Switch to a 15-hour work week
Economist John Maynard Keynes thought that technological progress would pave the way for the 15-hour work week and a “golden age of leisure” by 2030. We’re not exactly there yet – but we might find clues about how to get there in the Kalahari Desert.
It was in the Kalahari Desert that an anthropologist went to study hunter-gatherers whose lifestyle is similar to that of our ancestors. A hard life, you might think. In actual fact, as in 95 percent of Homo sapiens’ history, they rarely “work” more than 15 hours per week, are in good health, and enjoy their free time to the fullest, often socializing or making music. They avoid monopolizing resources and share any surpluses. Our way of life is completely incomprehensible to them: why work every day and accumulate more than you need?
Our belief in the virtue of hard work is what we inherited from our switch to an agricultural society. Yes, agriculture enables us to feed more people. But it requires more work and encourages us to stockpile resources to prepare for uncertainties.
Our investment in work is relatively recent in terms of the human species. There is now a growing awareness that working less would be good both for us and our environment.
To go further: “The 300,000-year case for the 15-hour week,” by James Suzman (Financial Times, 28 August 2020).