Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hours of Labour 3

by Sydney J. Chapman (translated and condensed by the Sandwichman)

So far I have dwelt on two aspects bearing upon the hours of labor: first, the effect of industrial development in intensifying the work performed during the working day and thereby increasing the output; second, the subjective effect of the increasing strain associated with such advance. I have now to add another influence: the enhancement of the value of leisure that must accompany a rise in wages, improved education, and social progress generally. The amount of the real wage yielded by a given money wage necessarily varies with the time left to spend it; and, further, the value of leisure is a function of the goods that can be enjoyed in the period of leisure. The acute worker would aim at so distributing his time between work and recreation that the gain resulting from a little more leisure would equal the loss consequent upon the implied diminution of wages. Hence, when the volume of goods per capita annually supplied to labor increase, an attempt would almost certainly be made by the workers to buy more leisure, even if the satisfaction derived from leisure were unaffected, which it would not be, because the satisfaction derived from leisure must rise when each hour of leisure is enriched by greater possessions. As regards the effect of education, it is sufficient to point out that the value of leisure is a function of appreciative power and that this is developed by education. On the other hand, the higher appreciative power might also enhance the satisfaction got out of the work itself, and this effect could offset the effect on the value of leisure, or even more than counteract it. Ambitions would be further awakened, but the ambitious worker would probably demand, as a rule, more time for study. I think it unquestionable that, on the whole, educational advance causes a curtailment of hours.
But unfortunately human nature improves slowly, and in nothing more slowly than in the hard task of learning to use leisure well. In every age, in every nation, and in every rank of society, those who have known how to work well have been far more numerous than those who have known how to use leisure well. But on the other hand it is only through freedom to use leisure as they will that people can learn to use leisure well; and no class of manual workers who are devoid of leisure can have much self-respect and become full citizens. Some time free from the fatigue of work that tires without educating is a necessary condition of a high standard of life. – Marshall, Principles of Economics, 5th ed., pp. 719-20.
Social progress creates new claims on leisure by complicating life and rendering formerly vague feelings of social obligation more definite and insistent.
Generally it can be said that the more complex the social organism becomes, the more its constituent individuals must devote time, apart from work and business, to the family and recreation, to education and general affairs, the more necessary is a general social arrangement concerning the distribution of time between the several purposes which it has to serve. – Schmoller, Grundrisse der allgemeinen Volkswirthschaftslehre, p. 741.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So far, this is a helpful summation of Chapman's paper, Sandwichman. Thanks for your effort. I cannot find this paper anywhere on the net.

I do wonder if Chapman is not setting work in contradiction to leisure in this section. This should be counterpoised to Marx, who saw free time as a basis for creative exercise of human faculties, and for the all round self-development of the individual

For instance, there are goods which can be only be enjoyed during work: a painter is able to enjoy his tools and his capacity for creative exercise of his productive capacities when he is not at leisure.

In Chapman's model, I believe I detect the idea that time is a scarce resource - necessarily divided between work, leisure, education, family, and so forth.

I come away from it asking myself: What if time is not a scarce resource? What if there is no constraint on how one spends one's time?