How Does Fiction Inform Working Lives? An Exploration of Empathy and Social Sustainability

P.M. Bal*, I.M. Brokerhof, Edina Dóci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper discusses the relationships between fiction and working lives through exploring the role of empathy in how people read and perceive fiction in relation to their own private and working lives. It discusses how experience of fiction may cause an empathic reaction in the reader, subsequently leading to behaviors contributing to greater empathy at work. The paper problematizes some notions manifesting within these relationships by discussing how ideology infiltrates both the understanding of concepts themselves as well as how they relate to each other. Hence, it thereby discusses how the individual experience of fiction by a reader has an effect on behavior but is influenced by ideological beliefs about society which are largely implicit to the reader herself. It thereby explains why fiction does not always enhance empathy. Using the distinction between aesthetic and ethical good, the paper eludicates how fiction may sustain an ideological version of empathy, and thus sustaining contemporary practices in the workplace and the economic system itself. The paper finishes with an exploration of how fiction may enable a reader to become aware of ideology, thereby opening possibilities to achieve more viable forms of empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sociology and Sociotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Empathy
  • Fiction
  • Ideology
  • Social Sustainability


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