“Workers should embrace the 9-to-5 job. It once symbolized drudgery, but now it’s a necessary boundary,” writes The Atlantic’s Carl Cederstrom.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 institutionalized the 40-hour workweek and for a time it was seen as an improvement over the harsh days and long hours that many could still recall.
But the mood changed by the 1950s and 1960s, as Hippies and the Beats came to the cultural fore. In Jack Kerouac’s semi-fictional 1958 novel The Dharma Bums, one character imagines “refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming all that crap they didn’t really want anyway.” Earlier that decade, Allen Ginsberg, feeling trapped in a market-research job in San Francisco, told his therapist, “I really would like to stop working forever … and do nothing but write poetry and have leisure to spend the day outdoors and go to museums and see friends.”
The utopian visions expressed by the Beats were heard from shouting crowds in the years that followed. In Paris, protesters adorned walls with anti-work slogans, such as “You will all end up dying from comfort” and “Never work.” In The Revolution of Everyday Life, the situationist Raoul Vaneigem launched an attack against the conformist life, likening the concepts of work and leisure to “the blades of the castrating shears.” After the revolution, he fancied, strikers would demand 10-hour weeks, stop picketing, and start making love in factories and offices.
Today’s Question: Should workers embrace the 9-to-5 job to reclaim leisure time?