The human right to work: The tension between intrinsic and instrumental values in five teachers’ stories from the industrial technology programme

Keywords: Vocational teacher, human rights in VET, life stories, intrinsic and instrumental values, industrial technology programme


In this article, we discuss a tension between the intrinsic and instrumental value in relation to work and human life. This tension is reflected in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which regards work as an intrinsic value for a human life, as well as in the (neoliberal) labour market, that values work and workers for their instrumental ends. In the light of this tension, we analyse how five vocational teachers’ life stories express it through descriptions of their experiences, decisions and teaching. The methodological starting point of our study is based on a narrative perspective, where vocational teachers’ stories are at the centre. Our analytical tools are taken from Bamberg (1997), who discusses how people position themselves in their own stories. In light of four positions as outlined by Bamberg, we discuss three tensions: 1) The right to work as universal and under conditions at the same time, 2) Work as a place for belonging under the shadow that only profit counts, and 3) Performing a good job, while balancing professional pride and the concern for oneself. In our conclusions, we suggest that vocational teachers should provide their students with wider civic knowledge about their rights as well as about possible forms of influencing structures in the labour market that vocational teachers are in part preparing their students for.

Author Biography

Hamid Asghari, Karlstad University

Dr. Hamid Asghari

Senior lecturer

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Department of Educational Studies

Karlstad University

651 88 Karlstad – Sweden


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How to Cite
Asghari, H., & Schaffar-Kronqvist, B. (2019). The human right to work: The tension between intrinsic and instrumental values in five teachers’ stories from the industrial technology programme. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 9(2), 71-90.
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