Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Humans once worked just 3 hours a day. Now we're always working, but why?
As human beings we all must do some work for basic survival—but how much? Is there a “minimum daily requirement” of work?
As human beings we all must do some work for basic survival—but how much? Is there a “minimum daily requirement” of work? A number of diverse sources—studies ranging from hunter-gatherer cultures to modern history—would place this figure at about three hours
a day during an adult lifetime.
Marshall Sahlins, author of Stone Age Economics, discovered that before Western influence changed daily life, Kung men, who live in the Kalahari, hunted from two to two and a half days a week, with an average workweek of fifteen hours. Women gathered for about the same period of time each week. In fact, one day’s work supplied a woman’s family with vegetables for the next three days. Throughout the year both men and women worked for a couple of days, then took a couple off to rest and play games, gossip, plan rituals, and visit. . . . It would appear that the workweek in the old days beats today’s banker’s hours by quite a bit.
This suggests that three hours a day is all that we must spend working for survival. One can imagine that in preindustrial times this pattern would make sense. Life was more whole back then, when “work” blended into family time, religious celebrations, and play. Then came the “labor-saving” Industrial Revolution and the compartmentalization of life into “work” and “nonwork”—with work taking an ever-bigger bite out of the average person’s day.
In the nineteenth century the “common man,” with justified aversion to such long hours on the job, began to fight for a shorter workweek. Champions for the workers claimed that fewer hours on the job would decrease fatigue and increase productivity. Indeed, they said, fewer
hours was the natural expression of the maturing Industrial Revolution. People would pursue learning. An educated and engaged citizenry would support our democracy.
But all that came to a halt during the Depression. The workweek, having fallen dramatically from sixty hours at the turn of the century to thirty-five hours during the Depression, became locked in at forty hours for many and has crept up to fifty or even sixty hours a week in recent years. Why? The Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Paycheck?
During the Depression, free time became equated with unemployment. In an effort to boost the economy and reduce unemployment, the New Deal established the forty-hour week and the government as the employer of last resort. Workers were educated to consider employment, not free time, to be their right as citizens (life, liberty, and the pursuit of the paycheck?). Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, in Work Without End, illuminates the doctrine of “full employment”: Since the Depression, few Americans have thought of work reduction as a natural, continuous, and positive result of economic growth and increased productivity. Instead, additional leisure has been seen as a drain on the economy, a liability on wages, and the abandonment of economic progress.
The myths of “growth is good” and “full employment” established themselves as key values. These dovetailed nicely with the gospel of “full consumption,” which preached that leisure is a commodity to be consumed rather than free time to be enjoyed. For the past half century, full employment has meant more consumers with more “disposable income.” This means increased profits, which means business expansion, which means more jobs, which means more consumers with more disposable income. Consumption keeps the wheels of “progress” moving.
So we see that our concept (as a society) of leisure has changed radically. From being considered a desirable and civilizing component of day-to-day life, it has become something to be feared, a reminder of unemployment during the years of the Depression. As the value of leisure has dropped, the value of work has risen. The push for full employment, along with the growth of advertising, has created a populace increasingly oriented toward work and toward earning more money in order to consume more resources.
To counter all this, a free-time movement has sprung up in the early twenty-first century. A campaign called Take Back Your Time, initiated by filmmaker John de Graaf, advocates for shorter work hours and longer vacations for overworked Americans. Even with all the studies
saying that reduced hours and sufficient leisure actually increase worker productivity, time advocates are swimming upstream against a cultural assumption that the eight-hour workday is next to godliness.
The emerging Slow Food movement also challenges our workaholic lifestyle. This movement suggests that eating is far more than wolfing down fast food alone at your computer, fueling the body for the next leg of the rat race; rather, it’s a time of conviviality, pleasure, and
conversation. In short, it’s civilizing.
Work Takes On New Meaning
In addition, according to Hunnicutt, during the last half century we’ve begun to lose the fabric of family, culture, and community that give meaning to life outside the workplace. The traditional rituals, the socializing, and the simple pleasure of one another’s company
all provided structure for nonwork time, affording people a sense of purpose and belonging. Without this experience of being part of a people and a place, leisure leads more often to loneliness and boredom. Because life outside the workplace has lost vitality and meaning, work
has ceased being a means to an end and become an end in itself.
Meaning, justification, purpose, and even salvation were now sought in work, without a necessary reference to any traditional philosophic or theological structure. Men and women were answering the old religious questions in new ways, and the answers were more and more in terms of work, career, occupation, and professions.
Arlie Hochschild, in her 2001 book, The Time Bind, says that families now have three jobs—work, home, and repair of relationships damaged by ever more time at the office. Even corporations with “family-friendly” policies subtly reward people who spend more time at work (whether they are more productive or not). Some offices are even getting more comfortable, while homes are more hectic, inducing a guilty desire to spend more time working because it’s more restful!
The final piece of the puzzle snaps into place when we look at the shift in the religious attitude toward work that came with the rise of the Protestant ethic. Before that time, work was profane and religion was sacred. Afterward, work was seen as the arena where you worked
out your salvation—and the evidence of a successful religious life was a successful financial life.
So here we are in the twenty-first century. Our paid employment has taken on myriad roles. Our jobs now serve the function that traditionally belonged to religion: They are the place where we seek answers to the perennial questions “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” and “What’s it all for?” They also serve the function of families, giving answers to the questions “Who are my people?” and “Where do I belong?”
