In a world without work, some new science suggests, being busy will be the ultimate status symbol.
The article reporting this news also suggests that the new findings are at odds with the old Thorstein Veblen theory that the ultimate status symbol is leisure, the winners being those who can afford to spend time doing nothing.
What do we, Escapologists hoping for a toil-free future, think of that?
Well. As we already know (see Escape Everything!), work and consumerism are two sides of the same coin. They’re the same economic transaction seen from opposite ends. So the new science isn’t at odds with Veblen at all: the person with the most leisure time and the person with the biggest workload will be seen as equally impressive. It is already the case and it will still be the case in a post-work future too.
The kind of leisure currently and increasingly seen as a status symbol doesn’t involve lazing around like a lotus eater or slowly walking a tortoise like a 19th century fopp. Social capital is only dished out for those who actively participate in leisure industries. The gym, tourism, shopping. Nobody admires the efficient soul who gets through the week without breaking a sweat.
Moreover, the kind of work and busyness currently rewarded with social capital isn’t the useful work of wiping elderly bottoms or raising helpless children, but non-essential busy work. The CEO, seen as a great leader and a productive member of the international society, is extremely busy despite their work being essentially useless and even harmful to their own health and the world in general.
So in the post-work future, who will be seen as the winner? Those with the most leisure or those with the most hair falling out from busyness? It’s the same guy.
The only way to break the cyclical curse of this is to be an Escapologist and learn how to idle properly.
The new essay series is go! Subscribers and the generally keen-of-eye will have noticed this already.
I’ve received some nice email about the series already, so thanks to everyone who has fed back and given moral support as well as monetary.
I hope to post a new essay each month. I’ll also post an improved and updated director’s cut of an older essay from the archives, gradually building up an online Escapologist’s library.
The first new essay is called ESCAPE THE DEATHLY HUMBLEBRAG.
This content is exclusively available to subscribers, so chip in a tiny amount of money here if you want to join the party. All of your dosh gets ploughed back into New Escapologist, paying for the website and the essays and potential future projects.
I’ve been reading some Hannah Arendt and already I’m smitten.
I recommend reading her work (especially now — she wrote about fascist totalitarianism) but all I wanted to mention today is the glorious way Arendt and some others escaped the Nazis during the war. Get this:
There was a family who had a house with a front door in Germany and a back door in Czechoslovakia. They’d invite people over for dinner and let them leave through the back door at night.
I wish I had a house like that, perhaps embedded in Hadrian’s Wall. Might apply for art council funding.
This is nifty. It’s from Essentialism by Greg McKeown.