In defence of idleness

AlterNet is running a Mother Jones interview with Tom Hodgkinson about his theory that idleness is a good thing. I was skeptical of some of his points, such as:

I had lunch with these French people who said, “Travailler moins, produire plus.” In other words, the less you work, the more you produce.

The problem is that France is not generally regarded as a highly productive country, with their massive social spending. But when I looked for data to back that up, I was surprised to find some well-regarded sources indicating that French productivity is actually pretty darn good. It is even better by some other measures. It is important to note that Mr. Hodgkinson is not advocating laziness, but rather less fixation on “time is money” as a reason to maximize work hours. Moving away from maximizing the time spent on work for money can free up time for other work and creativity:

For most of us, the opportunity to become creative is being squeezed at both ends. We think, “Well, I’ve been doing all that work, and now I’m going to reward myself by doing a lot of spending.” What would happen in the days before time was money and money and machines weren’t quite so dominant would be you’d have all this other time when you’d do what turned into hobbies. Little things like making clothes, baking bread, cooking, even useless things like bird-watching, sketching flowers, playing guitar in the home — that sort of time is gone. And the time we have? We’re so exhausted, we want to let ourselves get sucked in to the escape world of TV. I’m speaking from experience; I’m not above all this.

I’d say idleness is a red herring for this article – I think the point is more about limiting unfulfilling work for cash, and the problems that causes with consumption.

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