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In Praise of Idleness (1932)

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  • 18 hours ago

  • @okbrant
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  • • 149 comments

In Praise of Idleness (1932)


@dilawar 15 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Someone has to work their ass off to create surplus to make billionaires. How many of those we got?

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@cupcake-unicorn 16 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

I cite this paper every chance I can get. Bertand would be rolling in his grave now about the current situation where we've gone completely in the opposite direction.

Here's a Buckminster Fuller quote that I also like to share: "We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living." ― R. Buckminster Fuller

Neither of these guys were "slackers" and were brilliant men so it's probably a bit scary for the media that the antiwork movement is gaining steam and no, it's not just a bunch of freeloading millennials.

I made a comment to a friend tonight about how odd it is that workplaces seem to be acting irrationally by just demanding more of people and trying to increase their grip, when I realize it's honestly just like an abusive relationship. It would rationally help the business to foster loyalty and cooperation in this type of market but instead the narrative is "NO ONE WANTS TO WORK" and people who have been loyal in positions for many years are just being treated like dirt because their control and narrative is being questioned...and that's pretty much exactly what happens in an abusive relationship when someone tries to leave, the abuser cracks down harder. Utterly bizarre to see such irrational behavior though.

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@circlefavshape 14 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

In my (mostly-remote) workplace people are always talking about finding it hard to separate their work and their lives, hard to switch off in the evening, hard not to check their phone for work slack messages at weekends, hard to take their leave days without feeling like they're letting people down

THIS is exactly how a culture of overwork is enforced. We're doing it to each other. These days I try to counter it by making a point of calling this out publicly, and saying "I always take all my leave days" and "I don't work in the evenings" and "I don't have work email or slack on my phone"

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@minimilian 14 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

From before typography went to the dogs:

https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.458601

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@mapehe 15 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Isn't it funny that even though we are more productive than ever, at least in terms of GDP, we just seem to be getting busier.

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@nanna 14 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

"For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic."

- Marx, Theses on Fauerbach

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@ehecatl42 16 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

I am reminded here of verse 24 et seq.

> The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise.

~ https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ecclesiasticus-Chapter-...

That I came across when reading the Bible in English (the OT later in Latin because Enya, strangely enough, and then much of the NT in Greek). Not because my parents, nor I, were religious, but just because it was there, and I had time for such diversions precisely because I was so not required to study much at school. Considered a bit of a dunce, you see.

Chose my undergraduate university based on it's motto, back in English that's something like "these days of leisure foster learning". Chose PERL because I seem to recall Larry Wall saying something about programmers should be lazy.

And that lead me to a career adminning Solaris boxen.

Ain't life funny!

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@fmajid 11 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Aristocratic idleness is so much easier to romanticize if you are an English earl whose grandfather presided as British Prime Minister over the Great Irish Famine.

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@selff 14 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

In the field of programming, we have many great programmers who praise their workaholic ethics. Do you know some great programmers appreciating idleness? Rich Hickey with his Hammock driven development comes to my mind. Anyone else?

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@dsizzle 11 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

> [inline_ad ad=2]

What would Russell think of the person who botched that ad injection?

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@bilvar 14 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Ok, let's all stop working and feed from the sun. Oh wait, we are not plants.

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@martopix 13 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

There's a big lesson here about Publish or Perish. Science today is extremely difficult because you can't do science while having to be productive as quickly as possible. It's like asking an artist to sit at their desk from 9 to 5 every day and produce at least 5 Great Works of Art per year.

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@danielrpa 14 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

I hate working. There is nothing I want more than to NOT work, which for me means choosing what to do (including nothing) as much as possible.

As many people planning FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), I've been working pretty hard - hah! - to maximize my income and meet my goals.

But this is different than the eternal idleness being advocated by some. If you never save enough to be idle, and still expect to consume at normal levels, you are essentially asking others to work for you. Imagine being idle but still playing games, watching TV, reading books; someone had to make the game, film the TV show and write the book, i.e. work, to enable your leisure.

If those working to maintain everybody else agree to arrangement, then it's all ok... This is generally not the case, though.

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@Nevermark 12 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Given nature's bounty, I think we should be far past the point where anyone needs to work for their simplest needs.

And I say this without any contradiction with capitalism.

It seems morally inescapable to me, that we all have inherited the Earth. None of us earned our existence here. Nor did we create the resources as nature provides them. We are all inheritors of the world.

We can add the solar system and beyond to that.

A system whereby resource extraction, real estate (excepting their improvements by construction) rents, and communication spectrum charters returned a fraction to everyone equally seems both consistent with capitalism and the moral value of equality from birth.

