Intangible Slavery and Freedom at Work


job satisfaction

How to Cite

Singh, Pankaj. 2021. “Intangible Slavery and Freedom at Work: A Philosophical Inquiry”. Brolly 4 (1):175-94.


In this paper, I am introducing a distinction in the notion of slavery, as tangible slavery and intangible slavery. Tangible slavery is the notion of slavery in a strong sense, in which slavery is understood as a system based on property law. I am distinguishing tangible slavery from a weak sense of slavery, intangible slavery, which refers to the situations in which an individual continues to work in place despite being dissatisfied with the work. The force to work against one own will is an outcome of complex situational effects generated from both external forces such as working environment, policies, culture, and internal forces like complacency, aversion to taking risks, refusal to explore new possibilities. I have mentioned and emphasized external forces at a minimal level. The focus of the paper is on the reasons related to the individual level, which creates a puzzle about individual freedom. The puzzle is – despite improved work conditions in modern times, why there seems to be a decrease in the level of work satisfaction? The first section of the paper provides an explication of the tangible and intangible distinction, showing the puzzling situation of freedom at the workplace. In the second section, I have presented a historical survey of evolution in the notion of work and freedom. In the third section, I have discussed freedom and liberty and elaborated on the idea of slavery with an example. In the final section, I have tried to formulate an approach from existential philosophy to overcome the puzzling situation of freedom at the workplace.