Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Many of you probably remember FLG's obsession with the topic of Leisure. It's still there; he just bombards you with time horizon posts instead.

Anyway, it sure sounds like Noah Millman is arguing in favor of a right to Leisure at the end of his most recent post:
We are living in a very interesting period in history, where the boundaries between work and play, and between productive and nonproductive activity, are becoming more and more fluid. Having the freedom to cross and recross that boundary is enormously valuable to an individual, and a society. But that freedom is not remotely evenly distributed. I hate to sound like some kind of socialist, but when we think about inequality, in my view we should be thinking primarily about two factors: first, whether absolute deprivation of essential goods is a real problem in our society (I would argue that it is, at least for some essential goods); second, whether some measure of wealth in the sense I am using it – as freedom, rather than as relative positioning – is reasonably broadly distributed across society, and is a plausible aspiration for most people at some point in their lives.

BTW, if you click on the first leisure link above, you'll find this quote from FLG:
The ultimate goal of Marxism, in its purest, Platonic form, is Leisure. Leisure in this case means the ability to pursue one's goals free from constraints. Those constraints could be cultural, economic, or political.

So, in that sense, FLG does think Millman sounds very much like a Marxist.


NoahGideon said...

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 said...


I actually think that the end goal Marxism is a bastardization, for lack of a better word, of the Aristotelian concept of Leisure. Aristolelian Leisure without the duty to do something with it is probably the best way I can summarize it.

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