September 4, 2000
10:29 AM   Subscribe

3 perspectives on work: We Need Less Labor, More Days, from the Washington Post; Fuck Work, an Unamerican Activities manifesto; and the essential The Abolition of Work by Bob Black.
posted by sudama (7 comments total)
Sudama, thanks for those links.

From the WP article:

What would we have to give up if we choose to divide the benefits of productivity growth between increased income and increased leisure? A two-day reduction in annual work time translates, at most, into a 1 percent trade-off in output. But with rising productivity, this only means slowing the rate of income growth.

--This is a crucial economic fact that almost never gets discussed in the mass media. And here are two equally crucial and underpublicized facts from psychology:

1) above the point of absolute poverty, income growth does not cause an increase in happiness;
2) all things being equal, an increase in leisure time DOES cause an increase in happiness
(source: Daniel Kahneman et al)

Put these three facts together and it's a no-brainer that current US economic policy is irrational. Throw in some facts from environmental science, and it becomes clear that it is criminal as well.

Further reading:
The Overspent American by Juliet Schor
Luxury Fever by Robert Frank
posted by johnb at 1:03 PM on September 4, 2000

So everyone who buys anything other than for basic subsistance isn't really gaining any pleasure from it, they're just being brainwashed into thinking they're getting pleasure from it? Every CD, every rented movie, every vacation, it's all a Big Lie?
posted by aaron at 2:41 PM on September 4, 2000

it's all a Big Lie?

Of course not.

Look, first of all, vacation is by definition leisure time, which is what I'm talking about.

Secondly, music (etc.) should be regarded as the essentially human activity it is -- not as just another consumer product. Science, sports, the arts -- people are natural participants in these things, and not only consumers of them. To use myself as an example, I love to do science, to play soccer, to write short stories (when I get a chance). Look at people in any culture on the face of the Earth and you will see the same natural enthusiasm in action. It's just stupid and wrong to say you have to force people to do these things -- culture, in general, is a large part of what makes human life meaningful, and will naturally arise to the extent that people have the free time to be participants. I mean, the French may be slightly annoying, but are they culturally impoverished just because they have more vacation days? I don't think so.

Commercialization and corporate control of Science, Sports, and the Arts leads to: biased science (think Monsanto); a passive attitude to sports (think: lucrative TV contracts, trading players like commodities, etc); and the imposition of a global monoculture (think: hollywood crap, and the spice girls, displacing native cultural elements via pollution of our mental commons aka advertising).
posted by johnb at 3:34 PM on September 4, 2000

Not a big lie, just several little ones.

In the meantime, the BBC reports on bosses who've denied their employees the legally-mandated four weeks paid holiday a year. "Oh, the law doesn't apply to you." Yeah, right.
posted by holgate at 10:52 PM on September 4, 2000

Aaron, the research simply proves that humans in any society will compare what they have with those around them and therefore, in the world's richer communities (relatively speaking) consumerism does not equal increased happiness.
Since there will always be people around you with better 'stuff', the persuit of the best, newest or most 'stuff' does not make for happy humans (despite what the manufacturers of 'stuff' are successful in having most people believe).
What makes humans happy is freedom from drudgery (ie. for many, work) and the time to spend with other humans interacting and doing all the things which make humankind the social animals we are.
The more you think about it, the more it makes sense really.
posted by Markb at 12:46 AM on September 5, 2000

All the pontificating doesn't change the fact that I'm AT WORK and I hate it. I better learn to not click on those links while here.

posted by norm at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2000

All the pontificating doesn't change the fact that I'm AT WORK and I hate it. I better learn to not click on those links while here.

posted by norm at 12:03 PM on September 6, 2000

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