In Praise Of Idleness By Bertrand Russell Essay

Bertrand Russell In Praise of Idlenessand other essays Routledge Classics, Paperback, 2004.8vo. Preface to the Routledge Classics Edition by Anthony Gottlieb, 2004 [vii-x]. Work with the majority is their only refuge from ennui; but it is comic to call it noble for that reason.

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Working four hours a day instead of eight was revolutionary then. If anything, it has become more relevant in the 80-odd years since the essay was written.

He is an elitist insofar as every revolutionary thought was elitist in the beginning.

Without the leisure class, mankind would never have emerged from barbarism.

Even the liberation of the oppressed has usually been inaugurated from above.

None of the members of the class had to be taught to be industrious, and the class as a whole was not exceptionally intelligent.

The method of a leisure class without duties was, however, extraordinarily wasteful.On the other hand, essays like “The Ancestry of Fascism” and “The Case for Socialism” are rather serious, considerably longer and more substantial pieces.From the other pieces that fall between these extremes, very few did I find unremarkable, partly because Russell has discussed some of the subjects (“What is the Soul? Russell is perceptive enough to recognise that too much leisure would be just as harmful as too much work, especially to ex-hard-working people who are not used to it and have been drilled into their heads for generations that work is virtuous. The class might produce one Darwin, but against him had to be set tens of thousands of country gentlemen who never thought of anything more intelligent than fox-hunting and punishing poachers.”, “Education and Discipline”) with greater acumen elsewhere, and partly because sometimes he is simply pedestrian (“On Youthful Cynicism”, “Stoicism and Mental Health”).Russell’s critics are fond of accusing him of social and political naivety, sweeping generalisations and half-baked arguments. Sadly, we seem to be getting further and further from Russell. Compare: Work is lauded because it takes men out of themselves. Contents*Preface to the Routledge Classics Edition Introduction Preface1. Nevertheless, he remains convinced the ultimate effect of increased leisure will be more “happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia”. It’s one thing to have free time when your work is done. But the point is that there is only one way to see. By the way, Bertrand Russell is in the very good company of Somerset Maugham and Arthur Clarke who have expressed very similar views on the enormous amount of useless work, the ridiculous idea that there is anything noble in it, and the art of idleness.When he defends “useless” knowledge (note the original quotation marks), he doesn’t go out of his way to degrade the useful knowledge (i.e.with obvious practical importance): he merely points out that we owe to this knowledge both the good and the bad sides of our civilisation.


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