A partial instance of this is the Alaska Permanent Fund. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Permanent_Fund

EDIT: I would add that any legal impingement on the commons, which aught to have its consistent meaning of commonly owned property, also operated in the same way. I.e. income from patents, copyrights, or other socially created and protected rights should also partially accrue to everyone - as everyone is paying the cost of those rights both in protection and in respecting the prohibitions they create.

(The legal and economic way that could, or should, be done fairly is far beyond this statement. But the principle seems clear - the commons belongs to all of us, and any rents on it should be distributed evenly. This in no way eliminates the ability for capitalism to operate or those who value greater wealth from working longer, harder or smarter and accumulating it without bounds.)

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@bigfudge 16 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙



@nickd2001 13 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

In my experience as a developer, nearly any time I behave "lazily" (holiday, long weekend, time off work without thinking about it), or even just in the middle of a WFH day go for a walk, swim, other leisure activity, get ahead on 10 mins worth of chores etc, then I tend to solve a tricky technical problem , or learn something / understand it much better. The times where coding work gets pushed aside for a while often lead to to better coding output, results even viewable that same week. Sometimes at home I'll have a day when I'm not really into it, distracted by other stuff, so I go and do something else, then later my conscience says "Hmm that wasn't really a full day of work , you might need to make some up", but at the same time "Wow what a productive day, turns out not tiring yourself out actually delivers more value to your employer". It is said that 27 hours a week is optimal in tech, less than that you could get more done, but more than that you add no extra value, over 40 you produce negative value/bugs. So , moral = some idleness is ironically actually better for productivity !

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@leobg 11 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

This is an important story. I really needed that reminder.

Idleness is where all the "magic" in my life has happened. Idleness is where the biggest ideas came to me. And the important people in my life, too.

And yet, here I am, trying to "optimize" the time I need to bring my 5 year old to bed in the evening, and to pre-school in the morning.

Kids still have this sense of idleness. They have no concept of hurrying. They see little sense in doing things faster, or optimizing your path towards a goal. They always look around, and if there are any flowers, they'll pick some. In the process, they might totally forget what their initial goal was. They might come back to it later. But they also might do something totally different instead. And every single day, for them, is an adventure.

There's probably nothing wrong with picking goals or sticking to them. But there is a boundary somewhere. Somewhere where there is haste involved, or fear, or coersion. Where we make ourselves the object of either someone else, or of an idea. Where we, in other words, cease to be a conscious doer.

Then again, there's that concept of flow. Being "in the moment". Is that good, or is that bad? A child at play can be in "flow". But a compulsive gambler can be, too.

So year. Perhaps part of the problem is that it's so unclear where the boundary lies.

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@black_13 15 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

I use his teapot every morning to brew my cup.

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@tarkin2 13 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

How To Be Idle and the Idler magazine might tickle your fancy if you like this theme. I enjoyed both greatly.

The Protestant worker ethic, work hard and be closer to God, has a lot to answer for, both good and bad.

We’ve linked our worth to our consumable output. We’re worried if AI can become human yet we’ve met the machines halfway.

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@richardatlarge 16 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

> It will be said that while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours’ work out of the twenty-four. In so far as this is true in the modern world it is a condemnation of our civilization; it would not have been true at any earlier period.

I would think the relevance of this today would be in terms of COVID lockdowns. Many have had a big dose of leisure and it's been an interesting test for many. When we're busy, leisure looks so appetising, but sometimes too much leisure removes the very institutional structures that put meaning in our lives and that motivated us in the first place. My sister retired to do all her hobbies and immediately lost interest in them. Sometimes when your moods and energy are good, you don't realise what underlies them. Then we get what we want but lose what we had.

Maybe the moral of the story is all things in moderation

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@irthomasthomas 15 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

He must be turning in his grave now. He sent a warning message to the future, and we did the opposite.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ihaB8AFOhZo

Why did communism fail? Because Marx pretended he wanted happiness for the proletariat, when all he really wanted was the unhappiness of the bourgeois.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eZlbQqXBsn0

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@rnoorda 16 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

> 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.

I have been solidly in the "work is virtuous" camp for a long time, and still am, but I've recently been challenged on this. When I'm not working on something I get antsy, and stressed. Having a goal gives me purpose; working hard gives me value. If my value isn't from hard work, where do I get it from?

I have always considered "hard-working" an undoubtedly good thing, like "being kind" or "not stabbing random people." But when pushed on this, I can't quite justify it the same way as other virtues. Is it good for society? Is there something inherently moral about hard work? Is it something that I value, but is unreasonable to expect from others?

