Understanding Human Resource Development: A Research-Based Approach

By Jim McGoldrick; Jim Stewart et al. | Go to book overview

4

THE TOOLS OF FREEDOM AND THE SOURCES OF INDIGNITY

John Hamblett, Rick Holden and Denise Thursfield


Aims and contribution

This chapter is about science and morality. In his Preface to Reclaiming Reality, Bhaskar (1989) signals his intent to borrow Locke's (1959) notion of philosophy as under-labourer. The work of the under-labourer, we are told, is to clear 'the ground a little' and to remove 'some of the rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge' (ibid.). Bhaskar's aim is to use his philosophical under-labourings to aid the human sciences that they might 'illuminate and empower the project of human self-emancipation'. It is our aim, in turn, to use the work of Bhaskar (op. cit.) and others for the task of clearing away some of the obstacles that lie in the way to knowledge, understanding and human self-emancipation in the field of HRD.

A word that we will use often in what follows is 'praxis' (Roberts 1999). We use that concept as a term of art, as an expressive piece of shorthand employed to focus the reader's attention on a specific view of human agency. Through our usage, praxis is meant, first, to highlight both the theoretical and practical continuity of human productive activity, or labour. Second, it serves to define labour not merely as the 'key to understanding the determinations inherent in all forms of alienation', but also as the central activity in a 'practical strategy aimed at the actual suppression of capitalistic alienation' (Meszaros 1979:88). In a recent paper Panitch and Gindin (1999:13) have offered a concise exposition of this notion:

Ontologically work is a stand-in for the specifically human capacity to conceive of that which does not exist and then to effect its realisation. Conceived in historical terms, the use of that capacity to create our material reality through work is intimately linked to the dynamics of social change. And in the specific context of capitalism, the organisation of work provides a defining contradiction of the social system, and a foundation for working class politics.

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