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New Left Review I/10, July-August 1961

David Armstrong

Meaning in Work

This paper was originally read and discussed at a New Left Summer School

writing in Conviction two years ago, Iris Murdoch expressed the hope that “the Socialist movement should most explicitly bring back into the centre of its thinking its original great sources of inspiration and reflection: the problem of labour”. It is a matter of some concern that this hope has not as yet been adequately sustained. Indeed the only original contributions to the study of work or labour have come, on the whole, from intellectuals of the middle ground, erstwhile radicals, whose perception of what is wrong is seldom matched by any but the most fuzzy or irrelevant alternative solutions. On the Left the problems of control and participation have continued to excite attention, and at times have almost seemed to attain the status of a universal panacea. But until some attempt has been made to relate these problems, along with their accompanying solutions, to the underlying problem of work itself, there will always remain some suspicion of a possible irrelevance or lack of connection, some hint of hiding behind the slogans of a tradition which requires not rediscovery but reinterpretation.

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