Productivity and Leisure

Amid this article about the harms of the cult of productivity,  this stood out:

The proletariat, Lafargue cries, “must proclaim the Rights of Laziness, a thousand times more noble and more sacred than the anaemic Rights of Man concocted by the metaphysical lawyers of the bourgeois revolution. It must accustom itself to working but three hours a day, reserving the rest of the day and night for leisure and feasting.”

That sounds nice but why exactly should we do it? It is because: “To force the capitalists to improve their machines of wood and iron, it is necessary to raise wages and diminish the working hours of the machines of flesh and blood.” (emphasis mine) Workers should refuse to work so that new gadgets get invented that will do the work for them. Similarly, Bert­rand Russell, in his 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness”, argued that technology should make existing work patterns redundant: “Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all,” he wrote. Somewhere, he is still waiting for that possibility to be realised.

It’s sort of happened in the opposite way, with wages stagnating/falling and hours being lost, and it hasn’t exactly been great. People want (or need) more work (money).

The path we’re on isn’t going to change either. Technological progress will continue to produce machines (and robots and computers) that can do tasks that were formerly something only humans could do, and I doubt that a leisure filled future is what that means for us.

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