There’s a new edition of the late 19th-century classic The Right to Be Lazy, by socialist Paul Lafargue, and critic Lily Meyer writes about it in The Atlantic. Lafargue was one of the first to observe that shorter shifts led to an increase in factory productivity. Never heard of the book? There’s a reason for that: “In a preface, the critic Lucy Sante notes that The Right to Be Lazy, though profoundly influential in the late 19th century, is little known today precisely because of its entertaining and approachable nature: It is ‘seldom mentioned in Marxist theoretical literature,’ she writes, ‘because as a populist tract it is refreshingly free of theory.'”
Another observation that struck me:
A machine cannot enjoy its time off. We can, although productivity culture tells us otherwise. All too often, life seems to contain little but working and recuperating from work. Lafargue reminds contemporary readers that our time need not be so binary. Our leisure activities don’t need to burn through our paychecks or turn into second careers. They can be frivolous, exploratory, solitary, useless. In machine time, not working means turning off. In human time, not working can mean anything at all.