Work, rest and what you will


Yesterday was 1st May – International Workers Day. Various things were being circulated in honour of this around the internet. I particularly liked this picture which I think reminds us that career development and self-actualisation is based on the kind of balance that we strike between our work, life and leisure. Of course we each have a lot of influence on this individually, but our opportunity to influence this operates within a social and economic context.

What the makers of this picture understood in the late nineteenth century, and which many of us seem to have forgotten, is that the social and economic order are not fixed, but rather contestable and open to change. They developed the eight hour movement to fight for this change which was ultimately achieved in the twentieth century as the normal working day. This was not about limiting what people could and couldn’t do (overtime was always a reality, but we used to get paid for it). Rather it was about creating a set of social norms between employers and employees about what it was reasonable to expect. Many of these have crumbled and I think that it is to the determent of all of us.

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