Social Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Why does society not make it a goal to work less hours?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (10007points) June 4th, 2016 from iPhone

It seems that many Americans are working more hours for less pay and struggling to get by.
With all of the technological advances that tend to make companies more productive and more efficient, shouldn’t we be working less, or at least make it a goal to be working less?
If we do not change the way we think about money, technology, and work, I believe me may be in for a rude awakening as machines continue to rapidly replace jobs.
I think Einstein hit the nail on the head with his “Message to Posterity.”
What do you think?

“Our time is rich in inventive minds, the inventions of which could facilitate our lives considerably. We are crossing the seas by power and utilize power also in order to relieve humanity from all tiring muscular work. We have learned to fly and we are able to send messages and news without any difficulty over the entire world through electric waves.

However, the production and distribution of commodities is entirely unorganized so that everybody must live in fear of being eliminated from the economic cycle, in this way suffering for the want of everything. Furthermore, people living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason anyone who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror. This is due to the fact that the intelligence and character of the masses are incomparably lower than the intelligence and character of the few who produce something valuable for the community.

I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and justified superiority.”

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14 Answers

kritiper's avatar

The less hours one works, the more likely one will be seen as a bum by society. Besides, one must do something with all those hours of the day. Exercise!

Coloma's avatar

I’m a huge proponent for working less. I was able to set myself up like this for years until the recession wiped me out and now I am working harder again much to my displeasure. haha
I truly believe that what it takes to survive in our modern world is highly detrimental to ones, mental, physical and emotional health and takes it;s toll on relationships as well. We are human beings not human doings and I think the work ethic is highly over rated and causes us to feel pressured to be in a constant state of productivity.

If I ran the world everybody would be able to live well on a 4 day work week of 6 hour days. The Buddhists think that 6 hours a day is more than enough work time to promote a balnaced life. I agree.

cookieman's avatar

Much of Europe has known this for years, but their society is structured differently. My wife’s family live in a small town in Italy. Those that work barely hit 40-hours/week, many much less. They also have lots of vacation time. Plenty don’t work at all. Most live in houses that have been passed down through the generations. No mortgage, only the cost of upkeep. At a certain age, they receive pensions from the government on top of whatever retirement or savings they may have. Also, for many of them, work is not a priority and the idea of “career” is unimportant.

There was a promise in America as technology advanced and we became more efficient that we would work less for the same results. Well, we did become more efficient, but those in charge now realized we could accomplish more in the same 40–60 hours. So why reduce work hours when you can increase demand of production?

ragingloli's avatar

As the movie “Metropolis” showed, technology does not exist to make the work of the workers easier, it exists to make more money for the despots in charge.

Cruiser's avatar

More Americans are working more hours for less pay because we have a totally fucked up Government and a false ideal of the American Dream. For some warped reason people are committed to having the latest cell phone, cable TV, internet and Wi Fi that none of which was a part of my upbringing. We had one used car and that was it! Remove this excess from ones life and a single parent working 40 hours would suffice to support a household. It worked for my parents and their parents. This notion that we need all this excess in our lives is where the bus veered off the highway.

Coloma's avatar

@Cruiser Yep, and with a little creativity one can still enjoy many things on a tight budget.
I don’t have cable Tv, no way am I going to pay #100.00 a month or more to watch garbage. I watch DVD’s, fluther, read and watch videos online as part of my entertainment. Good enough.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Wait a minute. It’s a bit more complex than that old bootstrap bullshit about working hard and getting ahead in America. Otherwise every migrant farm worker and cleaning woman in the country should have assured luxurious security awaiting them. And the same holds true on that other conservative sop tossed at the gullible. “The government is responsible for the decline in your standard of living.” Instead of pinning the ongoing impoverishmrnt of the former middle class on bungling wasteful government, why not look at just WHERE the money is going? Think about it. As this question asks “since productivity is undeniably rising, why are people working harder for less money?” In other words, WHO is reaping the rewards from improved efficiency? Yes the government IS in a very real sense to blame, because it is the OWNERS of the government that are obscenely fattening up at the expense of the rest of us. It’s that simple! The statistics are undeniable and the proof is visible EVERYWHERE.

Cruiser's avatar

@stanleybmanly You make a salient point about the owners of the Government who tightens the thumb screws on the everyday working man in the US….but the reality is that it is the everyday working man who keeps voting for these hot air establishment political boobs. I sense these everyday working men have snapped out of their hypnotized state of mind and are ready to smack down some real change in this country that is IMHO way overdue.

