Hi everyone,

This week’s speaker in the University of Sydney Philosophy Seminar Series is 
Daniel Halliday (University of Melbourne).

The title of Daniel’s talk is “The Foundations and Limits of Employer 
Authority”. Here’s the abstract for Daniel’s talk:

Employment is among the more entrenched and pervasive legal relationships that 
we participate in. It is also associated with a host of injustices: Employers 
can dominate workers, invade their privacy, terminate the relationship for bad 
reasons, or otherwise make objectionable demands. At the same time, it is 
undeniable that, even under ideal conditions, employment has to be some kind of 
hierarchical relationship whereby people agree to cede some (limited but real) 
control over their lives to an employer.

Political philosophers tend to work on questions of how to remedy some 
problematic feature of employment without theorising more generally about what 
sort of relationship employment is, or must be. In this talk, I argue that the 
employment relationship often occupies a middle ground (or can vacillate 
between) two opposed categories of cooperative relationship. On the one hand, 
cooperation can occur between parties that share little in common, and where 
the goal is merely to coordinate activity for mutual advantage. At the other 
end are relationships whose success requires a substantial sharing of ends or 
values. Employment is tricky because it is not always clear where it lies on 
this spectrum. The solution is to recognise that firms very often cannot 
function via explicit commands from managers, but on what is misleadingly 
called ‘workplace culture’. This can be disambiguated as the degree to which a 
sharing of ends among employees is necessary for the firm to produce its 
outputs. The limits of employer authority, and thus the range of demands that 
an employer can legitimately make, should be thought of as sensitive to how 
well this condition is satisfied.

The talk will take place on Wednesday the 17th of May at 3:30 p.m. in the 
Philosophy Seminar Room (N494) in the Quadrangle and will be simulcast via 
Zoom: https://uni-sydney.zoom.us/j/88699564848.

The talk will be followed by drinks and informal discussion at a nearby venue. 
All welcome!

This is the final talk in the seminar series for Semester 1. The next scheduled 
seminar is an out-of-semester seminar by Daniel Munoz (UNC) scheduled during 
STUVAC on Friday June 2 at 3:00pm. The usual reminder will be released on 
SydPhil the week of the seminar.

Enquiries about the seminar series can be directed to 

Ryan Cox
Associate Lecturer in Philosophy
Discipline of Philosophy
School of Humanities
University of Sydney

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