Our ancestors worked less and had better lives. What are we doing wrong?

In an age of both untold prosperity and existential crisis, it’s time to rethink work

2022-01-15 04:00:00 PM

Our ancestors worked less and had better lives. What are we doing wrong?: In an age of both untold prosperity and existential crisis, it’s time to rethink work

In an age of both untold prosperity and existential crisis, it’s time to rethink work

have little choice but to work long hours. Because workers’ incomes are low, while the factory owners reap most of the profit, the world’s poor have to struggle all day long to support their families.But the higher up the ladder we get, the harder it becomes to explain why we work so hard. In a

famous article from 1930, the leading economist of the time, John Maynard Kenyes, predicted that in 100 years modern society would have solved the problem of economic scarcity. Keynes therefore estimated that by 2030, his grandchildren would not have to work more than 15 hours a week, like the Ju/’hoansi, thanks to growth in capital, productivity and technological advancement. The future would be an age of “leisure and abundance”.

Read more: Mail & Guardian »

We work to acquire things we don't need. They lived simply & have the same mindset these days b'cos our kids will consider what we leave behind ad junk, so attach no sentimental value, just hold a real memory and move on. Travel, see places, you die everyday but only live once 🤔 Whose ancestors? Those who owned slaves maybe

The world has moved on from the 1800s

Our ancestors worked less and had better lives. What are we doing wrong?Our ancestors worked less and had better lives. What are we doing wrong? - In an age of both untold prosperity and existential crisis, it’s time to rethink work It’s time to rethink life!

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textile workers in Bangladesh have little choice but to work long hours. Because workers’ incomes are low, while the factory owners reap most of the profit, the world’s poor have to struggle all day long to support their families. But the higher up the ladder we get, the harder it becomes to explain why we work so hard. In a famous article from 1930 , the leading economist of the time, John Maynard Kenyes, predicted that in 100 years modern society would have solved the problem of economic scarcity. Keynes therefore estimated that by 2030, his grandchildren would not have to work more than 15 hours a week, like the Ju/’hoansi, thanks to growth in capital, productivity and technological advancement. The future would be an age of “leisure and abundance”. Keynes was right about one thing: the modern world became more productive. If anything, Keynes underestimated how much richer and more productive the world would become. However, Keynes was wrong when he claimed that these advances would also lead to everyone working less. Even though it takes fewer and fewer human hands to produce what our populations need, today most of us work just as much as we did in the 1970s . Why? Even if our bank accounts are in the black right now, most of us keep working because we fear that if we stop, our needs or our families’ needs will not be covered in the future. Particularly in societies with little or no welfare state protection, everyday life is precarious, even for those not at the very bottom of the economic ladder. People work to stay afloat. Yet many members of the middle class do not work just to get what they need. They also work to acquire everything they want . The middle class desire for more stuff is ingrained in the very structure of capitalism. For our economies to keep growing, consumers must always want more. We now live in a hunter and gatherer society where needs are covered, but where the hunt continues. Another holiday home, another international flight, an apartment with a view. ‘Bullshit jobs’ Yet the expectation of increased growth and consumption is only part of the explanation for why the most privileged of us go to work in the morning. Work provides more than just a paycheck – it also gives us a sense of being a valuable human being. This ideology of work is prevalent across the political spectrum. The constitution of the Soviet Union literally declared that “ he who does not work, shall not eat ”. Keynes was unable to predict how the job would become the very axis around which life rotates in the 21st century. When we meet a stranger at a party, we automatically ask, “what do you do?” By this, we actually mean: “where do you stay between nine and five?” We pity those who do not have a good answer because the job has become our foremost identity. It does not matter if you have one of the “ bullshit jobs ”, as described by the anthropologist David Graeber, where you attend meetings that no one pays attention to and write reports that no one reads. The sole aim is to participate in the ritual of work, even though it can be hell from nine to five. In my part of the world, one must have a job to have a dignified life. It ought to be a job that sounds cool, where you work on “projects” and are terribly busy. Ideally, one should have a “career”. For the middle classes, it is no longer enough to work, we have to really love our jobs, and be busy all the time. Part of this modern “hunt” is good. We rush to create new medicines and technology that make life easier to live. But a lot of the stress is unnecessary. In my home country Norway, private consumption has