CWOTUS's avatar

Cui bono?

Inventing – and then bringing an invention to market – is not a simple task. In fact, in most cases it’s not a 9-to-5, 40-hours-and-you’re-done-for-the-week job, either. It’s a calling, and it takes a certain intense, persistent dedication over a long time to make it pay off … if it even will.

This has been a goal of many people for centuries: all scut work performed by simple machines, so that we humans could be free to pursue whatever leisure activities and entertainments – or alternative occupations, whatever they might be. But the inventors who will commit their lives to making the kinds of machines that would enable the reality that you seek are working those long hours and years in hopes of a payoff. They want to be able to sell those machines to someone.

To a great extent this describes the course of much of human invention over the past few millennia: someone is inspired to think of “the next greatest thing”, and then works to develop the idea, to enlist others to assist, to grow a company that produces the thing/s, and then sell them, making him or herself richer, providing jobs to the people who work to produce and sell the product, and paying a dividend or value return to investors.

This is why we’re not still living in trees or in caves, why we don’t have to fetch water from the nearest watering hole, and why we don’t have to grow or hunt our own food and cook it over an open flame while we watch for predators. Surely this is no mystery to anyone who can participate on Fluther? Sometimes I’m surprised.

While the thrust thus far has been more to “improve life” in those ways, I suppose it’s not unreasonable for many people to think that “my life is improved enough with the conveniences I now have; now I just want to have the same things, but with less effort”. So they want a machine to perform whatever function it is that they perform for a salary (assuming they do some form of productive work), so that they can have more time off with the same standard of living. They seem to forget that the employer who pays them to do work is also seeking to maximize his own return. He doesn’t pay people to do things which can be done with equal (or better) quality, quantity and predictability by a machine, if the costs are otherwise equal. Why would the employer spend money to install a machine to do a person’s job … and then continue to pay the person for work that the machine is doing?

Getting back to that inventor … those people are working like mad all around the world to make machines that will do scut work – including taking orders at fast food joints from the great unwashed, and flipping the burgers and frying the potatoes that those people order. And it won’t be the counter people who order them, and pay for them, and maintain them (and eventually replace them) so that the employer can continue to pay them wages while they go and do art or meditate upon their navels. It’s the employer who will do all of those things (and bear all of those costs) just so that he can stay in business.

You’re free to work as little as you wish, and live on as little as you can. (People in India are living on a couple of dollars a day. Surely you can live on ten times that amount, right?)

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I really hope that what I think is about to happen does…. We could be freed by technology to pursue life passions like art, music, research, math etc… I think at some point in the near future we’ll see technology take a back seat and other human endeavors will be given more cultural importance. Less working hours is not really how I see the future… I see less drudgery. Sorry if I actually have a positive view of the future. Give me time and resources to create music, hike the Appalachian trail, bring art to life in my wood shop and work out the tiniest of details restoring a classic car and I’ll be happy to work and work and work, loving every minute of it. I think we’ll eventually be freed from “work” as we know it.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

This particular member of society aims to make the most of fewer hours.

stanleybmanly's avatar

But it’s pretty obvious that the utopian dream of the benefits of invention and innovation being distributed equitably is being quite successfully resisted. Of course the “everyday working man” knows full well that he’s being screwed. The trouble lies in the fact that he’s easily distracted from just who’s responsible for his plight by transparent, superficial and artificial explanations from the very people grinding him to destitution. The great tragedy for the masses of people in our land is that they lack the sophistication to understand what is happening to them, and that no one supposedly representing them politically or otherwise is about to tell them about it. This is because that leadership is plugged in to benefit lucratively from things proceeding just as they are. What do all of these arguments against things like wasteful inneficient government, overpaid civil servants, corrupt job stifling unions, the commerce crushing effect of minimum wage laws- – what do all of these explanations for our troubles have in common? Well here’s a clue. If you step back and look, you might notice that each of them is basically placing the blame for the rot on PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR A LIVING. That’s right! It’s the “everyday working man” who is destroying America with his incessant demands for ever more pampering from his nanny state. No notice is paid to the interesting coincidence that as things grow ever more difficult for the guy on the ground, corresponding truckloads of loot are deflected from him to sectors of our society performing no productive work yet concentrating wealth in the hands of people with little but contempt for honest work and the “chumps” stuck doing it.

CWOTUS's avatar

We live like kings, yet some complain because others have bigger palaces and gold-plated plumbing. ‘Twas ever thus.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@CWOTUS no kidding, never in history has sustaining life and comfort been as easy as it is today.

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