Do we really have to work that much?

Do we really have to work that much? Here is a legitimate question I am asking myself today.

Think about the world that Keynes predicted in 1931, in which people would work only 15 hours a week. His idea was that we would be so efficient technologically that we could reduce our working hours. The majority of our time would then be dedicated to leisure.

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He also had in mind that we could produce easily what was necessary, and that we would create a whole industry to produce entertainment. Actually, that is the idea developed by David Graeber in StrikeMag, in a quite pessimistic tone. The professor (of Anthropology, at the London School of Economics) explains that instead of gaining time for leisure, we developed a whole system of “useless jobs” that make us work even more but for no reason.

His ideas may seem extreme, but the truth is it is scary to read this article because it looks very much like reality. The question is: how can we change things when millions of people are in the “system”? How can we build a different society without becoming a fringe element, a non-conformist?

The American Tim Ferriss also developed the idea of working less, when he published his book “The 4-Hour Workweek”. The book is based on his daily life in BrainQuicken, an online nutritional supplements company. Working 14 hours a day, he became frustrated and began looking for a solution to escape this workaholic lifestyle.

Apparently he succeeded. But unlike Keynes, he has taken the position that technology such as email, instant messaging and internet-enabled PDAs complicate life rather than simplify it.

Two utopias emerge here: the one Keynes imagined that allows us to work less because we have access to a better technology. And the one Ferriss imagined that permits us to work less because we leave aside technology and gain time by doing it.

But unfortunately, the reality seems to be closer to David Graeber’s point of view…

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What do you think ? What would be your perfect work/leisure ratio ?

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