Western Washington University Western Washington University ------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------

The Meaning of Work:
Spring 2009

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Meets: T/R 3:00 pm -- 4:20 pm (CH-249; CRN 20617)
Instructor: Assoc. Professor Craig P. Dunn, PhD
Office: PH 206A
Office Hours: 2:00 -- 2:50 pm T/R, and by appointment
Phone: 360-650-2593 (office/voicemail)
E-mail: craig.dunn@wwu.edu
URL: www.dunn.cc

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap;
the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances
complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

--George Bernard Shaw

This course is designed to engage the student in both rigorous intellectual inquiry as well as personal reflection. Work is arguably the primary pursuit for a vast majority of us. Yet, when asked what gives purpose and meaning to our lives many of us tend to leave work off the list. Living within a culture in which many of us have lost control over our own work, work has become of merely instrumental value in the quest for other meaning-giving activities in our lives.

What is work? How does work differ from other human pursuits? What are the dimensions of work and its context which serve to provide it meaning and purpose? Are there personality variables which account for work satisfaction? These and other related questions provide the `grist' for this course.

This course has been offered within the Honors curriculum in order to stress the necessity of experiencing meaning in our work lives...and to engage students and faculty alike in the common pursuit for work which is both purposeful as well as enjoyable. The overriding pedagogical objective is to have students develop a plan for insuring that they experience work as an expression of their most deeply held values. Accomplishing this objective entails introduction to a broad range of theoretic frameworks as the role of work in creating meaning, purpose and enjoyment is examined.

This course has been designed to be a challenging and exciting course for the Honors student. Much of the student's prior coursework has been concerned with structured topics closely related to a well-developed body of theory; not so with work and meaning. There is not a specific set of skills serving to lead you through the course, and no unifying meta-theory to inform your decisions. The problems and issues of meaningful work embrace the entire spectrum of philosophical, social, and organizational theory—as well as the fields of the arts and humanities.


1. Each student should have a clear understanding of what work is, and how work is different from other human pursuits;
2. Each student should understand the variety of ways in which work is connected with other human pursuits--a matter of integrity;
3. Each student should have a clearly articulated understanding of what gives their individual work life meaning;
4. Each student should have developed a plan for creating meaningful work in their career and beyond.

A maximum of 100 points may be accumulated in this course. Point distribution varies as follows (see grading contract at back of syllabus for details):

o Reflective Journal 15 points
o Four 2-page Writing Assignments 20-35 points
o Final Paper 20-35 points
o Class Presentation
  • seminar facilitation
0-30 points
  • reading report
0-15 points

Grading policy anticipates that faculty members are expected to use all grades from A to F to distinguish among level of academic accomplishment, with the grade for average undergraduate achievement being a C. The following grading standards will be used to determine your final course grade. Students are responsible for monitoring their own progress throughout the semester.

930 - 1000 points


900 - 929 points


865 - 899 points


830 - 864 points


800 - 829 points


765 - 799 points


730 - 764 points


700 - 729 points


665 - 699 points


630 - 664 points


600 - 629 points


In a section entitled Grades and Intellectual Honesty, the Western Washington University catalog states

Grades are given for the student’s work and achievement. Fair evaluation of students’ work and helpful instruction are possible only when students submit work which genuinely reflects their own reading, computation, research and thoughts and is their own production, whether in writing or other format(s). Intellectual dishonesty can result in a failing grade and the placement of a note in the student’s permanent record. For the university’s policy on academic dishonesty, see Appendix D.

Students involved in any form of academic dishonesty (including but not limited to plagiarism or `cheating') on any HNRS 355 coursework will receive a failing grade for the course.

Because Newtonian science focuses our attention on the external world and on our mental capacities,
it encourages us to seek two kinds of approaches to our challenges: physical and mental.
In the process we ignore other approaches,
the emotional and spiritual approaches that are the lifeblood of artfulness.

--Dick Richards
Artful Work: Awakening Joy, Meaning, and Commitment in the Workplace

Three texts are assigned: Working (Terkel), Nickel and Dimed (Ehrenreich), and The Principles of Scientific Management (Taylor). Students are expected to read each assigned chapter and/or article before the scheduled discussion of that reading. In addition, assigned case studies and supplementary reading materials will be made available. Assigned case studies, supplementary reading materials, and course videos will be available on the course website.

