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The 2021 E. Maynard Adams Symposium for the Humanities: What Should the Work Ethic Mean in a Twenty-First Century Capitalist Society?

April 16, 2021 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Recordings of Dr. Anderson’s keynote lecture and panel discussion with UNC Faculty are available here.

Click to download the 2021 Adams Symposium Agenda

Click to download the 2021 Adams Symposium Speaker Bios


The fourth symposium in honor of distinguished UNC philosopher Maynard Adams (1919-2003) will feature keynote speaker Elizabeth Anderson,

the John Dewey Distinguished University Professor, John Rawls Collegiate Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor

in the Philosophy Department at the University of Michigan

Professor Anderson’s writings explore how people can improve their value judgments and how emotions contribute to knowledge and democratic debates. She is also interested in the ethical components of economic activities and the nature of workplace hierarchies. She has examined such issues in her book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It) and in numerous articles and other books. Professor Anderson’s analysis of human work continues to shape her current research on the history of egalitarianism since the seventeenth century.

Drawing analytical perspectives from philosophy and ethics as well as history, Professor Anderson exemplifies the engagement with public issues that was important to Maynard Adams and that frames the conversations at each Adams Symposium. How do we understand the meaning of the “work ethic” as economic systems evolve with new technologies and with workers whose labor often takes place “remotely”? Does contemporary capitalism influence workers’ lives in ways that resemble or differ from the influence of economic systems in the past? These are the kinds of social and historical questions that this Symposium will explore through the perspectives of ethics and philosophy.

The 2021 Adams Symposium resumes after a forced hiatus during the first weeks of the pandemic, but it will take place as a first-ever virtual webinar via Zoom. The Symposium begins with Professor Anderson’s keynote lecture at 5:30 pm on Friday, April 16. Her talk is entitled “What Should the Work Ethic Mean for Us Today? Reflections on Contemporary Capitalism,” and it will be followed by questions from the audience. Panels of faculty colleagues and public humanists will also respond to Professor Anderson’s themes during a continuation of the webinar on the next day, April 17, between 10:00 am and 12:15 pm.


Friday, April 16 (5:30-7:00 pm) – Keynote Address by Dr. Elizabeth Anderson via Zoom webinar

Saturday, April 17 (10:00 am-12:15 pm) – Panel discussions with UNC faculty and public humanists via Zoom webinar

  • The Ideas of Maynard Adams:

    • Max Owre, Carolina Public Humanities and UNC-CH Department of History

    • Jill Adams, Southern Illinois University

    • Karl Adam, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities, PhD Candidate in Philosophy

  • Panel Discussion: The Work Ethic in Contemporary Capitalist Societies
    • Moderator: Joanna Sierks Smith, Carolina Public Humanities

    • Todd Ramon Ochoa, PhD Candidate in Religious Studies

    • DeeAnn Spicer, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities, PhD Candidate in Philosophy

    • Karl Adam, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities, PhD Candidate in Philosophy

    • Sarah Stroud, UNC-CH Parr Center for Ethics

    • Benjamin Waterhouse, UNC-CH History


The Adams Symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is required for access to each of the Zoom webinar sessions. The Zoom links to access each session will be emailed to you approximately two weeks before the event.

Click here to register for Professor Anderson’s Keynote Address on Friday, April 16 at 5:30 pm

Click here to register for the Panel Discussions on Saturday, April 17 at 10:00 am

Carolina Public Humanities thanks the Taylor Charitable Trust, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the UNC-CH Philosophy Department for generously supporting this year’s Maynard Adams Symposium.


April 16, 2021
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category: