Criticizing After Dinner: Marx and the Fight for Time for Human Development
Chapter 1 focused on Aristotle’s understanding of leisure as the ideal form of temporal autonomy, or the ability to control one’s time in a meaningful and self-directed way. In the context of Athens, discretionary time for the exercise of temporal autonomy was made possible for male citizens by assigning necessity (biological, financial, and household) to women, servants, and slaves in the context of the private household.1 This division of labor allowed male citizens time for active and sustained participation in politics, and leisure as contemplation, at the expense of the respective development of these particular human beings. Despite Aristotle’s acceptance of this unequal division of labor, his analysis of the distribution of time across necessity and freedom revealed time to be a collective or social resource shaped by specific political-economic constraints, and not simply an individual’s property abstracted from his or her social position, as liberalism is wont to frame it today. What this means is that the relationship between the state and the economy, and in particular the strength of the welfare state combined with a commitment to equality or lack thereof, is central to the overall availability of discretionary time and temporal autonomy for all.2 In other words, the aphorism that in the United States we “live to work,” rather than “work to live” is more compulsory than it is a genuine “choice.” For work to be an actual choice there would need to be a stronger public welfare state combined with public policies that allowed individuals to spend more time not working if they chose to do so.
KeywordsIndustrial Capitalism Capitalist Class Unequal Division Time Consciousness Primitive Accumulation
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- Original Source: Paul LaFargue, The Right to Be Lazy and Other Studies, trans. Charles Kerr (Chicago: Charles Kerr and Co., Co-operative, 1883). “Twelve hours of work a day, that is the ideal of the philanthropists and moralists of the eighteenth century. How have we outdone this nec plus ultra! Modern factories have become ideal houses of correction in which the toiling masses are imprisoned, in which they are condemned to compulsory work for twelve or fourteen hours, not the men only but also women and children. And to think that the sons of the heroes of the Terror have allowed themselves to be degraded by the religion of work, to the point of accepting, since 1848, as a revolutionary conquest, the law limiting factory labor to twelve hours. They proclaim as a revolutionary principle the Right to Work. Shame to the French proletariat! Only slaves would have been capable of such baseness. A Greek of the heroic times would have required twenty years of capitalist civilization before he could have conceived such vileness.”Google Scholar
- 8.Chris Rojek, Decentering Leisure: Rethinking Leisure Theory (London: Sage, 1995), 12. Chris Rojek’s nuanced approach to leisure seeks to “reconcile the analytic gains made by positioning leisure choice and forms in relation to history and scarcity with a defence (sic) that leisure behavior is intentional, albeit within the constraints of social positioning.”Google Scholar
- See Chris Rojek, The Labour of Leisure: The Culture of Free Time (Los Angeles: Sage, 2010), 126.Google Scholar
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