But our drive to work is not an intrinsic part of who we are. The best evidence for this comes from hunting and gathering societies that enjoyed levels of leisure time most of us could only dream of.

    Research conducted among Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert in the 1960s disproved the idea that our pre-agricultural ancestors led lives of unremitting hardship. Despite the harshness of their environment, the Bushmen made a good living on the basis of only around 15 hours’ work per week.


LOL man writes article about how we maybe don't have to work FT to be happy, refugee takes the opportunity to work FT on an extra full length response - maybe I should've taken the hint here and gone for some brevity - :P


I guess I have two major responses to this article.

First, the Bushmen-work-15-hours-a-week-and-that's-an-ideal-lifestyle part: I confess. I did a little more research. It was funny. The first few articles I found all said about the same thing - in slightly less vague terms - as this one. That's cuz they all had the same author. Here's one.

Then I found some other articles. It turns out this guy studies the Bushmen, has for 25 years (that's cool; he's an expert) and he wrote a book about them - which is what fed these articles, essentially. That was good context to have. I just wasn't confident i was getting a full and precise picture from this first link. Terms like "The Bushmen made a good living" struck me as genetic and vague; what is "a good living"? How are we defining and determining that?

It turns out, Bushmen spend 15 hours a week acquiring food, it's true. Then they spend another 15-20 hours a week on domestic chores and etc. That brings their workweek total a lot closer to the regular 40 we Americans clock in.

I also think it's important to consider: it's great that these Bushmen live in a fecund and stable environment where they can depend on food sources being consistently available year-round, but I doubt that is the norm for hunter-gatherer societies across the world as a whole. There are a lot of places where you have to stock up food while it's available, because in the cold season, or the dry season, or the wet season, or whatever, your food sources become more scarce, the weather becomes harsher (so hunting is harder/more taxing), and essentially, you hit lean times.

It's good for the Bushmen that it works, but I think it's a questionable premise to say, "Because it works for these guys, it would work for everyone!" And of course, Suzman neglects to mention the other 15-20 hours a week the Bushmen spend working on things that aren't just finding and hunting down food.


My second thought is...less concrete and less provable, but none of the articles I reviewed really succeeded in proving its counter, so I'm going to put it out there.

    But our drive to work is not an intrinsic part of who we are

Honestly - and I know I confessed I'm all order-y and productivity-focused and regimented and whatever earlier this week - but honestly, 1) there's literally nothing in any of the 4 articles I saw to support this conclusion; 2) on a personal level, I have to disagree. I can't claim to speak for everyone else but I don't think I'm so special that I'm the only person who feels this way either. I absolutely have a deep, intrinsic drive to create, to produce, to identify work/tasks/projects and set myself in orderly fashion upon completing them.

When I first got a full time job, I was a young procrastinating can-coast-or-fake-it sort of kid. I devoted most of my work time to avoiding work. I crammed in work last minute in intense intervals, delivered stuff on time and generally correctly, and then I'd spend the next 2 weeks doing nothing until my due dates came around again.

It was not a fun time.

I don't think most people who clock 40 hours/week actually work every minute. (I do think some jobs and classes of jobs do fill most of that 40; retail work, restaurant work, customer associate-phone work, for instance.) My work management doesn't think that either; when they did productivity planning they set the expectation that regular capacity was about 80%. Or 32 hours a week. Which is now on par with the whole Bushmen work investment discovered above.

My life got better when I accepted work. Now I'm speaking personally, but my life is significantly better and I am much happier and more successful when I have goals; when I have expectations for myself and have to meet them; when I am challenged; when I have sustainable routines and habits and consistency.

I can come up with lots of stuff to do in my down time - my non-work time.

Do you know how long 40 hours/week is? I can come up with enough entertaining bullshit and personal objectives and self-driven projects to fill my 72 hours of free time every week. But if I suddenly had 40 more hours available on top of that...

...I mean, I'd basically have to find or give myself a job in order to fill that hole.

And I'd do it. Because I don't think work is just about making money, or putting food on the table. I think people benefit from structure; from direction; from tasks and turn-around times and action items and deliverables. I think work is good for people as a whole because it gives people as a whole something to do.

You think America's fucked up now? Give the whole country 25 more hours a week to watch TV and post on Facebook and drool. I bet that obesity problem would become a mega obesity problem real quick, and if TV programming's bad now...well, I don't think all that free time we'll have is going to make it less sensationalist. In fact, I think the reverse.

Some people don't need a job to get that work. And I know I am generally more self-driven and derive more feelgoods from productivity than probably the average person is. I'm not bragging, frankly it'd be a little cool if I could tone down the "BUT WHAT ARE YOU DOING OF VALUE RIGHT NOW?" from time to time. It took me a long time to accept that life is a journey to be enjoyed - not a direct path up a high mountain to one defined and measurable pinnacle of success.

But, life being a journey and all that...

I never knew anyone who got very far running on satisfaction and indolence.


I think - a 15 hour work week or no work week sounds great in theory.

I question how many people would agree with that after going a full month without working.

And of those people who would - I would have to question - are they actually happier, more content, and all their needs fulfilled? Or are they just high off of - well - a lack of responsibility? How are they spending their new free time? Sinking 40 hours a week into alcohol, TV, weed, reddit-browsing, facebook posting, video games and napping might influence a person to call themselves "happier than when they spent that time working" -- but I for one -- would seriously doubt that assessment.


articles referenced

same author but more stringent article - NYT

financial times book review by other author


If you pick one, read the NPR article, I think it's the most coolheadedly best

posted 909 days ago