Should we all be lazier?: Why everyday idleness could save the world

With our neighbours in the UK currently facing fresh waves of strike action across various sectors, it’s perhaps worth casting our minds back to some of the successes that industrial action has enjoyed over the years. In 1884, notably, an English trade unionist by the name of Tom Mann published a pamphlet offering a radical proposal: “Eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, eight hours of what we will.” Despite claims to the contrary from US country songwriters, the emergent nine-to-five template did appear to finally offer a balance of taking and giving. Why then, almost 140 years later, does it feel like we have so little time to ourselves?

he problem isn’t just that most of us are struggling to live on a standard salary, but that relentless labour is presented as a virtue in and of itself, regardless of its yield. In an interview with GQ earlier this month, Andrew Garfield spoke candidly about the incredibly hectic (not to mention award-winning) stretch of work he completed following the death of his mother in 2019 – only to still feel guilty when he finally took a break and saw other actors’ faces beaming down from Los Angeles billboards. “You start to go into, ‘Well, what am I doing? Why don’t I have a billboard?’” Garfield said. “It’s so stupid. It’s insane.” If Oscar-nominated Hollywood actors can’t shake the feeling that they’re not doing enough, there seems scant hope for the rest of us.

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