Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn
milwaukeesfs

Salon, 06-04-04, What Happened to the Leisure Time?

Kind of on the lines of “What happened to my flying car?” the question was, “What happened to all the leisure time the future was supposed to have brought us?” The “50’s Future” promised that machines and new technologies would undertake so much labor that people would chiefly have time to enjoy themselves. Obviously, this hasn’t happened to anywhere near the extent predicted, but then again neither has ‘free power’ or personal aircraft. Computers and automation have increased human productivity immensely, but economic pressures have also tended to erode the forty-hour work week. “Labor-saving” devices such as automatic washers, etc., do not so much permit the homemaker to relax and eat bonbons as act as “force multipliers” that allow people to work on something else while the machine is doing its work, (“Household robots” haven’t lived up to expectations, either--.) which is basically necessary to maintain a home without servants (or children--).

Modern conveniences, especially electric lighting and the automobile, also tend to support the axiom that “work expands to fill the time available,” in that they make additional activities and commitments possible. We noted that, if we were traveling from our place on the south side to Sue’s place on the north (five and a half miles), if we were traveling by foot or horse, it would be a much more substantial commitment of time and effort to attend. Instead, we tend to think little of haring off fifteen or twenty miles for an evening event, even in the winter (unless the weather is REALLY bad). So, in part, we expand our commitments partly because we can—because our lives are more interesting when we do more. We may, in fact have more discretionary time than our predecessors had, but there are more options to expend it on.
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