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21 Hour Work Week??

From about high school age and on, the prevailing idea driven into our heads is to achieve maximum financial security–whatever that means. We’re supposed to go to college and major in something that has an easily described career attached to it. Then get a great job and put in like a million hours so that we can buy a house, a care, and a lot of other stuff, and save up for retirement so that ONE DAY, maybe when we’re 65, we can actually start to enjoy our lives.

But what happened to enjoying our lives as we’re living it. Why is personal fulfillment considered a commodity to be earned only  after enduring decades of unending work?

After graduating college I had this panicked conversation with a friend about how from here on out, we were going to be expected to “grow up” and get a “real” job. How now, every time someone would ask us what we majored in (African American Studies), and what we were passionate about (social, environmental, food, etc. JUSTICE), we would most likely be met with sighs, eye-rolls, and head shaking and asked how that translates into a job, career, or $$$.  Or told how only a small percentage of people who want to do that kind of work will make any money.

The idea of doing working all day at something I’m not passionate about sounds worse than any organic chemistry exam or african american studies thesis paper I ever had to do in undergrad. But worse than that, is being too tired or busy to enjoy the money and “financial security” that we’re supposed to be working towards in ANY job–having to schedule fun, leisure, and personal fulfillment into your nominal vacation days. I know it’s not always this black and white (either/or), and that some people are fortunate enough to make (enough) money in jobs they’re passionate about and have time for themselves.

Anyway, this article talks about shortening the work week to not only have more time for personal fulfillment, but to works towards economic sustainability (decreasing the wealth gap and the disparity between the overworked and underemployed). The kinks aren’t all worked out, but it’s a step towards a more egalitarian society.What do you think??

To save the world — or really to even just make our personal lives better — we will need to work less.

Time, like work, has become commodified, a recent legacy of industrial capitalism, where a controlled, 40-hour week in factories was necessary. Our behavior is totally out of step with human priorities and today’s economy. To lay the foundations for a “steady-state” economy — one that can continue running sustainably forever — a recent paper argues that it’s time for advanced developed countries transition to a normal 21-hour work week.

This does not mean a mandatory work week or leisure-time police. People can choose to work as long, or short, as they please. It’s more about resetting social and political norms. That is, the day when 1,092 hours of paid work per year becomes the “standard that is generally expected by government, employers, trade unions, employees, and everyone else.”


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