This is someone who enjoys a particularly ‘costly’ way of living. The craftsman desires to achieve a depth in her life that is negatively affected by contemporary social and economic demands. Finally, I propose an unconditional basic income as a means to protect the craftsman and the agitator, an additional character identified in response to the discussion on reciprocity, who helps us collectively approach the thresholds identified in the third chapter.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 David Jenkins
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Phillips, Anne

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