In praise of idelness

February 25, 2008

For ages, the rich and their sycophants have written in praise of ‘honest toil’, have praised the simple life, have professed a religion which teaches that the poor are much more likely to go to heaven than the rich, and in general have tried to make manual workers believe that there is some special nobility about altering the position of matter in space[.]

Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness, 1932


4 Responses to “In praise of idelness”

  1. Daniel Owen Says:

    Yes, but work is its own reward. Not that Mr Russell would know too much about that! I think William Moriss’ thoughts on work were very astute.

  2. yoramgat Says:

    Surely, some work is its own reward. This is exactly the kind of work that Russell did do: healthy, intellectually and spiritually stimulating activity followed by substantial rest periods. It seems likely, however, that if the work the rich try to impose on others would have been its own reward, then the rich would have engaged in some “honest toil” themselves. No: much of what is considered work is useless activity with no rewards.

    Another point (which I believe was not mentioned by Russell) is that one person’s work is another person’s environmental degradation. Altering the position of matter should only be undertaken if the rewards (to all involved rather than to the alterer alone) justify it.

  3. Daniel Owen Says:

    What work did he do exactly?

  4. yoramgat Says:

    Teaching, thinking about problems, and writing books.

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