I should be working right now
July 25, 2007 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books and essays that would be the opposite of the Getting Things Done (GTD), Lifehacker, productivity, personal time management, etc., wave of blogs on the internets.

I read The Abolition of Work by Bob Black many years ago. What else celebrates laziness, creative slacking, and general sloth?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
The Hacker Ethic certainly doesn't emphasize sloth but it sets up a system that is drastically opposed to the traditional Protestant work ethic. In not emphasizing balancing tasks it's against the GTD school in many ways.
posted by mikeh at 1:50 PM on July 25, 2007

Don't forget the Church of the SubGenius.

Or, you know, do forget it. Whatever.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:54 PM on July 25, 2007

You might be interested in The Idler.
posted by macdara at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2007

Except that The Hacker Ethic celebrates the same kind of playful optimizing spirit that's behind a lot of the personal overclocking productivity hack ethos. In its desire to celebrate a Funner kind of work, it gets horribly tangled up in knots. I'd hardly regard it as a celebration of sloth.
posted by grimmelm at 2:00 PM on July 25, 2007

French writer Corinne Maier and her book Bonjour Paresse - Hello Laziness.

Favourite quote: "If people really loved to work, they'd do it for free".
posted by Rabarberofficer at 2:02 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do less, slowly.
posted by desjardins at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2007

The Sloth Ethic

"The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today's "faster/cheaper" mind set and promote "slower/better" thinking. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years."
posted by desjardins at 2:16 PM on July 25, 2007

Not a book, but a thought about place: last year I lived in a society where time wasn't really measured the same way it is in the US - you'd schedule one big thing to accomplish that day and if it everyone showed up, even if it didn't get totally done, you were happy. Errand-running was easier because people's neighborhoods provided almost everything they might require, so people never had to venture far from home/work to accomplish things unless it was some governmental bureaucracy thing, in which case it got done...whenever. It's a state of mind, really - I adapted to it by switching my sense of accomplishment to larger things, like "by the end of this year, I want to be better than I am now at speaking the language here." rather than "today I'll learn 10 new words." Maybe that's one way to think about it, though I doubt many people in the States would work with you in that vein.
posted by mdonley at 2:18 PM on July 25, 2007

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance devotes a good chunk of time to discussing the merits of certain drifting states, and its meandering chautauqua narrative may well make it an anti-GTD.
posted by weston at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2007

The Importance of Living - Lin Yutang

"While I am sitting here before my desk, a pigeon is flying about a church steeple before my window, not worrying what it is going to have for lunch. I know that my lunch is a more complicated affair than the pigeon's, and that the few articles of food I take involve thousands of people at work and a highly complicated system of cultivation, merchandising, transportation, delivery and preparation. That is why it is harder for man to get food than for animals. Nevertheless, if a jungle beast were let loose in a city and gained some apprehension of what busy human life was all about, he would feel a good deal of skepticism and bewilderment about this human society." (144)

Great book!
posted by splendid animal at 2:26 PM on July 25, 2007

I would recommend SLOTH by Wend Wasserstein. It's got a hilarious points system at the end.
posted by mattbucher at 2:33 PM on July 25, 2007

In Praise of Idleness.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:49 PM on July 25, 2007

There have been some books lately about living a slower life, like this. There's also an older book Breaktime about taking time away from work. But perhaps these are not so much celebrations of slacking as they are about taking time to live your own life.

I had a copy of "The Importance Of Living" that I picked up in a used book sale a few years ago. It did have some good passages, but, well, let's just say that it's rather uneven, excentric and dated (written in the '30s). I found his appraisal of smoking rather amusing.
posted by DarkForest at 2:52 PM on July 25, 2007

OK, I have to post this too. Excerpts from Essays In Idleness.
posted by DarkForest at 2:54 PM on July 25, 2007

Anxiety Culture
posted by Otis at 3:13 PM on July 25, 2007

You can actually find a bunch of excerpts from "The Importance Of Living" on the web. Here's one:

No, the enjoyment of idle life doesn't cost any money. The capacity for true enjoyment of idleness is lost in the moneyed class and can be found only among people who have supreme contempt for wealth. It must come from an inner richness of the soul in a man who loves the simple ways of life and who is somewhat impatient with the business of making money. There is always plenty of life to enjoy for a man who is determined to enjoy it. If men fail to enjoy this earthly existence we have, it is because they do not love life sufficiently and allow it to be turned into a humdrum routine existence.
posted by DarkForest at 3:20 PM on July 25, 2007

In an effort to try to better understand my very disorganized SO, yesterday I borrowed A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder—How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place by Eric Abrahamson & David H. Freedman. It looks sort of promising but also very pop-psychish in that annoying pop-psychish way.

