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In Praise of Idleness

Bertrand Russell on the Relationship Between Leisure and Social Justice

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.”

With his characteristic wisdom punctuated by wry wit, he examines what work actually means:

Work is of two kinds:

  • first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter;

  • second, telling other people to do so.

The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given.

Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics.

The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e., of advertising.

Bertrand Russell via Maria Popova

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