A list of additional reading resources for the course follows; any of these works are appropriate for the Reading Report (see assignment section which follows):

Aronowitz, Stanley & DiFazio, William `The Jobless Future'
Barker, Jane & Downing, Hazel 'Word Processing and the Transformation of Patriarchal Relations in the Workplace. In Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, eds. `The Social Shaping of Technology: How the Refrigerator Got its Hum'
Berle & Means `The Modern Corporation and Private Property'
Bolman, Lee G. & Dea, Terrence E. `Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of the Spirit'
Briskin, Alan `The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace'
Frankl, Viktor `Man's Search for Meaning'
Haraway `The Cyborg Manifesto'
Hardt & Negri `Labor of Dionysus'
Katz, Leslie (ed) `The Bitch-goddess Success; Variations on an American Theme' (includes De Tocqueville)
Korten, David C. `When Corporations Rule the World'
Leider, Richard J. `The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in your Life and Work'
MacArthur "Genius" Award Recipients
Mariarosa, Dalla Costa `Wages for Housework'
'Paying the Price: Women and the Politics of International Economic Strategy'
Martinez & McCaughan 'Chicanas and Mexicanas within a Transnational Working Class'
in `Between Borders: Essays on Mexicana/Chicana History'
Moore, Thomas `Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life'
Moss-Kantor, Rosabeth `Men and Women of the Corporation'
Noer, David M. `Breaking Free: A Prescription for Personal and Organizational Change'
Pulley, Mary Lynn `Losing Your Job--Reclaiming Your Soul'
Richards, Dick `Artful work: Awakening Joy, Meaning, and Commitment in the Workplace'
Rifkin, Jeremy `The End of Work'
Santayana, George `Realms of Being'
'The Idler and His Works, and Other Essays'
Sullivan, William `Work and Integrity: The Crises and Promise of Professionalism in America'
Viswanathan, Gauri `Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India'
Whitmyer, Claude (ed.) `Mindfulness and Meaningful Work: Explorations in Right Livelihood'
Whyte, David `The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America'
Wilson, Sloan `Man in a Gray Flannel Suit'
Windle, Ralph (ed.) `The Poetry of Business Life: An Anthology'
Wolman, William & Colamosca, Ann `The Judas Economy: The Triumph of Capital and the Betrayal of Work'

The first step to preserving the soul in our individual lives
is to admit that the world has a soul also,
and is somehow participating with us in our work and destiny.

--David Whyte
The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

For most weeks the class schedule will indicate a 'prompt' for your reflective journal (see course schedule for due dates). This term-long assignment accounts for fifteen percent of your course grade, and is designed to engage you in linking the course content with your final paper.

For each week during which a reflective journal assignment is posted, students are to 'cut and paste' the 'prompt' from the course schedule into a new thread within their own journal, and then provide their reflections on the 'prompt.' The reflective journal is to be kept in Blackboard. To post an entry, do the following:

o Click on the 'journal' button in the left menu bar
o Click on 'view'
o Click on 'new entry'
o Enter a BRIEF journal entry title
o Cut and paste the 'prompt' from the course schedule into the BODY of the journal entry
o Click 'save' (following completion of journal entry)

Only each individual student, as well as the faculty member, have access to journal posts--which are time and date stamped upon submission. Journal entries are evaluated on timeliness and thoroughness in addressing the issue under consideration.

There are no examinations for this course.

There will be five writing projects assigned approximately every second week throughout the term (see course schedule for due dates). Each student is to respond to any four of these prompts. These assignments relate most particularly to the readings over the immediately prior two weeks, either as presented in class or as covered in assigned readings.  Principal evaluation criteria will be adequacy of analysis, clarity and conciseness of arguments, use of theory to support arguments, and professionalism.

Each paper will take the form of a two page, double-spaced, typed paper which directly addresses the question(s) posed. While it is certainly allowable for students to discuss these writing assignments with one another, final papers ought to be recognizable as the 'independent' work of the student submitting the writing assignment.

Papers are to be submitted electronically to craig.dunn@wwu.edu. The e-mail memo line as well as the MS Word file name MUST begin with the LAST NAME of the student and also include the course designation (HNRS 355).

FINAL PAPER : (20-35 points)
Each student is to submit a proposal no later than the second week of class outlining a project related to the general topic of creating meaningful work in their career and beyond. These proposals will be reviewed by course faculty and returned to the student with relevant comments. This proposal then becomes the 'contract' for the final paper assignment.

Term projects shall be typed using double-spacing. There is no page length requirement; however, conciseness will be one of the evaluation criteria. A self-evaluation of this project (to be available in on-line schedule) is to be submitted along with the final paper draft. Students are to offer the class a presentation on their final paper project during the final week of class. Presentation can take any form which meaningfully expresses the plan outlined in the final paper. Evaluation criteria for the final paper include:

o Depth of reflection
o Adequacy of analysis
o Clarity and conciseness of plan
o Integration of course readings
o Professionalism of project
o Creativity of project
o Thoughtfulness of self-evaluation

As one option for this assignment, consider the October 1997 Inc. Magazine cover story What Comes Next?. Author Jim Collins addresses this article to those individuals who are "seeking a different kind of business life--one richer in meaning, more grounded, more sustainable." In order to fulfill this quest, Collins suggests that one examine three things: What you stand for, What you're good at, and What people will pay you for. "Resonance" occurs when one operates at the intersection of these three 'principles.' While Collins outlines this process as one to be applied at the organizational level, it can just as appropriately be applied at the personal/career level. The final paper might therefore engage the student in the process of developing a personal mission statement (What you stand for), articulating individual talents (What you're good at), and evaluating the job market (What people will pay you for). As a first step toward developing a statement of what you stand for, Collins recommends making two lists: "one for things that I would continue to do if I woke up tomorrow and discovered I had $20 million and 10 years to live, and another for things that under those circumstances I'd stop doing."

