Why We Work Too Much

It's time to revolt against the five-day week.

The three-day week, advocated recently by the Mexican multimillionaire, Carlos Slim, is such an obviously good thing, like freshly-ground coffee and reading to children, that I can’t be bothered to argue in favour of it.

The real issue is feasibility. Is it possible?

I believe so because I’ve done it myself. As a lecturer, I always tried to get my week’s teaching into three days, by working evenings, so I could have the other two free for writing. The catch is that this was successful only because I took care to let no one know what I was doing. Officially I was still working five days and so there was no offence to the five-day mindset.

The problem is

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estrayer 15 December 2014

I share in my classroom the notion that, as Michael Foley suggests, we work too much. This issue is multifold. One, we work, most of us around 90,000 hours in our lifetime, doing either nothing worthwhile or something that is counterproductive to society and the environment. My standard rap is this:
The Barbie Doll. There are over a thousand iterations of the Barbie Doll. What is it? It is first a piece of plastic that is a petroleum product that in its production via heat for moulding has polluted the atmosphere at the outset. Second, it promotes a socially counter-productive gender stereotype anathema to real little girls' potential in all areas outside of being a princess or beach bunny, inhibiting at the outset a focus on academics, science, literature and all the rest of the stuff found here. Further, the inability of the vast majority of little girls to match the body style of Barbie (among a plethora of other media elements) exacerbates, were it does not actually cause, what is called body dysmorphism - a false or overstated self perception of being over weight. To wit: a veritable epidemic of anorexia and bulimia. Finally, when the Barbie doll is used up, broken and discarded, being plastic, it now becomes land pollution. Should, in some fashion it be attempted to recycle her, by melting her down into some glob to be turned into some other plastic product, again, the heat needed to do so is released into the atmosphere once more to do its dirty work.
So we have a number of people in careers working excessively to market, design, and manufacture this little pink beast. And, no doubt, in the assembly we have underpaid exploited workers, some likely children still, in lesser developed nations or those "emerging" ones, working long hours in hostile environments.
Consider if we did not make the Barbie doll. Or waste thousands of hours and immense amounts of fossil fuel moving her around in large trucks and ocean freighters. Imagine if she never came to mind at all. The world would certainly be a better place.
Taking a quick look around in any grocery store you see again, hundreds of iterations of the same thing (consumer choice) such as cardboard boxes full of fourteen ounces of sugar and carbohydrates for over three dollars. Five or six brands of milk, most in plastic. Etcetera, etcetera.
If we stayed home more, providing we have a home, and did nothing, we would be, in effect, doing more.
But for one thing. We would not be making someone rich. And there's the rub. Work being considered valuable for its own sake, what is called in many circles the Protestant Work Ethic, is the myth that keeps the system running, and us working, producing mostly useless crap or spinning our wheels to move it around or to move around the ones and zeros on our computers, al to make a few wealthy and powerful enough to keep us from stopping.

Heather Mitchell 16 September 2014

There would be quite enough work for everyone if we had a three-day week. Maybe SOME of us over 50 would even be considered. :-/

Heather Mitchell 16 September 2014

Yes, yes and thrice yes.