40-hour work-week as a tool of emiserating economic growth


Uh-huh. Maybe he should try the 60-hour work week. Someone tell this guy we’ve all been completely aware of this problem for more or less ever. We could all scale back, work 20 hrs/week, and be able to live comfortably – but only if everyone else does. It’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma grand-scale, with the added “rule” that the prison guards get 10X the reward of any prisoner.


This is intersting. But yeah, it’s not news, as cello there indicates. I would also argue it’s probably not as clear cut as we think. Things don’t always functioned as designed as we all know. Some good works on the role of consumption and leisure in American society include Rosenzweig:

And John Kasson:

And Lizbeth Cohen:

I just recently learned what the Gruen Transfer means. As a tool of class warfare, it’s devastatingly effective. Managing our off hours works too. I noticed when I was first making enough to get by on 20 hours a week, I was expected to work 50.

This dovetails with what Richard Wolff has been saying about the credit crisis. He starts here with flat wages, but rising productivity: http://youtu.be/TZU3wfjtIJY?t=26m34s


tldr had to get back to work.


One way to break the cycle while still being able to pay the mortgage is exercise. And not just to get healthy, but to work towards a goal… backpack in europe, climb a mountain, or get better at a sport.

The sense of purpose is pretty energizing, and suddenly you find yourself sitting at your desk planning a bike ride instead of what movie to watch or video game to buy (or whatever consumer oriented pastime you choose).

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There’s the assertion “Healthy, happy people don’t feel like they need much they don’t already have, and that means they don’t buy a lot of junk, don’t need to be entertained as much, and they don’t end up watching a lot of commercials…”

Can anyone cite the research regarding healthy happy people? I guess they mean Norwegians, who last I heard, were pretty darn happy (and yet quite heavy drinkers, which might qualify as addiction possibly?)

I’m not refuting that yeah This Modern Life Sucks™ and Wouldn’t It Be Better if We All Had Inheritances And Trust Funds So We Could Live Our Dream of Inventing Useless Stuff with a 3D Printer Which Nobody Will Use And Writing Scathing Articles About How Dissatisfactory It All Must Be for the Common Man While Still Being Able To Afford To Send Our Kids to Private School™.

But that said, so long as I must live here in the States, there’s absolutely NO other time in its history I would rather be alive than right now. Good lord, life sucked for everyone on this continent for a long time, unless you were wealthy, white, and somehow didn’t die from the Clap early on.

And, with the worldwide economic recession, there will probably be no country immune from the same 40 hour problem.


The only way that will ever happen is if people keep questioning the status quo. Perhaps there is nothing new in this article’s take on the subject, but it keeps the idea in people’s minds, perhaps introduces it to a few more.

I switched to hourly contract work this year and I’ve never been happier; but I am very conscious of how lucky I am to have that opportunity and also how easily I could be replaced.


As some one about to start the 10th hour of nth hours of work until 3 or so hours of sleep and another day of the same except with an earlier start… yes.

*note: 16th hour reached, making 21 hours before start of Tuesday and counting. And yes, this is a choice and not slavery, more like serfdom… and not all choices are between good options.

The fact that you and I were aware of the problem doesn’t remotely mean that everyone is. If we ever hope to reach the critical mass of awareness needed to make inroads on the problem, we need to educate people–by, say, writing a blog post.


That’s a meaningless assertion. “Better than it’s ever been before” is not good enough if it’s always been varying degrees of terrible.


