[iDC] Re; The Ethics of Leisure

Brian Holmes brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr
Wed Jan 10 04:55:09 EST 2007

Jean Burgess wrote:

> inspired by the recent holidays, what about the right to 'useless 
> unemployment' - forms of leisure that require an investment in time but 
> leave no commodities behind - time spent reading books, say?

There are long, discreet, wonderful and mostly unsung traditions of 
useless unemployment, penniless daydreaming, sabotage for the hell of it 
and exodus which are perhaps the one thing that productivist bourgeois 
and technocratic society - the society that produced the whole rights 
discourse - cannot swallow, Bartelby preferred not to, Rimbaud walked 
all the way to the river and didn't even drink, and Marx's nephew Paul 
Lafargue knew exactly what he was aiming for when he wrote "The Right to 
Laziness," definitely among the things in heaven and earth that are not 
in Horatio Alger's philosophy!

Closer to our time and even beyond the midnight toiling of the "Zero 
Work" collective, there are the various strands of the French jobless 
movement whom I used to see demonstrating amongst the huge union throngs 
in 1995 under the ironic anti-work banner WE DEMAND A SHIT JOB FOR 
PEANUTS. Some of them formed a collective entitled Monday in the Sun and 
during the height of the jobless protests in 1997 they used to go around 
in groups of thirty or forty to restaurants in Paris and invite 
themselves to a delicious meal, sometimes in the cafeterias of leftist 
universities it would have looked too bad to make a fuss, and sometimes 
in fancy places where inevitably the whole free lunch or dinner had the 
relish of a possible meeting with the police! But at that level everyone 
knows that jail, too, is for free. I found some spare time to translate 
a couple of their texts recounting the paradoxes of not wanting to work 
in a society where they don't even let you do it anyway, but demand that 
you beg for the chance, for a wonderful book called WE ARE EVERYWHERE, 
but unfortunately as I look over to my shelf I find that book which was 
once such a great dream is now wearing the branded face of a commodity 
which I wouldn't want to encourage anyone to buy, so I am gonna fish 
around in the dead memories of trashed hard drives and see if I can't 
find that stuff and send it to yall,

best, Brian

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