Working Hours

"Schedules that work"

Campaigning in 2014 and 2015 around the Schedules that Work Act and related local efforts.

The Federal Act

    • Introduced by California Rep. George Miller, who is planning to retire at the end of this term.
      • Cites a statistic that more than half of retail workers get schedules a week or less in advance
      • For workplaces with 15 or more employees, grants employees right to request without retaliation, a good-faith discussion, and an explanatory answer
      • Reporting time pay of at least four hours for reporting to workplace, and one hour for waiting to be contacted
      • Extra pay for split shifts
      • Required advance notice on minimum monthly hours, two weeks notice for changes to that
      • Changing a shift within less than 24 hours (without certain reasons) may result in an extra hour's pay
      • Outlaws retaliation against employees making schedule change requests or taking legal action


Academic labor

Advocacy and organizations

Cultural representations



Hours and efficiency

  • All Work, No Pay: The Impact of Forefeited Time Off.“ Travel Effect. October 2014.
    • A great study funded by the travel industry about how little time Americans take off. “Americans are work martyrs,” it begins.
    • Since 2000, Americans have lost almost a full work-week of vacation.
    • Working more apparently doesn't result in more pay.
  • Friedman, Benjamin M. ”Work and consumption in an era of unbalanced technological advance.“ Journal of Evolutionary Economics (November 9, 2015).
    • Critique of Keynes: “The key reason is that he failed to allow for changing distribution. With widening inequality, median income (and therefore the income of most families) has risen, and is now rising, much more slowly than he anticipated.”
    • Rosen, Rebecca J. ”Why Do Americans Work So Much?.“ The Atlantic. January 7, 2016.
  • Kajitani, Shinya et al. Use It Too Much and Lose It? The Effect of Working Hours on Cognitive Ability. Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series (7/16), February 2016.
  • Pencavel, John. ”The Productivity of Working Hours.“ Institute for the Study of Labor discussion paper. April 2014.
  • “Generally speaking, long working hours are associated with lower productivity per hour. Workers are working very long hours to achieve a minimum level of output or to achieve some minimum level of wages because frankly they're not very productive,” [Jon] Messenger [, an expert on working hours at the International Labour Organization,] says. BBC
  • While laborers can do 8 hours, knowledge workers are supposedly most efficient for closer to 6.
    • Even so, does paid employment really deserve the whole of our available energy for work?
  • The reality of combined hours (21 Hours):
    • “Working age” people in Britain actually spend just 19.6 hours per hours in paid work per week on average, including the unemployed, etc.
    • Unpaid domestic labor averaged at 20.4 hours per week
  • Rampell, Catherine. ”You Don’t Work as Hard as You Say You Do.“ The New York Times. October 19, 2012.
    • “​Americans tend to overestimate how many hours they work in a typical week by about 5 to 10 percent”​
  • Kaplan, Esther. ”Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People.“ The Nation. October 28, 2014.
  • Sutherland, Jeff. ”Shorter, Better, Faster, Stronger.“ Slate. October 16, 2014.
  • Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime.“ Scientifc American.
    • evidence that most experts do their thing for no more than 4 hours


    • “There is tentative evidence suggesting that working hours correlate positively with ecological footprint and energy consumption per capita after controlling for factors such as labour productivity, labour participation rate, and climate.”
    • Anders Hayden's work is cited.
  • Anders Hayden: “if European nations adopted American work hours, they would consume some 25 percent more energy (putting their Kyoto Protocol targets out of reach); meanwhile the United States would consume roughly 20 percent less energy if it moved to Europe’s work/leisure balance (putting it within close striking distance of its original Kyoto target).” Referring to Rosnick, D & Weisbrot, M. Are Shorter Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption
  • Jackson, Tim. Prosperity without Growth
    • Jackson is economics commissioner on the UK government's Sustainable Development Commission
    • Ashford (“The crisis in employment and consumer demand”) levels some critiques, including that he doesn't take into account hours worked abroad
  • White, Curtis, ”The Ecology of Work“ and also has a book on the subject

