Yes! Cut the work week to 20 hours! And not just for "economic" reasons . . .

I hate to admit this, since I imagine many will think me self-indulgent. On the other hand, that I’m worried about people thinking me self-indulgent, if taken to the max, would have condemned me to the “work force” 40 hours a week — or more. So, thank “my lucky stars” that I really don’t give a hoot what other people think. And from that kind of freedom has flowed decade upon decade of “working” four to five hours per day, max. And when I say “working” I mean real work, work that feeds my soul — research, astrology, esoterica, writing, activism — rather than the wage slave “labor,” to use Hannah Arendt’s famous distinction.

I’m not sure if Arendt meant it the way I took it to mean when I read her, in my early 20s, but googling “labor vs work” today I come across this (Marxist) definition: “work is voluntary activity for self-improvement,” and/or “for the purpose of useful production” vs. labor which is “working force employed by capitalists and exploited by them.” There are likely other ways of talking about this distinction. But intrinsic to all of them may be the idea that “work” is self-generated, an authentic expression of the self, whereas “labor” is something imposed from the outside for another purpose. Which is so many people “hate going to work,” and “TGIF,” and so on.

In our society, entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, and consultants all tend to value work over labor, and tend to be freer than others in not only their life-styles, but their freedom to think their own thoughts without worry that someone “higher” will fire them. Though many of these people work long hours, they are doing what they love, so time flies. Big difference from laboring on a production line, or in a cubicle, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day with no real personal satisfaction or growth from the experience except, perhaps, that of learning how to be here now, no matter what!

Paying close attention to anything four or five hours a day is about the limit for me. So this article about cutting the work week in half resonates. On the other hand, as a society we still need to address the work/labor distinction. Everybody, and I mean every single being, if given his or her free rein, would naturally gravitate in the direction that best feeds his or her soul. It might take awhile to uncover and begin to express our authentic selves under all the socially conditioned repression, but it would come about.

Once we actually do manage to cut people’s “work” (read “labor”) hours in half, then, unless we get sucked even further into mind, heart, and soul-numbing “entertaining” distractions, we would have the opportunity to slow down and begin to sense the wind of our own unique trajectories. I have a sense that once each of us is really working to fulfill our life’s purpose, then all of our silly struggles for dominance over others, whether at the local, regional, or global levels, would simply dissolve within this larger, much more spacious and allowing, energetic field.

Thanks to theguardian.co.uk

Cut the working week to a maximum of 20 hours, urge top economists

Job sharing and increased leisure are the answer to rising unemployment, claims thinktank

Unemployment levels are rising within both Britain and the eurozone. Photograph: Mark Richardson/Alamy

Britain is struggling to shrug off the credit crisis; overworked parents are stricken with guilt about barely seeing their offspring; carbon dioxide is belching into the atmosphere from our power-hungry offices and homes. In London on Wednesday, experts will gather to offer a novel solution to all of these problems at once: a shorter working week.

A thinktank, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), which has organised the event with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, argues that if everyone worked fewer hours – say, 20 or so a week – there would be more jobs to go round, employees could spend more time with their families and energy-hungry excess consumption would be curbed. Anna Coote, of NEF, said: “There’s a great disequilibrium between people who have got too much paid work, and those who have got too little or none.”

She argued that we need to think again about what constitutes economic success, and whether aiming to boost Britain’s GDP growth rate should be the government’s first priority: “Are we just living to work, and working to earn, and earning to consume? There’s no evidence that if you have shorter working hours as the norm, you have a less successful economy: quite the reverse.” She cited Germany and the Netherlands.

Robert Skidelsky, the Keynesian economist, who has written a forthcoming book with his son, Edward, entitled How Much Is Enough?, argued that rapid technological change means that even when the downturn is over there will be fewer jobs to go around in the years ahead. “The civilised answer should be work-sharing. The government should legislate a maximum working week.”

Many economists once believed that as technology improved, boosting workers’ productivity, people would choose to bank these benefits by working fewer hours and enjoying more leisure. Instead, working hours have got longer in many countries. The UK has the longest working week of any major European economy.

Skidelsky says politicians and economists need to think less about the pursuit of growth. “The real question for welfare today is not the GDP growth rate, but how income is divided.”

Parents of young children already have the right to request flexible working, but the NEF would like to see job-sharing and alternative work patterns become much more widespread, and is calling on the government to make flexible working a default right for everyone.

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