Its not surprising there is a lot of resentment of this piece. Resentment is another thing working 40+ hours a week in someone else’s setting engenders. I say that because when I worked from home, even if I worked 40+ hours, I was much more happy. Some people hate it, but they probably like going into an office every weekday. I was home, took a long walk with my dogs midday, ate a leisurely lunch and finished in the early evening. My love was nearby and we could talk and take care of things on a regular basis. I was able to fit my 8+ hours into a LIFE I led, which is a lot different from fitting my life into 8+ hours in a cubicle 5+ days per week. So I would argue that yes, 40+ hours per week can be a massive soul-destroyer, but its not just the hours, its also WHAT you do every day, and WHERE and WITH WHOM you do it that adds to the misery quotient in significant ways. Given that most people cannot choose the what, where and with whom parts, we do seriously need to figure out how we can all work 20 hours a week. If we got rid of the bullshit jobs nobody needs done, and figured out that shiny and green money is bullshit, we could do it tomorrow. But humans are trained into this life way more than any dog ever is, and many of us apparently want normalcy more than happiness.


I keep seeing this word on Boing Boing - “emiserate” - but it seems like it’s never been used outside a closed set of blogs, and I can find no definition anywhere. Is it just a made-up word? Didn’t we already have quite a few perfectly good words for “make unhappy?”


It’s all kind of meaningless assertions. There’s very little concrete steps any of us can take, outside of suddenly everyone deciding to do it differently (or some kind of Fascist Maker Community uprising). But everyone suddenly deciding to do something is a very fickle and unpredictable beast.

I don’t think it was “big business” that brought us the 40 hour work week.


I’m pretty sure it should be ‘immiserate’. I like it, it’s a good word.


Totally. I do residential care work nowadays. It’s not the best-paid job, but it’s okay. And I work one week stayover, on call at nights as well, then two weeks off. I know it’s not a stup works for everybody, but you’d have to drug me & chain me up to get me into an office five days a bloody week again. Money certainly wouldn’t get me in there, it’d have to be force…

We make choices. Working 40-80 hrs per week, 48 weeks per year (most get 2 weeks + 10 holidays) is a choice in the USA. Few of us are enslaved by others. We can choose not to buy a car, a house, new clothes, fancy foods, big dwellings that we occupy alone…and we can live on the money we can earn making things and selling them or working part-time or seasonally.

And we don’t have to paralyze ourselves with myths like: “I can only do 20 hrs a week if EVERYONE ELSE does 20 hrs a week and they’ll never do it.”

No, it was big business that brought us the 80 hour workweek – by forcing people off the land they’d lived on and from for a thousand years and into the factories working for less than subsistence wages 80 or more hours per week. Labor strikes eventually got concessions down to 40 hours with the blood of the workers. The labor movement also brought you OSHA (safety protection), health insurance, vacation and sick pay, and various and sundry other worker rights. Capitalism was theft and coercion from the very beginning. Its been blood and loss ever since for the working man just to extract the barest of human care and feeling from the brutality of capitalist domination. There is a better way that doesn’t involve communism. Either get rid of money or provide every citizen and resident of every nation a basic guaranteed income, education, shelter and healthcare. There is nothing stopping such a system but those at the top who are always and only ever interested in artificial scarcity and maintaining their own power with the resulting immiseration of the people. If that immiseration is somewhat lessened for some of us in this era that doesn’t change the landscape for most everyone else: wages for long hours that don’t even put a roof over one’s head, let alone provide decent food, healthcare and education.


“We can choose not to buy a car, a house, new clothes, fancy foods, big dwellings that we occupy alone…and we can live on the money we can earn making things and selling them or working part-time or seasonally.”

I live in a tiny apartment, alone, my clothes are ratty and out of style (or three sizes too big), old used car, no kids and too late for that … I’m paying for cancer and other such glamorous lifestyle choices. Blah blah blah… high rolling lifestyle moralizing.

Funny thing is if I weren’t doing this and were complaining about not being able to provide care for myself some one would be saying “we all make choices… GET A REAL JOOOOB!”

And if you really want to know I do feel privileged, actually. Just also a bit sad that my life will amount to so little in an effort to prolong itself… for seemingly no reason. Oh, and also very tired and hungry. A lot. I spend a lot of time tired and hungry, but somewhere at company X a bunch of deliverables will be on time, and that’s important to somebody… I think.