optimally idle

A great extract in the Grauniad today on How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson.

Particularly interesting is the quote from the English historian EP Thompson regarding self-employed weavers before the invention in 1764 of the spinning jenny.

In his classic book The Making Of The English Working Class (1963) Thompson writes: “The work pattern was one of alternate bouts of intense labour and of idleness.” A weaver, for example, might weave eight or nine yards on a rainy day. On other days, a contemporary diary tells us, he might weave just two yards before he did “sundry jobs about the lathe and in the yard & wrote a letter in the evening”. Or he might go cherry-picking, work on a community dam, calve the cow, cut down trees or go to watch a public hanging. Thompson adds as an aside: “The pattern persists among some self-employed – artists, writers, small farmers, and perhaps also with students [idlers, all] – today, and provokes the question of whether it is not a ‘natural’ human work-rhythm.”

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