Our jobs are called upon to provide the exhilaration of romance and the depths of love. It’s as though we believed that there is a Job Charming out there—like the Prince Charming in fairy tales—that will fill our needs and inspire us to greatness. We’ve come to believe that, through this job, we would somehow have it all: status, meaning, adventure, travel, luxury, respect, power, tough challenges, and fantastic rewards. All we need is to find Mr. or Ms. Right—Mr. or Ms. Right Job. Indeed, in terms of sheer hours, we may be more wedded to our jobs than to our partners. The vows for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health—and often till death do us part—may be better applied to our jobs than to our wives or husbands. Perhaps what keeps some of us stuck in the home-freeway-office loop is this very Job Charming illusion. We’re like the princess who keeps kissing toads, hoping one day to find herself hugging a handsome prince. Our jobs are our toads.
Young people today are swimming against an even stronger current. Our phones and laptops keep us on call to our employers and side hustles (second and third jobs that fit into the cracks of the main one) 24-7. When your primary job isn’t enough, it’s hard to patch together enough hustles to pay off student loans and graduate from living in your parents’ basement. The fact that they’ve dubbed their multiple jobs as hustles indicates how much energy it takes to fledge and flourish. They know full well they are in a brave new world of endless hustle—brave as in it takes courage to move against the undertow. The old conveyor belt of job as identity as career as security and pension is now utterly shredded. Does this liberate young people from the Job(s) Charming syndrome? No. If they are always hustling, they are always “on the job.” Even dating can become networking for the next job opportunity.
From YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2008, 2018 by Vicki Robin.
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.
New study suggests the placebo effect can be as powerful as microdosing LSD.
- New research from Imperial College London investigated the psychological effects of microdosing LSD in 191 volunteers.
- While microdosers experienced beneficial mental health effects, the placebo group performed statistically similar to those who took LSD.
- Researchers believe the expectation of a trip could produce some of the same sensations as actually ingesting psychedelics.
Psychedelics: The scientific renaissance of mind-altering drugs<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92360c805fe66c11de38a75b0967f417"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5T0LmbWROKY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>For the study published in eLife, the team recruited 191 citizen cosmonauts to microdose either LSD or a placebo over the course of several weeks and note the psychological effects. Volunteers were already microdosing LSD, so there was no true control. Each volunteer was given instructions on creating their own low-dose gel capsules, some containing LSD, others not. Then they mixed the capsules in envelopes so they didn't know if they were taking the real thing or not.</p><p>The trial design was ingenious: each capsule featured a QR code that was scanned after the addition of ingredients but before they were placed in the envelope so that researchers knew what they were ingesting.</p><p>The problem: volunteers sourced their own LSD. Lack of quality control could have had a profound effect on the results. </p><p>The results: LSD microdosers reported feeling more mindful, satisfied with life, and better overall; they also noticed a reduction in feelings of paranoia. </p><p>The catch: the control group felt the same thing, with no statistical difference between the groups. </p><p>Lead author Balázs Szigeti comments on the findings: "This suggests that the improvements may not be due to the pharmacological action of the drug but can instead be explained by the placebo effect." </p>
Credit: Alexander / Adobe Stock<p>Psychedelics are notoriously difficult to control for given the intensity of the experience. Yet there is precedent for the above findings. A <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-020-05464-5" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that 61 percent of volunteers that took a placebo instead of psilocybin felt some psychedelic effects, with a few volunteers experiencing full-on trips.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Several stated that they saw the paintings on the walls 'move' or 'reshape' themselves, others felt 'heavy. . . as if gravity [had] a stronger hold', and one had a 'come down' before another 'wave' hit her."</p><p>The Imperial team believes the expectation of a trip might have been enough to produce similar results. Senior author David Erritzoe is excited for future studies on the topic, believing they tapped into a new wave of citizen science that could push forward our knowledge of psychedelic substances.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Accounting for the placebo effect is important when assessing trends such as the use of cannabidiol oils, fad diets or supplements where social pressure or users' expectations can lead to a strong placebo response. Self-blinding citizen science initiatives could be used as an inexpensive, initial screening tool before launching expensive clinical studies."</p><p>As investments into the psychedelics market explode, with one company <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-03/thiel-backed-magic-mushroom-firm-atai-hits-2-billion-valuation" target="_blank">reaching a $2 billion valuation</a>, a recurring irony appears in the long arc of psychedelics and research: the power of our minds might be enough to feel greater life satisfaction and a deeper sense of mindfulness. If that's possible with a placebo, we have to question why the rush to create more pharmacology is necessary. </p><p>This is, mind you, a separate conversation over the role of psychedelics and rituals for group bonding. The function of group cohesion around consciousness-altering substances will continue to play an important role in many communities. </p><p>Of course, we should continue to explore the efficacy of psychedelics on anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, PTSD, and addiction. <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/antidepressant-effects" target="_self">Pharmacological dependence</a> is a stain on the psychiatry industry. Whether or not psychedelics can be prescribed for daily use remains to be seen, but we know a moneyed interest is expecting a return on investment—the above company, ATAI Life Sciences, raised $157 million in its Series D round. </p><p>When it comes to wellbeing, some things money just can't buy. How we navigate the tricky terrain of mainstreaming psychedelics remains to be seen. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>