Let’s start at the beginning: Keynes’ prediction, back in the 1930s, that before too long workers would have all sorts of leisure time because of improving productivity. Is there a history of this idea? I mean, others have argued this as well, correct?
Well, radical elements in the labor movement began embracing such visions from quite early on. After the successful campaigns for the eight-hour day in the 1880s, people immediately started thinking, can we move this to seven, six, or less. Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, and author of “The Right to Be Lazy,” was already calling for something along those lines in 1883. I have a Wobbly T-shirt with a turn-of-the-century style design that says “join the IWW for a new dawn,” it has a sun rising over the rooftops, and on the sun is written, “four-day week, four-hour day.” I don’t know how old the image really is but I’m guessing it’s from the Teens or the ’20s. In the 1930s, a lot of labor unions did move their industries to a 35-hour week. My mom was a garment worker at the time and that’s how she ended up getting involved in the ILGWU musical review “Pins and Needles,” because everyone had moved to a shorter week and the union started providing leisure activities.
And when did this expectation finally start dying out?