Adonis Diaries

Idleness? How to keeping adults and children from mischief

Posted on: December 30, 2021

Bertrand Russell

“The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich.

In the early nineteenth century, 15 hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did 12 hours a day. (Mostly working in the mines?)

When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief.

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.

I remember hearing an old Duchess say: ‘What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.’ People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion.”— Bertrand Russell,

In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935) is a 1935 collection of essays by the philosopher Bertrand Russell. The collection includes essays on the subjects of sociology, philosophy and economics.

In the eponymous essay, Russell argues that if labour was equitably shared out amongst everyone, resulting in shorter work days, unemployment would decrease (as if the 5% practically idles would add much to the productivity?) and human happiness would increase due to the increase in leisure time, further resulting in increased involvement in the arts and sciences.

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December 2021

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