The Right To Be Lazy

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Lafargue proclaimed the right to be lazy.

The Right to Be Lazy (French: Le Droit à la paresse) is a book by Paul Lafargue, published in 1883. In it, Lafargue, one of the most famous socialists of all time, sharply opposes the labour movement's fight to expand wage labour, rather than abolish or at least limit it. According to Lafargue, wage labour is tantamount to slavery, and to fight as a labour movement for the extension of slavery is preposterous.[1] In the book Lafargue proposes the right to be lazy, in contrast to the right to work, which he deems bourgeois.

The introduction of the book[edit]

After an initial quote from Lessing "Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, except in being lazy." The book's well-known introduction reads: 'A strange delusion possesses the working classes of the nations where capitalist civilization holds its sway. This delusion drags in its train the individual and social woes which for two centuries have tortured sad humanity. This delusion is the love of work, the furious passion for work, pushed even to the exhaustion of the vital force of the individual and his progeny. Instead of opposing this mental aberration, the priests, the economists and the moralists have cast a sacred halo over work...."[2]

Content[edit]

It is sheer madness, according to Lafargue, that people are fighting for the "right" to an eight-hour working day. In other words, eight hours of servitude, exploitation and suffering, when it is leisure, joy and self-realisation that should be fought for - and as few hours of slavery as possible.

Automation, which had already come a long way in Lafargue's time, could easily reduce working hours to three or four hours a day. This would leave a large part of the day for the things we really want to do - spend time with friends, relax, enjoy life, be lazy.

The machine is the saviour of humanity, Lafargue argues, but only if the working time it frees up becomes leisure time. It can be, it should be, but it rarely has been. The time that is freed up is usually converted into more hours of work, more hours of toil and drudgery. Working too many hours a day is often degrading, while working very few hours can be very refreshing and enriching, leading to general advancement, health, joy, satisfaction. He's also polemical against human rights, and instead prefers the right to be lazy.[3]

Quotes from the text[edit]

  • "Cannot the laborers understand that by over-working themselves they exhaust their own strength and that of their progeny, that they are used up and long before their time come to be incapable of any work at ail, that absorbed and brutalized by this single vice they are no longer men but pieces of men, that they kill within themselves all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work. Like Arcadian parrots, they repeat the lesson of the economist: “Let us work, let us work to increase the national wealth.” O, idiots, it is because you work too much that the industrial equipment develops slowly."
  • These individual and social miseries, however great and innumerable they may be, however eternal they appear, will vanish like hyenas and jackals at the approach of the lion, when the proletariat shall say “I will”. But to arrive at the realization of its strength the proletariat must trample under foot the prejudices of Christian ethics, economic ethics and free-thought ethics. It must return to its natural instincts, it must proclaim the Rights of Laziness, a thousand times more noble and more sacred than the anaemic Rights of Man concocted by the metaphysical lawyers of the bourgeois revolution. It must accustom itself to working but three hours a day, reserving the rest of the day and night for leisure and feasting.
  • Aristotle's dream is our reality. Our machines, with breath of fire, with limbs of unwearying steel, with fruitfulness, wonderful inexhaustible, accomplish by themselves with docility their sacred labor. And nevertheless the genius of the great philosophers of capitalisms remains dominated by the prejudice of the wage system, worst of slaveries. They do not yet understand that the machine is the saviour of humanity, the god who shall redeem man from the sordidae artes and from working for hire, the god who shall give him leisure and liberty. The Greeks in their era of greatness had only contempt for work: their slaves alone were permitted to labor: the free man knew only exercises for the body and mind. And so it was in this era that men like Aristotle, Phidias, Aristophanes moved and breathed among the people; it was the time when a handful of heroes at Marathon crushed the hordes of Asia, soon to be subdued by Alexander. The philosophers of antiquity taught contempt for work, that degradation of the free man, the poets sang of idleness, that gift from the Gods: O Melibae Deus nobis haec otia fecit.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Paul Lafargue: The Right To Be Lazy (1883)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2021-10-27.
  2. ^ "Paul Lafargue: The Right To Be Lazy (1883)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2021-10-27.
  3. ^ "Paul Lafargue: The Right To Be Lazy (1883)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2021-10-27.
  4. ^ "Paul Lafargue: The Right To Be Lazy (1883)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2021-10-27.

External links[edit]