In 1928, eminent economist John Maynard Keynes wrote in an essay that in a century the standard of life in Europe and America would improve so much that people would have a lot of leisure. By 2028, “our grandchildren,” wrote Keynes, would have to work only about three hours a day.
The economist was quite wrong, it seems. 14 years away from his predicted time, the standard of life improved, no doubt, but work or work-related activity has increased more than ever even in the continents he mentioned. In our own country too, the standard of life has improved considerably. But we find that the working hours in offices have increased rather than decreased. In spite of superior technologies like the computer in place of the typewriter, and rapid communication systems like the email, we find ourselves busier than people of the previous generation. In fact, people had much more time for relaxation in the olden days. I remember how people of my parents’ generation used to spend hours almost every day chatting and gossiping.
|Picture: From the Internet|
We have now become so busy that we don’t even have time to sit idle even while travelling. If you travel by the Delhi Metro trains you will be amused if not amazed to see almost everyone busy with the mobile phone or some other gadget or reading books or newspapers. Some of that activity is entertainment, not work-related; people listen to music or play games on their gadgets. On the whole, however, people are busier than ever. No one, it seems, has time even to look at other people let alone communicate with them.
In 1976, psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in his book, To Have or To Be, that technological societies foster ‘having orientation’. That is, people want to have a lot of things; they are highly competitive. The ideal would be ‘being orientation’ which focuses on what one is rather than what one has.
It seems Fromm is more correct than Keynes. We have become more technological and more competitive as well as acquisitive. Since technology is getting better by the day and more sophisticated and complex too, we can expect people becoming more and more busy. Commodes may come with an attachment for the laptop.