Thursday, May 22, 2014

Busy People


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.


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14 comments:

  1. Well I wouldn't really mind a 3Hr work schedule ;) :D ..

    I do agree with the point though, time has certainly become the most expensive commodity!

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    1. 3 hour schedule would have created another problem, though - what to do with the leisure? On the other hand, now there is no leisure. We are a funny lot, aren't we?

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  2. Valid observation, Sir.
    Modern life has proved Keynes wrong. Technology & advancements ought to make life relaxed, no?!

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    1. I guess that's what Keynes had imagined: that tech and progress would make life easier. But we humans are beyond intellectual understanding :)

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  3. So true. I feel like I could do a few more hours to my day.

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  4. True......desires have no limits...

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    1. ... and desire is the cause of sorrow, the Buddha said.

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  5. Who knows ...you may be right.....!

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    1. Not I, dear Murthy sir. Either Keynes or Fromm. Keyness is out. Fromm is impractical. Alas, nobody is right. We are all seekers at the feet of politicians. Or Babas. or any other frauds.

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  6. Our leisure activities have changed,when people travel in closed spaces they feel its rude to stare at others or start a conversation with a stranger,so we keep busy by catching up with our mail, listen to music or read.Work hours have reduced in the western countries its 5 days a week only and 8 hours of flexible timings It can't be 3 hours thats a little too much Mr.Keynes was expecting from humans.although who would not love that!

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  7. Sir,
    People really have no time today. That's because of the 'cut throat' competition prevailing not only in education but in all walks of life. There is a Macro level Marathons and Decathlons run by mankind. Darwin's theory can be revised as: The fittest of all the fittest ones will survive. Right, sir? And that too is because of the whole world having become a small gazebo of communication.
    When I read Manish' blog and tried to publish a comment, I got a dialogue box which read: Prove that you are not a robot. (!?...!) To prove so, I had to depend on typing certain numbers displayed over there. Somehow I proved myself a human(?) and the web accepted it and published my comment.
    Technology has transformed human life into robotic life. Your blog has proved it in a very scholarly way. As usual, a very interesting read. Thanks.

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  8. 3 hrs a day..would that not be a dream come true!
    nice read.

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    1. A year after I wrote this I have realised that the economist's prediction will be defeated by inefficient administrators who will fill people's time with absurd duties :)

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