When I read the title, How to be Idle (Penguin, 2005), I thought the author, Tom Hodgkinson was joking. However I discovered that, despite some exaggerations, he was being quite serious. He has researched the history and evolution of organized work and found that prior to the Industrial Revolution people worked in a more haphazard fashion, on an ‘as need’ basis. The Industrial Revolution however, produced a much wider variety of consumer goods which in turn created a market for these goods, so people worked in order to buy commodities not just food. We went from the idea of working in order to eat; to the idea of eating in order to work. In the process we lost much ‘idle’ time.

Hodgkinson is not advocating idleness for its own sake. In his research the author found that many creative people were accused of indolence. It was often said a person was a genius in spite of their laziness whereas Hodgkinson feels they were a genius as a result of their apparent idleness because it gave them time to consider, reflect and contemplate.

Hodgkinson presents a thought provoking perspective on modern life, advocating shorter working hours, less pay, less consumerism and more leisure time.

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