In Praise of Idleness

Bertrand Russel ★★★★★

Definitely a classic. Available for free.

A tribute to lesiure, a meditation about economy, self-worth and the supposed nobility of labor. With the inevitable automation of most jobs and with the advent of basic income, this essay seems more and more realistic. If you find that work is by definition noble, that everyone ought to have a job, or that there must be a practical or financial purpose for doing anything - this is for you.


I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.

For ages, the rich and their sycophants have written in praise of ‘honest toil’, have praised the simple life, have professed a religion which teaches that the poor are much more likely to go to heaven than the rich, and in general have tried to make manual workers believe that there is some special nobility about altering the position of matter in space, just as men tried to make women believe that they derived some special nobility from their sexual enslavement.

There was formerly a capacity for light -heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.

Broadly speaking, it is held that getting money is good and spending money is bad. Seeing that they are two sides of one transaction, this is absurd; one might as well maintain that keys are good, but keyholes are bad.