In Praise of Idleness

Russell, Bertrand

Year Published:  1932  
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX6333

More leisure, not work, will benefit civilization. Modern organization and technology makes a four hour work day possible for leisure to be distributed to everyone.

Abstract:  In this essay, Bertrand Russell proposed that man's drive to work is a remnant of the past that causes both overwork and unemployment. With proper organization and modern technology, man's work day could be reduced to four hours. Man would then have leisure time to actively pursue his interests, and as a result, civilization would benefit.
Russell believed man's desire to work originated from pre-industrial times when man had to produce a surplus to provide for a leisure class. Originally, this was forced upon man, but gradually, it was accepted that it was one's duty to work hard.
However, modern technology and organization have made it possible for leisure and work to be distributed to everyone. World War 1 showed that modern methods allowed a population to be reasonably comfortable with a fraction a country's working capacity.
If such organization was maintained, Russell believed man would only need to work four hours a day, with everyone both in employ and able to enjoy leisure.
In the West, however, the old system of overwork and unemployment returned after the war. In Russia, leisure could not be pursued either, as the authorities had preached the virtue of hard work.
Russell believed leisure must be available to everyone for civilization to progress further. The privileged minority of the past were inefficient in their contributions while modern universities lack the perspective of the working man. Unfortunately, modern man is both too tired to actively enjoy leisure and has lost the ability to enjoy leisure in itself.
Russell concluded that the leisure time allotted in a four hour work day would result in many benefits for civilization. Without being compelled to work, man would have time to develop his interests, resulting in advances in the arts and sciences. Most importantly, there would be happiness in man's life.

[Abstract by Jared Ong]

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