Robert Skidelsky in How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life (2012) uses a 1930 essay from John Maynard Keynes (which you can read here) as a jumping-off point to argue, like Bergmann, that productivity gains enabled by past technological advances make it totally reasonable that we now should be working fewer hours than we are. However, Skidelsky's range of suggested solutions to this are much more modest and familiar (yet probably not politically viable): we need to get a national conversation going about how the good life does not entail that we keep producing to excess, that time is more important than money when we've already earned enough to achieve a satisfying life, and we would then use the democratic process to take actions to enable working less as a life-choice. In a key point of divergence from Bergmann (whom he quotes at one point, though the citation makes it clear that he got this through Andre Gorz, not by reading Bergmann directly), Skidelsky thinks that this removal of one's foot from the pedal of economic growth in favor of more time to enjoy life is only an option for wealthy countries who have already gotten the benefits of growth. Bergmann's projects, on the other hand, have concentrated on poor countries, which he thinks due are not properly described as "developing," i.e. not on track to repeat our success.
During our interview with Bergmann last Saturday, it was actually somewhat hard to get him to address the issues of our audience, i.e. people who are well-off enough to be listening to podcasts off the Internet. Skidelsky's book concentrates more on what's wrong with us: why has our culture lost track of eudaimonia in favor of ever-greater production and consumption? His answers (also unlike Bergmann) lie in the area of traditional morality: he identifies economics and political philosophy in the West, largely following John Rawls, as wrongly insisting that the government must be value-neutral, must not judge whether people's stated desires are right or wrong but merely mediate disputes about whatever people say they desire. SKidelsky also expresses doubt about the possibility of motivinging people to useful activity outside of the job system in the absence of cultural traditions in favor of service. So, like Alasdair MacIntyre, Skidelsky argues for eudaimonia from something of a Thomist position (i.e. Thomas Aquinas, Medieval interpreter of Aristotle) instead of getting his virtue ethics, as Bergmann does, via Nietzsche.
You can hear Skidelisky on an 2012 EconTalk episode talking about the book, and then he participated in an EconTalk debate with multiple guests (Mike Munger and Richard Epstein, both of whom are more conservative economists) on the role of government in regulating the economy. You can also watch this debate on YouTube:
Note that after interviewing Bergmann we decided against having another work episode as our very next thing (we'll actually be reading Nietzsche's The Gay Science next). Within the next half-dozen episodes we would like to get to Adam Smith, though, and then have an economist guest on with us to talk about Keynes vs. Hayek. Maybe after those things happen we could try to get Skidelsky himself to come on or otherwise specifically revisit the question of work, but I wouldn't expect that to happen in 2013.
bring on the Gay Science, we are surely living in a test-driven age!
After thinking about this whole work/job eudaimonia debate I wanted to know what anyone thought about the concrete aspects of existence, ie that there are more than 7 billion people on this planet and how that affects everything. There are so many people it is not surprising that humans have been commodified. The hiring/personnel division is called “Human Resources” for a reason. The machine of humanity sees individuals as so many statistics… How do we deal with this?
there really isn’t a space to stand that isn’t wrapped up in these kinds of chains of exchange and as far as I have seen no real political alternative out there of the counter-force/scale to make an substantial difference, lots of historical possibilities for trying to come to terms with one’s all-too-human tragic limits in all of this but not sure that they will really take away the sting of the whip, guess we were never promised a rose garden…
Wayne Schroeder says
If you Google “daniel smith deleuze lectures,” you can see one way to explain what is happening in the world regarding Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Anti-Oedipus)
“Why do people fight as stubbornly for their servitude as stubbornly as for their salvation?” (p. 29)
Seth B. says
If you can’t find someone with more specific experience in the history of economic thought, I’ll throw my hat into the ring for economist discussant on the Keynes and Hayek episode. If you’re interested I can give you some more information on my background and (limited) expertise.
Seth Paskin says
Let’s talk. Message me through the contact form and we can chat.
Khary Tafari Robertson says
Here is an interesting context to think of New Work in.
for a discussion that bridges our hope-less age of crony-capitalisms and Gay Sciences try Brian Massumi: http://www.international-festival.org/node/111
“Robert Skidelsky in How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life (2012) uses a 1930 essay from John Maynard Keynes (which you can read here) as a jumping-off point to argue, like Bergmann, that productivity gains enabled by past technological advances make it totally reasonable that we now should be working fewer hours than we are.”
I’m thinking trying to balance responsibility of family, full-time education, and pursuing work that is meaningful to me is insanity and life draining.
Skidelsky on Thinking Allowed, BBC Radio: