I was sent an interesting read today presenting how ludicrous our modern labour and remuneration system seems to be. Seeing as the relationship between classes and stations, although seriously altered in the last 100 years, still influence the way we think about the world, there is something in this discourse. I particularly like that part:
When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit.
and I think there is a deeper truth in it. Considering that our highly technical world and economy is to a large extent artificiality created and maintained by governments, politicians and corporate entities, the assumption that it is necessary for working people to put in at least 40 hours a week of labour (physical, or intellectual, or little labour at all, but at least physical presence in the office building) may be a part of that created reality, which we take for granted.
Why is it that the idea that people don’t have to work 40 hours a week to provide for themselves and their families is so deeply disturbing and alien. I think Max Weber‘s influence might have had something to do with it, among others.
In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.
I would like to believe that’s true.
I do think that the current working system is ridiculously inefficient and causing probably more damage than good on the scale of the world economy. I also think that, as in previous centuries, it is mostly people privileged enough to not have to work who have time and inclination to explore, discover and innovate. But would we all really be happier if we had those 20 more hours from our week for ourselves? Or would we work just as hard as we do now, be just as unhappy and not do anything really productive with our time either way? The change must happen in our heads, in our attitudes and in the way we perceive the world. And a good thousand years of brainwashing is not that easy to shake off.