This node presupposes that you have read the "In Praise of Idleness" node. It a very nice and comprehensible essay by Bertrand Russell, in which he explains why he considers that working 8 hours a day is way too much and harmful also, and proposes a cut to 4 hours a day.

So, when I first read the essay, I was so... how can I express it with my poor english... so accordant, so furiously impassioned with the idea that 8 hours a day working is TOO MUCH, that I felt like a little kid whose lollipop has been taken... The Truth shone before me: life 9 to 5 is not a life. Let me explain myself.

But first things first (although not necessarily in that order as Dr. Who would say ;-). Let's sum things up in categories:

We have to discriminate between two cases:

  • First, there are the hours we spend on things that we can't do without/we can't control.
  • There are also those hours that we have at our disposal (to watch all our Jerry Springer show videotapes for example (my bloody humor strikes again)).

OK, first category, may the slaughter begin:

24.0 hours available1
- 2.0 hours for cooking and eating2
- 7.5 hours for sleeping3
- 1.5 hour spent in car/bus/public transport4 for going back and forth to work, to the theater, to the gym, (whatever you do during a day)
- 1.0 hour spent for minor (but sine qua non nevertheless, for any human being) needs5
= 12 hours left (50 % of the whole day).

And now ladies & gentlemen the final blow (a most kind contribution of our beloved economical system):

12.0 hours
- 8.0 hours of slaver... errr, working6
= 4 hours finally left.

1 As we all know, a day on earth has 24 hours.
2 Someone may argue: "Oh, c'mon, do you need 2 hours for two meals a day?? Have a pizza in the microwave oven and you're done. It fills you up and it's quick". I'll answer politely: "Fuck you man! Eating is (or at least used to be) one of man's most highly valued pleasures. To say the least, I don't want to end up with stomach cancer because of junk-food".
3 Scientists say that 7 hours a day (night actually :-) sleeping is OK for most adults. 8 hours is also OK, but more than 8 is actually harmful. So, for our calculation, let's say 7.5 hours. You'll say: "...but you said 7 hours is enough!". Do not make me say any bad words again: Sleeping is also a pleasure (...and does good to the skin also ;-). Remember, we do some things for their own sake, we did not come to earth just to work! (As the motto sometimes seen on the E2 home page says: "Don't take life too seriously".
4 And of course everybody will agree with me that, in most cases the 1.5 hour is by far exceeded. But let's, conservatively, say 1.5 hour in order not to make our model even more pessimistic...
5 time in the toilet, time to brush your teeth, to have a bath/shower etc.
6 As "Les Luthiers" have said, "Slavery was not abolished, it was just changed to 8 hours per day"... Oh, and did I mention the overtimes??...

So, 4 hours left...

4 hours in which we will:
  • watch a tv/movie/attend a concert/watch a theatrical play (average duration: 2.0 hours)
  • read a book (average duration: 0.5 hour)
  • do some sport (average duration: 1.0 hour)
  • spend time with our family (average duration: 1.0 hour)
  • go out with our friends (average duration: 1.5 hour)
  • do nothing1

1 Yes, do nothing. Except from physical rest acquired by sleeping, humans also need time to just sit, and do nothing but contemplate, look out of the windows at the cloudy sky, watch the rain, anything of the kind. You simply can't run the whole day from this activity to that activity; you also need to spend some time for yourself in the relaxed way I described.

What has to be done & why

Of course one will say, you can't expect to do all of your leisure activities every day. I will agree. But, come on, we live in the same world, it is obvious to everybody, that the maths simply don't work. 4 hours is zero. I will give an example: You go to the gym. You say to yourself: "We have exactly 1 hour to finish our training". But then you meet some good friends there and they talk to you. You stare nervously at your watch all the time, knowing that probably you won't make it... Is there anybody who likes that? Is there anyone who likes his life being so exact and strict as a computer program? I don't think so...

And all that, caused by the fact that in the 21st century we still have to work 8 hours a day! At that point let me quote from Bertrand Russell's In Praise of Idleness (which I strongly recommend reading):

I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.


The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.

As Russell says, the conception of duty has always been a means of power-owners to convince others to labour not for their own interests but for those of their masters. And as for the power-owners, they conceal this fact from themselves by managing to believe that their interests are identical with the larger interests of humanity. And sometimes this is true. For example, we have to admit that our civilization would lack a whole lot if in ancient Greece had existed no slavery. Under those conditions, a just economic system would make any contributions to the civilization impossible.

I will not try neither to justify, neither to condemn the Athenian slavery status quo. That was thousands of years ago and would be totally silly to judge it with our morality. What really matters is that today we do not need slavery to contribute to civilization (I repeat, I do not consider now the ethical aspect of slavery) because with the automatization, industrialization etc, the amount of work needed to secure for everybody the necessaries for life has greatly diminished. But instead of reducing the hours of work, people continue to work as hard as before, the production of course is of a much bigger quantity due to automatization, the market cannot absorb it, companies go bankrupt, and people lose their work... As Russell (again) says, "Could anything more insane be imagined?".

So, that what has to be done is to "reduce the amount of labour. Preferably from 8 hours, to 4 hours per day".

Enjoy life! Taste every moment of it, but not in the frenzy way that modern society forces us. Life is like good wine, you can't drink it as if it were Coca-Cola or else you will actually turn it into Coca-Cola.

So, having read In Praise of Idleness and dreaming about how wonderful things would be if we could get rid of all the unnecessary and harmful labour, how wonderful it would be not to have to run all day to do this, to do that, to catch up the bus, oh I missed the bus, I'll take a taxi, shit, too much traffic, no time to go to the gym, no time to cook, I'm hungry, damnit not McDonalds again, etc... Errrr, what was I saying? Ah, yes. So, having read the essay, I explained all these wonderful things to a rather cynical friend of mine, who, the whole time I was talking was looking at me untouched and unmoved.

When I finished, quite excited (me not him :-), he asked me with a face and voice both shining with sarcasm:

"And what about the wages smart guy? How are you gonna live with half the wage you earn now?"

This question erased the smile from my face. I had not thought about it. True... If you work for half the time you currently work, you'll get half the money you now get. Logical. Then I thought it over again. Is it?...

The Answer is here: Half the work, half the pay. Or not?(Part II)

Since the discussion of this last question goes out of the scope of this writeup, I came up with another writeup, containing my thoughts about what happens with the money you get (and why it happens, and why it should not happen, etc) in case of a reduction of working hours.