By Juliet B. New York: Basic Books. The normal American workweek, after gradually declining to about 39 hours, began increasing. In the ensuing 20 years, working time has steadily increased to the point where the average worker now puts in an estimated extra hours of paid labor a year -- the equivalent of an additional month of work. Schor -- occurred just as the two-income household was becoming the middle-class norm.
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Jul 02, Stephany Wilkes rated it really liked it As others have mentioned, this book feels dated because it was written in the late s. Fortunately, the author has published similarly themed books more recently. Reading this book now just makes it seem like more of a harbinger. It also has me wondering what carrots employers will dangle to get us to work long hours when we're no longer dependent on them for health care in the very near future. This book is important because it drives the point home about how much has been taken from us in As others have mentioned, this book feels dated because it was written in the late s.
This book is important because it drives the point home about how much has been taken from us in the buying of our time; how much time corporate thieves have stolen; and how much of our own suffering we permit.
Schor describes, in depth, how the absence of a culture of consumption results in an understandable lack of compulsion to work. It was interesting to learn about studies in non-consumer oriented cultures in which people simply would not work more no matter what they were offered: they prefer to have their time and don't see stuff as a trade-off for time.
I loved the story on page 49, of workers antagonizing clocks controlled by the employer. Geez, if I think I'm resentful of long hours I've worked, imagine being a person who has never had a clock, whose day was organized by sun and moon, and then some slave-driving employer installs a clock in town and is counting their time!
Schor also describes and it's fascinating how employers used the weapon of time against employees, encroaching on customary periods for eating and resting and the loss of nearly all holidays. For this we can blame the Puritans, unsurprisingly. The book contains numerous surprises. First, though I'm already a strong proponent of home schooling possibly because I have no children to actually homeschool , I was surprised at the documented history of the elementary school as factory on page Sure, elementary schools seem like factories to me, but I doubt most people know the extent to which they were intended as such.
Later, I was horrified to learn on page 66 that many people who have especially long hours find themselves unable to cope with leisure time. It is a distressing section of the book if you have a shred of empathy in you. And, finally, an equally great surprise from history came on page I had no idea our workaholic nation was once so close to the hour week.
It pained me to read about it. People don't really want to work long hours. They want to be able to survive, and -- as we see today -- extra hours which are worked for free if you're salaried by one or two people amount to a job that someone else is not hired to do.
Long hours keep unemployment high. The quotation from economist Michael Kalecki on page 75 is well worth remembering: "Under a regime of permanent full employment, "the sack" would cease to play its role as a disciplinary measure. The social position of the boss would be undermined and the self assurance and class consciousness of the working class would grow Business leaders' class instinct tells them that lasting full employment is unsound from their point of view and that unemployment is an integral part of the normal capitalist system.
But Schor is not naive. Along with abundant evidence of how possible it is for us to work less, she acknowledges the culture and structures we've built up that prevent this from happening. On page she describes how hard working less can be to implement; how men want shorter hours but the jobs are full time. In Feb. I felt I had to become self-employed to control my time, taking a very hard line.
Page aptly describes my experiences with the social side of working less: in short, you basically need to be counter cultural to live this way, and defend it to others far more than you may have anticipated.
The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure
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