The method of a hereditary leisure class without duties was, however, extraordinarily wasteful. At present, the universities are supposed to provide, in a more systematic way, what the leisure class provided accidentally and as a byproduct. The significance of this fact was concealed by finance; borrowing made it appear as if the future was nourishing the present. A third class of men, Russell says, don’t work, but rather own the land on which others labor and charge them for the right to exist and work there. He appeals to the audience’s emotion, uses repetition, and applies logic to achieve his goal in persuading the companies to lower steel prices. In this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever. The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In a sensible world everybody concerned in the manufacture of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. In Praise of Idleness By Paul Violi About this Poet Paul Violi was born and raised on Long Island, in New York State. In 1932, at 60 years old, he wrote In Praise of Idleness — you can view the full essay for free on Harper’s Magazine or download a PDF here. When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. . The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. But, I shall be told, the case is quite different when savings are invested in industrial enterprises. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. But, I shall be told, the case is quite different when savings are invested in industrial enterprises. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. In times of famine there was no surplus; the warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other times, with the result that many of the workers died of hunger. Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. In view of the fact that the bulk of the public expenditure of most civilized Governments consists in payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the man who lends his money to a Government is in the same position as the bad men in Shakespeare who hire murderers. But, having taught the supreme virtue of hard work, it is difficult to see how the authorities can aim at a paradise in which there will be much leisure and little work. But, unfortunately, the system did/does not pay people in proportion to what is ultimately produced, but “in proportion to [their] virtue as exemplified by [their] industry.” That long-entrenched tyrant called Duty dictated that people ought to continue to work long hours for low wages, and only a handful of intellectuals grasped that exponentially greater efficiency via machine-automation ought to benefit the common man accordingly. I read recently of an ingenious plan put forward by Russian engineers, for making the White Sea and the northern coasts of Siberia warm, by putting a dam across the Kara Sea. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. After this early mission statement, Russell delves into the task of defining work: “First of all: what is work? When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. If you ask him what he thinks the best part of his life, he is not likely to say: 'I enjoy manual work because it makes me feel that I am fulfilling man's noblest task, and because I like to think how much man can transform his planet. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. Manual work is the ideal which is held before the young, and is the basis of all ethical teaching. Instead of saying, “Wow, hey, these machines are doing a lot of the work for us now. If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day there would be enough for everybody, and no unemployment — assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization. Early on in “In Praise of Idleness,” Russell declares what might be seen as the thesis statement of the essay: “I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.”. “. It is obvious that, in primitive communities, peasants, left to themselves, would not have parted with the slender surplus upon which the warriors and priests subsisted, but would have either produced less or consumed more. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99. This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. The notion that the desirable activities are those that bring a profit has made everything topsy-turvy. The man who invests his savings in a concern that goes bankrupt is, therefore, injuring others as well as himself. They ought to work.' At last the feminists decided that they would have both, since the pioneers among them believed all that the men had told them about the desirability of virtue, but not what they had told them about the worthlessness of political power. They consider work, as it should be considered, as a necessary means to a livelihood, and it is from their leisure hours that they derive whatever happiness they may enjoy. In Praise of Idleness, Bertrand Russell a spider that rappels down the bookshelves. . In the West, Judeo-Christian values of industry and hard work were emphasized/propagated by the ruling classes, conveniently convincing the masses that work was inherently good—a way to humble oneself before the Lord and secure one’s place in Heaven. In these circumstances hard work is necessary and is likely to bring a great reward. Any references to villages made up of gentiles believing that what they are doing is good for them? Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The individual, in our society, works for profit; but the social purpose of his work lies in the consumption of what he produces. IN PRAISE OF IDLENESS or, The Dharma of Just Hanging Out By Ken Jones An appreciation of idleness came to me recently when holed up on retreat for a few days in my cave above an unvisited cwm (narrow valley) of my native Wales. This idea shocks the well-to-do, because they are convinced that the poor would not know how to use so much leisure. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried farther than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.8M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. If he merely puts his savings in a stocking, like the proverbial French peasant, it is obvious that they do not give employment. For ages the rich and their sycophants have written in praise of “honest toil,” have praised the simple life, have professed a religion which teaches that the poor are much more likely to go to heaven than the rich, and in general have tried to make manual workers believe that there is some special nobility about altering the position of matter in space, just as men tried to make women believe that they derived some special nobility from their sexual enslavement. Just get down to it. The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. An admirable plan, but liable to postpone proletarian comfort for a generation, while the nobility of toil is being displayed amid the ice-fields and snowstorms of the Arctic Ocean.