I don't really have answers on this. I consider hard work a virtue, but I'm not sure precisely why. I'm sure there's all sort of cultural/familial/etc. reasons, but that's what makes me me. Is it a bad thing to believe? Not sure yet. No. Yes. Sometimes.

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@hezag 9 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

In the book The Right To Be Lazy (1883), Paul Lafargue talks about how work became a sacred thing and argues that automation (138 years ago!) "could easily reduce working hours to three or four hours a day".

Some quotes from the book:

"A strange delusion possesses the working classes of the nations where capitalist civilization holds its sway. This delusion drags in its train the individual and social woes which for two centuries have tortured sad humanity. This delusion is the love of work, the furious passion for work, pushed even to the exhaustion of the vital force of the individual and his progeny. Instead of opposing this mental aberration, the priests, the economists and the moralists have cast a sacred halo over work...."

"Aristotle's dream is our reality. Our machines, with breath of fire, with limbs of unwearying steel, with fruitfulness, wonderful inexhaustible, accomplish by themselves with docility their sacred labor. And nevertheless the genius of the great philosophers of capitalism remains dominated by the prejudice of the wage system, worst of slaveries. They do not yet understand that the machine is the saviour of humanity, the god who shall redeem man from the sordidae artes and from working for hire, the god who shall give him leisure and liberty. The Greeks in their era of greatness had only contempt for work: their slaves alone were permitted to labor: the free man knew only exercises for the body and mind. And so it was in this era that men like Aristotle, Phidias, Aristophanes moved and breathed among the people; it was the time when a handful of heroes at Marathon crushed the hordes of Asia, soon to be subdued by Alexander. The philosophers of antiquity taught contempt for work, that degradation of the free man, the poets sang of idleness, that gift from the Gods: O Melibae Deus nobis haec otia fecit."

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@denton-scratch 12 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

In those days, Russell was a commie - Stalin's Russia impressed him.

He was a great logician, but I think his social and political ideas were mostly naive at best (he supported nuclear disarmament, and that wasn't naive).

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@zackmorris 6 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Ideas to get out of The Matrix:

* Hire 2 people for 1 job, each working 20 hours per week

* By law, ensure that workers keep the lion's share (50% or more) of whatever value they produce

* Outlaw all company shares besides common stock

* Use nonlinear voting shares: weight shares by value produced, tenure, etc instead of 1 share 1 vote

* Make government tax on individuals less than 50%

* Make all net income taxed the same, under the same tax brackets, even gifts/inheritance (50% by the $250-400,000 range)

* Provide universal basic income (UBI) via the 50% tax from the wealthiest individuals

* Tax all assets/investments the same as property tax on homes (as dollars or percent of shares)

* Make all tax writeoffs rates the same, regardless of type (remove the 6000 pound minimum on work vehicles, etc)

* Make companies pay or otherwise be responsible for their own externalities (pollution)

* Set tarrifs equal to the externalities (pollution, withheld wages, etc) not paid by companies in other countries

* Measure policy outcomes by median improvement, not mean (to act against wealth inequality)

* Make all debts dischargeable in bankruptcy (don't single out student loans)

* Make hazard pay N>=1 years of wages to next of kin upon death, and M>=50% of wages upon injury (all jobs, even military)

* Keep debts like hazard pay on an individual's credit score for 7 years, even if the company they owned declared bankruptcy

* Allow people to borrow against money legally owed to them (debts, alimony, liens, reparations, etc)

* Ban discrimination in lending (proof of unfairly denied loan reduces bank's leverage limit by amount of loan)

* Ban tax breaks nationally for companies moving to cities or states

* Remove the corporate veil (companies aren't people, make individuals on the board responsible for the company's actions)

* Provide guaranteed jobs, with the government as employer of last resort

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@skywal_l 16 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

Pascal said it. "All of men's problem stem from one thing, not to be able to site quietly in a room".

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@dmje 15 hours

Replying to @okbrant 🎙

There's idleness as in "doing things that aren't work" and idleness as in "being bored". Both have been broken: the former by our insane work ethic and the latter by our insane addiction to mobile devices.

We're being pressured into this, yes, but it's also up to us to push back. You genuinely can work less. You genuinely can put your phone down. Both can hurt, but both are almost definitely good for you.

A world in which we have time to muse, ponder, wander, think, create, listen... This is the world I want to inhabit, and I push myself everyday to try and do so. It's sometimes unfeasibly hard: phones are addictive and when you work for yourself the money <> time equation is hard to deny. But it's important, to me anyway, to see the sea and the moon and my kids growing up.

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