Thursday, December 16, 2010

Leisure Follow-Up

Noah Millman was nice enough to follow-up in the comments on my post:
Thanks for the link. Not sure I'd talk about a right to leisure, nor entirely sure that "leisure" is the right word to use. But if you think that Marx was aiming at a society at leisure then, yes, I'm talking about that sort of thing, because what Marx was talking about was the experience of freedom in the act of work. Though the identification of wealth with freedom is, I think, originally Aristotelean, and is the reason why only the propertied can be citizens in his conception of a republic.

Think about the way Google pays people to work on whatever they want one day a week, on the understanding that Google owns the product of their "labor" - though, of course, the "laborers" also own a big chunk of Google.

Or think about Miklos Haraszti's description of Soviet-era Hungarian factory workers doing a crappy job on the job, and then lavishing attention on objects and devices, some useful, some entirely decorative, that they made surreptitiously using the same equipment.

FLG responded in the comments of that post as well, but thought this could do with a bit more examination. Here is probably the most clearly articulated end goal of Marxism as described by Marx:
as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

That does sound a lot like what Noah is concerned about. The equality of the freedom to fish in the morning, yet criticize after dinner.

But Noah is also correct that Aristotle equated wealth with freedom. In fact, FLG has long maintained that the end goal of Marxism is actually a bastardized version of Aristotelian leisure. Many people, including apparently Noah, see the goal of Marxism as, to quote Noah directly, "the experience of freedom in the act of work." FLG sees this as sort of a red herring. Sorry, he had to go there.

Marx is very good at articulating the problems of capitalism, but he doesn't really focus on what his goal is besides that one paragraph above. Many people logically think that because Marx was so focused on the problems of labor that he envisions some new form of labor as the ideal. But it's not labor at all. It's Leisure. It's the ability to choose what to do and when to do it for your enjoyment. It's the freedom of Aristotelian Leisure without the duty, if that makes sense to any of you.

1 comment:

David said...

"hunter, fisherman, critic, etc"...yet I observe that Marxist-influenced liberal intellectuals often tend to sneer at people--ie, bloggers--acting as "critics" without having that activity as a full-time career.

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