Marian L. Tupy writes: Marx’s disciples from Cuba and Venezuela to South Africa and Zimbabwe are committing the same mistake today.
Marxism was supposed to have brought about a lot of positive changes, including the creation of a classless society, where everyone lived in peace. To these ambitious goals can be added substantial reduction in the amount of labor required from the proletariat.
As Rodney G. Peffer from the University of San Diego put it in his 2014 book Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice:
Marx believed the reduction of necessary labor time to be…an absolute necessity. He [claimed] … that real wealth is the developed productive force of all individuals. It is no longer the labor time but the disposable time that is the measure of wealth.
Little did the German economist know that free markets would achieve his objective with aplomb.
The number of hours worked per day has fluctuated throughout human history. Based on their observations of extant hunter-gatherer societies, scholars estimate that our foraging ancestors worked anywhere between 2.8 hours and 7.6 hours per day.
Once they secured their food for the day, however, they stopped. The foragers’ workload was comparatively low, but so was their standard of living. Our ancestors’ wealth was limited to the weight of the possessions they could carry on their backs from one location to the next.
The total number of hours worked rose because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply.
About 12,000 years ago, people started to settle down, cultivate crops and domesticate animals. The total number of hours worked rose, because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply. Since artificial lighting was prohibitively expensive, daylight regulated the amount of work that could be done on any given day.
In summer, most people worked between six and 10 hours in the fields and an additional three hours at home. In winter, shorter days limited the total number of work hours to eight. For religious reasons, Sunday was a day off and a plethora of feasts broke the monotony of agricultural life.
Our expectations as to what constitutes a good work-life balance are obviously very different from those of hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. It makes sense, therefore, to compare today’s workload to that at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1830, the workweek in the industrializing West averaged about 70 hours or, Sundays’ excluded, 11.6 hours of work per day. By 1890 that fell to 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. Thirty years later, the working week in advanced societies stood at 50 hours, or 8.3 hours per day. Read the rest of this entry »