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at,
for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.
And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.
Progress is the realisation of Utopias.

--Geoffrey M. Hodgson
The Political Economy of Utopia

Two options are available for the class presentation. Students may opt for any one or a combination of these assignments.

option a--Seminar Facilitation (0-30 points): Each 1-2 member team taking this option is to facilitate discussion for one class session. These 'presentations' are to address the seminar readings as catalogued in the on-line schedule. The facilitators will be responsible to: 1) prepare relevant questions for discussion to be e-mailed to the instructors one week prior to their scheduled seminar (to be available in on-line schedule); 2) provide a summary overview of the literature to be discussed for the selected class session; 3) introduce relevant commentary and/or supplementary readings where appropriate; 4) relate the required reading to the topic under discussion as well as the individual writing assignments and final paper; 5) illustrate the topic under discussion through the creative linking of theory to practice; and 6) provide an annotated bibliography of related readings. The objective is to engage the class in discussions which will facilitate the execution of individual writing assignments. Groups are required to meet with the course instructor prior to their 'presentation' in order to help 'frame' the class session

Areas that will be considered (in addition to those previously or subsequently mentioned) in evaluating the group seminar project include:

o Adequacy of analysis
o Clarity and conciseness of plan
o Integration of social theory within discussion of topic
o Professionalism/creativity of presentation
o Ability to engage the class with the topic
o Thoughtfulness of self-evaluation (click here for form)

A project proposal form is to be submitted by each group for approval no later than the end of the second week of class. Groups are to indicate their preferred presentation date. Click here for access to form. Please note that other than this proposal, a two-page executive summary to be submitted in electronic format, and the annotated bibliography there is no written component to this assignment

option b--Reading Report (0-15 points): Students selecting this option are to read one piece of literature relevant to the course content, and then report back to the class. The intention of this assignment is to expose the class to as many alternative constructions of the concept of 'meaningful work' in as brief an amount of time as possible. Each 'presentation' will be limited to twenty minutes, including time for questions. Students choosing this option should address themselves to those questions outlined in the opening section of this syllabus. A list of sample readings is offered elsewhere in this syllabus; in order to avoid duplication of treatment, titles will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. It is also acceptable for the student to report on contemporary novels, films, poetry, music, and/or theatre arts which relate to the general theme of meaningful work.
A project proposal form is to be submitted for approval no later than the end of the second week of class by each class member selecting this option . Preferred presentation date should be indicated in this proposal. Click here for access to form. There is a requirement that a written reading report be submitted, to include a comprehensive summary followed by exposition as to how the presentation relates to the course content.

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.
They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries,
but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities,
have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well)
and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world.
The continued development of technology will worsen the situation.
It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world,
it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering,
and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in "advanced" countries.

--the Unibomber Manifesto

Outlined above are the course activities available to students, including ranges of possible points. Each student is to fill out and return to the instructor a binding contract for work to be completed this term (see below). You are to fill out the number of points desired for each activity. The total number of points must total 100. Points for each activity will range from 0-35% of the course grade, depending upon the individual assignment and weightings. Points must be selected in increments of 5.

For example, a student may choose to minimize the points on the Final Paper and the Writing Projects (20 points each) by completing Seminar Facilitation and Reading Report at their maximum point objectives (i.e., 30 points plus 15 points), plus the Reflective Journal at 15 points.

o Reflective Journal 15 points
o Four 2-page Writing Assignments 20 points
o Final Paper 20 points
o Class Presentation
  • seminar facilitation
30 points
  • reading report
15 points

In all cases, class participation is mandatory. Failure to attend and participate in scheduled class sessions may be reflected in final course grading.

To send your HNRS 355 contract, fill out the following form thoroughly and completely. This form must be submitted electronically. A copy of each contract will be posted to the course Blackboard site by the end of the fourth week of class.

Honors 355 Contract:

The following agreement is entered into by the designated HNRS 355 student and Professor Dunn for work to be completed Spring term, 2009. It is understood that this agreement is not subject to change. Additionally, course participation (or lack thereof) may be reflected in final course grading.

Section #

First Name: Last Name:

Western ID:

Complete E-mail Address:

Point Objective for Reflective Journal:

Point Objective for Writing Assignments:

Point Objective for Final Paper:

Point Objective for Seminar Facilitation:

Point Objective for Reading Report:

Please make certain the above point objectives total 100.

By sending this form, you agree to be evaluated on the basis of this contract as well as by the terms of the course as outlined in this syllabus.

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