Whence Leisure?

Here’s a thorough review of what sounds like a very interesting book. Normally I wouldn’t direct you towards a book I had not yet read, but my library doesn’t have a copy yet and I’m eager for someone in my sphere to read it.

The book is called How Much is Enough?: The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life.

Its premise, it seems, is to assess why we don’t have the “life of leisure” foreseen by optimistic pundits in 1930 (namely John Maynard Keynes, who Escapologists will remember as the man who said “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones”).

Working hours are longer than they’ve ever been (a six-day work week was recently proposed as a solution to Greece’s economic woes) and thanks to portable telephonic gimcracks, we’re expected to be working even when we’re not at work. It shouldn’t be like this! We, the minority of people not obsessed with work, often feel as if we’re trapped in a Philip K. Dick-style alternate history where something just doesn’t feel right.

Even though we have the technology and the human hands to run the basics of agriculture and production and the minds to conduct research, we still this mad idea that basic dignity has to be earned when it should be a simple right. We should be living the life of leisure as Keynes predicted and as Buckminster Fuller emplored. But instead we toil pointlessly, supervising the supervisor of other supervisors.

So the book attempts to answer why we don’t have this Keynesian life of leisure. According to the Globe and Mail‘s reading of the book:

the free-market economy is the villain. It allows employers to dictate terms of work and inflames our innate tendency toward competitive, status-driven consumption. Keynes failed to see that the evils of capitalism … might become permanently entrenched, obscuring the very ideal they were initially intended to serve.

That’s what New Escapologist (and others before us) have been saying for ages. “The economy is a human-made thing designed for our convenience,” I wrote the other day, “it serves us, we do not serve it”. And in today’s economy, in which educated people struggle to pay for their far-from-ostentatious urban lives, this fact should be shouted by sengerphone from the rooftops. Or at least vigorously Tweeted.

The book looks like our sort of thing. Give it a crack if your library has a copy.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

3 Responses to “Whence Leisure?”

  1. Drew says:

    From the book description at Amazon, it looks to be a very in-depth read about what I consider a simple issue: overconsumption and warped priorities at all levels (in particular personal and municipal). If people took the time to think about what they really want out of life, and drilled down to determine the true drivers of their happiness, they would realize that they could live comfortably on half of what they currently think they need.

    I recently determined through my un-patented, unscientific methodology that I need 3 things in life, and if I have those 3 things, the rest (health, relationship harmony, etc) will fall into place. Those 3 things: meaningful part-time or contract work, minimalism in my day-to-day life, and mountains.

    I may still check out the book. If I do, I’ll let you know…

    Until then, keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks for the kind comment, Drew. Interesting blog you have there, by the way.

    And you’re right about those lifestyle choice problems. The solution is simple really.

    You may have seen it already but here are my thoughts on things I need for the good life.

  3. […] month, I read something about leisure, which caused me to reconsider the pros and cons of […]

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