There is life outside of work

August 28, 2020 0 By Michel Santi


The time when Voltaire stated in Candide that “Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need” is over. Today, it is no longer appropriate to work regardless of the cost. In other words, less work could improve our living conditions and could undoubtedly improve the way we do work. The belief that discipline can only be acquired through work has become outmoded. And in our post-modern society, work is no longer a synonym of personal development.

Please spare us the false arguments and other clichés, which state that the reduction of workers’ hours increases unemployment due to the increase in corporate expenses. Current technological advances combined with the gradual automation of our economy strengthen the case for a radical reduction of working time, which will allow employees to express their creativity and inventiveness. One thing is certain: today it is no longer necessary to work long hours to be productive. The opposite is true, as the shortening of working hours will boost employee motivation as well as their enthusiasm thus having a positive impact on their productivity. Automation and technology should, in theory, help maintain the employees’ standard of living while allowing them to work much less.

However, the fundamental problem is not one of productivity. It is whether, from a moral point of view, modern and democratic societies should tolerate a situation where some work long hours while others are simply deprived of any job. This anomaly, which I would call a monstrosity for the unemployed, could be resolved through a fair division of labor using the transmission belt of reduction of working time. I certainly believe that the younger generations no longer value their existence in terms of what they produce. If young people today can be freed from this nauseating cult of productivity, this will be excellent news for our future quality of life and our emotional and intellectual development

This dream of reducing the working hours of both wage earners and salaried employees is obviously not new. Keynes advocated a fifteen-hour workweek solution (by the year 2030) in order to achieve full employment and a “good society”. The dramatic reduction of working hours was also an essential component of the future communist society described by Marx. Even John Stuart Mill pleaded repeatedly for a society that would allow him more leisure time, to get away from the “Gospel of Work”. All these thinkers living in different historical periods were already dreaming of a society that would work less thanks to modern technology and, would thus succeed in increasing harmony and happiness.

Today, we have that technology. I see a different world and new promises looming over the horizon. The future reduction in working hours will allow everyone to seize new opportunities, to be more creative while undoubtedly being more effective at their jobs. Today, in 2020, it is essential to work less to work better.

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