In Praise of Idleness

Bertrand Russell in his eponymous essay "In Praise Of Idleness" provided all of us slackers a quote to justify ourselves by. But of course he meant something deeper than what the title misleadingly suggests...

In the essay he delved into what modern society is creating around it. He argues that machines were created to ease our burden and reduce our workload and not increase it, as was happening in the early 20th century. He also stated that "Idleness" was a necessary period of a person's day where he/she could reflect on their actions and take the time of better themselves, be it through meditation, introspection or even the development of arts, crafts and other hobbies. He quite correctly pointed out that the industrial revolution was destroying all that the machines were (theoretically) supposed to aid us in pursuing by taking our load of mundane activities.

.... and this was the trend seen till the 21st century. With industrial production increasing the world over, the number of hours worked per individual was on the rise. As the humungous boilers, furnaces and power plants could not be stopped once they are started they needed people to manage them 24/7.

But then something happened - The rise of the IT Professional. With the ability to have flexible working hours and even the joy of working from home, the IT world is an entirely different reality from that of the industrial age. With companies like Google encouraging their employees to have a minimum of 10% of their time working to spend on pet projects (or even just laze around and wait for inspiration to strike!) Bertrand Russel's Ide(a)l(e) world has started to take shape. Sure there are IT professional who are overworked, but companies are beginning to realize that employees are most productive when they are happy and happy when they can be 'Idle'.... if at least for a while....

Maybe technology and capitalism IS the answer to everything. It is truly a blessing that corporate psychology has been able to justify what Russell spoke of almost 80 years ago to and convince Human Resource personal that letting people do their own thing is the best option for everyone in the long run..


  1. ok,nice idea, but this 'free time' is still an elite-ish thought.
    industrial revo is being outsourced to developing countries, dontya think at least in some form.the progression:boiler room slave to assembly line worker to bpo employee.

  2. hey aniket. thanks for the comment..

    Ur right, the 'free time' was an elite-ish thought, but what I mean to say is that it no longer might be.

    as more and more companies value creativity (not in bpo s of course, but in other companies dealing in knowledge based development works - which seem to be on the rise the world over)this concept of 'free time' is bound to catch on..

  3. I'm all in favor of this idea and it's hardly a "dream", more of a simple practicality. However, even though the IT domain promised so much in the way of personal freedoms these have been mostly a transient entitlement. I've watched the process of increased flexibility return swiftly to the idea of strict industrial routines.

    And I can't really credit capitalism for those benefits we've gained--rather it's been a process of liberal thought and social enlightenment.