I guess clutterlove starts with the book title.
posted by jamaro at 3:29 PM on July 25, 2007

err, wrong link. Try this one.
posted by jamaro at 3:30 PM on July 25, 2007

The Practice of Everyday Life

DeCerteau has written a master treatise on how people "steal time" and meet their own needs within social and bureaucratic hierarchies.
posted by mrmojoflying at 3:55 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thoreau, of course, wrote about this. This is from Life Without Principle:

This world is a place of business. What an infinite bustle! I am awaked almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my dreams. There is no sabbath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work. I cannot easily buy a blank-book to write thoughts in; they are commonly ruled for dollars and cents.
posted by DarkForest at 3:58 PM on July 25, 2007

My brother always wanted to have a bumper sticker made that said "Laziness: It's Easier Than You Think."
posted by salvia at 4:57 PM on July 25, 2007

Oh dude, I totally had a blog going about this but... you know...

posted by phrontist at 6:03 PM on July 25, 2007

The Sane Society by Erich Fromm & One-Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse partly address these issues, from a critical theory / sociological / psychological point of view, along the lines that the whole emphasis on rationality, work & productivity rob us of elements of our selves that should be encouraged if we are to be "whole".
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:29 PM on July 25, 2007

mdonley - where was that?
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:47 PM on July 25, 2007

Oh yeah, the critical theorists! In addition to Marcuse, you could read Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment. They say once you start to focus on productivity, "men pay for the increase of their power with alienation from that over which they exercise their power. Enlightenment behaves as a dictator toward men. He knows them in so far as he can manipulate them..." Pretty soon this attitude pervades "the very relations of men -- even those of the the individual to himself... Animism spiritualized the object; industrialism objectifies the spirits of men."

A much easier read on these same lines is "The Idols of Environmentalism" in the current issue of Harpers (I can email you a PDF if you want). Perhaps the most powerful way [environmentalists] conspire against ourselves is the simple fact that we have jobs. We are willingly part of a world designed for the convenience of what Shakespeare called the "visible god": money. When I say we have jobs, I mean that we find in them our home, our sense of being grounded in the world, grounded in a vast social and economic order..."

Not exactly lighthearted celebrations of sloth. But reading critiques of industrialism, the Enlightenment, even math, always feels freeing to me.
posted by salvia at 7:50 PM on July 25, 2007

Quitting the Paint Factory
Mark Slouka
Harper’s Magazine, November 2004 issue
discussed here
posted by stuart_s at 8:11 PM on July 25, 2007

You might be interested in John Zerzan (essay), who became famous as the Unabomber's pen pal.
posted by jayder at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2007

An Apology for Idlers - Robert Louis Stevenson
posted by crocomancer at 1:49 AM on July 26, 2007

literary angles:

oblomov, by goncharov.

epitaph of a small winner, by machado de assis.

rhinoceros, by ionesco.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:30 AM on July 26, 2007

I've been meaning to read more about this "Slow Movement" I occassionally hear about - here's a book called In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore. There's also the Slow Food movement, which just seems to be about making everything from scratch.
posted by ikahime at 7:12 AM on July 26, 2007

Slouka's paint factory essay FTW! A jewel amongst recent slacker lit. The Idler of course. Walter Benjamin is key here, particularly his discussion of the flaneur. No doubt all of the above have been mentioned but I am too slack to read the posts.
posted by zemblamatic at 10:40 AM on July 26, 2007

There are links on the Work Less Party's website to articles and a book: WORKERS OF THE WORLD, RELAX!
posted by metaname at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2007

The Lazy Way to Success site and blog
posted by timepiece at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2007

This American Life has an interesting episode on quitting.
posted by Jahaza at 6:10 AM on July 27, 2007

Apologies for self-advertisment but On Trying to Keep Still by Jenny Diski
posted by jennydiski at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2007

« Older How do I test a ground?   |   Accepted? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.