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In the Chronicle of Higher Education , Edward and Robert Skidelsky argue in defense of leisure—-and against an economy focused on growth:

It will be said that, while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours of work out of the 24. Insofar as this is true in the modern world, it is a condemnation of our civilization; it would not have been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for lightheartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. . . . The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.

We might add that it is largely because leisure has lost its true meaning of spontaneous activity and degenerated into passive consumption that we throw ourselves into work as the lesser of two evils. “One must work,” wrote Baudelaire in his  Intimate Journals , “if not from taste, then at least from despair. For, to reduce everything to a single truth: work is less boring than pleasure.”


Edward Skidelsky is the author of the recent provocative First Things article ” The Emancipation of Avarice .”

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