1970s >> 1971 >> no-807-november-1971

Book Review: ‘The Future of Work and Leisure’

Socialism and Work

Book Review: ‘The Future of Work and Leisure’, by Stanley Parker. MacGibbon and Kee. £2.25.

This short and (with the exception of chapter 7) readable book is a good discussion of the question of work and leisure. Many of Parker’s points have long been made by us: that work and employment must be distinguished; that working for wages is of comparatively recent origin; that in the sense of engaging in some socially useful activity men need to work; that work can be made pleasant and interesting; that the so-called problem of leisure cannot be solved in isolation from the problem of boring work (and that this cannot be solved within “our outmoded economic system”); that it is wrong to regard work and leisure as opposites since leisure as freely chosen activity can—and indeed should—overlap with work. As

Parker says:

“The weight of historical, anthropological and contemporary evidence is that, whatever their expressed desires, men in all societies need to have work as well as leisure. Further, in cases where their work embodied many of the values normally associated with leisure, a separate period of time labelled leisure appears to be necessary neither to their happiness nor to their creative function in society.”

Actually, all this is no co-incidence. Parker learned most of these arguments while he was a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. He himself has chosen not to acknowledge this, though it should be clear to those who know us who are the descendants of the “Marxist socialists” of a century ago who envisage a time “when production is carried on solely for use and not for profit”. So should the origins of the “Marxist phrase” about there being “two classes in society” and of the definition of capitalists as “those persons who possess capital the return on which enables them to live without the necessity of being employed”.

We would not want to pretend, however, that Parker here agrees with us entirely. He left the Socialist Party because he came to imagine that it was possible to transform capitalism gradually into Socialism, and this too comes out in the text.

Parker’s omission of any reference, even in a footnote, to William Morris is also peculiar since Morris’ criticism of those who regarded work even in Socialism as a necessary evil to be reduced to a minimum rather than as an important human activity is the basis of our views on the subject, and so also of those of Parker himself.

Leave a Reply