Sunday, March 15, 2009

Leisure Time

"Most people assume that the members of the Shoshone band worked ceaselessly in an unremitting search for sustenance. Such a dramatic picture might appear confirmed by an erroneous theory almost everyone recalls from schooldays: A high culture emerges only when the people have the leisure to build pyramids or to create art. The fact is that high civilization is hectic, and that primitive hunters and collectors of wild food, like the Shoshone, are among the most leisured people on earth."
- Peter Farb, 1968

While perhaps a little dated in its terminology, this quote does point to some unspoken assumptions about leisure time in our society. People claim to want it, yet they also don't want to be seen as "lazy". And there are larger questions, such as, what is the point of life ? To work and consume ? Or is that the treadmill people find themselves on ? It seems modern economists are all working from the same set of unexamined assumptions about the meaning of human existence. That consumption, and growth through private profit, lead implacably toward a better tomorrow. It's fairly widely accepted that there was, and is, more leisure time in hunter-gatherer societies. Perhaps this was why Marx pointed to them as examples of "primitive communism", hoping that "true" communism could combine the best of all worlds.

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