International comparisons

    • Labour > Labour force statistics > Hours worked
  • Strikingly, people in Greece work the longest hours in the whole EU (despite the associations with laziness, etc.)
  • According to Ashford's “The crisis in employment and consumer demand,” the French policy of 35-hour workweek had mixed effects on gender and workers. Wage parity was maintained largely at the expense of the taxpayers, not employers. Level of unemployment was not affected. (p. 10n13)
    • For more see Hayden, A., 2006. “France’s 35-hour week: attack on business? Win-win reform? Or betrayal of disadvantaged workers?”
    • Hayden: “When France introduced a 35-hour workweek, despite the considerable political controversy and some loss of income growth, the vast majority of employees who gained shorter hours said their overall quality of life improved.”
    • This study focuses on hours per week rather than per year
    • Summarizing existing literature: “Americans work more hours per year than workers in most other rich countries, in large part because Americans receive much less paid annual leave” — “At the level of weekly hours, however, working time in the United States appears less exceptional” (699) — “In recent years, the largest increases in working hours in the United States have been found among the most highly educated and highly paid workers” (699) — “Since 1940, average weekly hours in the United States have fallen among the less educated and risen among the more educated” — “unionized workers are more likely to be satisfied with their hours, while highly educated workers and workers in rich countries are more likely to desire reduced hours” (700)
    • Explores different explanations for this data in terms of incentives, etc.
    • Unionization can work in favor of full time work and even widen the hours gap. (702)
    • By the week, US hours are not especially high compared to Europe.
    • In rich countries, education tends to mean longer working hours, but in poorer countries it is the reverse.
    • “Findings suggest employment associations with child care are not only mediated by gendered work hour cultures, but also culturally distinct parenting ideologies.”
    • “There is some evidence that long work hours may lower children’s cognitive and emotional development”
    • Parenting culture may actually be more significant in explaining amount of time in child care than working hours. For instance, in France, people have shorter working hours but spend more of their free time in adult-oriented leisure as compared to other places, where there is a particular focus on child care.
  • Karen S. Lyness, Janet C. Gornick, Pamela Stone, and Angela R. Grotto, ”It’s All about Control: Worker Control over Schedule and Hours in Cross-National Context
    • “Generally, low levels of control are linked to negative outcomes for workers, especially for women, an effect sometimes modulated by country-level policy measures.”
    • US law is unusual in having no maximum
    • “Higher per capita GDP, higher rates of women’s labor force participation, and a larger service sector are all associated with more widespread preferences for fewer hours, as are higher public social expenditures and more generous annual leave policies.”
    • Affirms Steir and Lewin-Epstein: “In countries with a high rate of decommodification, working men and women prefer to reduce their hours of work”
    • Documents “the emergence of a global pattern whereby workers, especially more elite workers, appear to have gained control over when they work at the expense of how long they work”
    • “We found that across all countries, control over one’s work schedule is positively related to job satisfaction and organizational commitment for both women and men, but it has a significant relationship to strain-based WFC [work-family conflict] only for women, for whom greater control results in reduced levels of WFC”
    • “In juggling work and family, not only do women have less control than men over their starting and stopping times, they are more likely to report overwork, that is, they want to work fewer hours.”
  • Bowles, Samuel and Youngjin Park. ”Emulation, Inequality, and Work Hours: Was Thorsten Veblen Right?.“ Economic Journal. 115, no. 507 (November 2005): pp. F397-F412. (Working paper)
    • “greater inequality predicts longer work hours in ten OECD countries over the period 1963-1998”

Schedules and control

  • Cf. “It's All About Control,” above
  • Gleason, Carrie and Susan J. Lambert. ”Uncertainty by the Hour.“ Open Society Foundations position paper.
    • 3/5 of American workers are paid by the hour, 26 million are part-time. Early-career, part-time workers' schedules in one study fluctuated 87 percent, week to week. “With ever-changing hours and schedules, work is omnipresent, yet completely uncertain. These practices fuel under-employment and generate profound economic insecurity”—and technology plays a role in further micro-managing work lives through workplace analytics.
    • “Though technology has facilitated this rapidly shifting terrain in work, people are the ones who make decisions about the values, metrics and capacities that are programmed into these systems. … We propose an intervention to instill in these systems values about work with dignity, metrics that treat workers as assets, and protections that make employers accountable to workers, not just shareholders.”
    • A problem with just-in-time scheduling is that it produces high turnover, which is expensive
    • “Employers have chosen to use these powerful tools to treat their workers as a cost to be minimized, if not eliminated, instead of using these tools to capture the predictability and stability in labor demand that already exists and deliver it to workers through more predictable and stable hours.”
    • Lists ways that scheduling software could be used to create a more sensible balance between business needs and employee demands.
    • “workers should have access to data analytics that will enable them to propose credible alternatives to just-in-time scheduling that can lead to healthier work schedules.”
  • Irregular Work Scheduling and Its Consequences.“ Economic Policy Institute. April 9, 2015.
    • “Fully 41 percent of early career workers in hourly jobs—47 percent who work part-time—report that they know “when they will need to work” one week or less in advance of the upcoming workweek. Almost half (49 percent) of Black non-Hispanic workers in hourly jobs report a week or less of advance notice.”
    • “About a third say that their employer allows them at least some input into their work schedule, but only a fraction (at most 1 in 5) report that they decide the timing of their hours either freely or within limits set by their employer. Large proportions of both full-time workers (55 percent) and part-time workers (39 percent), and men (54 percent) as well as women (46 percent), say that their employer determines their work schedule without their input.”
    • “Among the 74 percent of hourly workers who report at least some fluctuation in weekly work hours, the instability ratio is .49, suggesting that their weekly work hours varied from their usual hours by, on average, almost 50 percent during the course of the prior month. Fully 83 percent of hourly part-time workers report fluctuations in weekly work hours during the prior month, with the magnitude of fluctuations averaging a daunting 87 percent.”
    • Calls for comprehensive legislation on working hours.
  • Lambert, Susan et al. ”Schedule Flexibility in Hourly Jobs.“ Community, Work & Family 15, no. 3 (August 2012).

U.S. exceptionalism

In the OECD rankings, the US is kind of right in the middle in terms of the workweek. But other measures make it appear a clear outlier.

  • “that American working hours are getting longer – is backed up by all measurements, although only recently in the case of Time Diary studies. Moreover, the ILO and OECD both show the same gap between American and western European working hours, approximately 350 per year. About the fact that Americans work considerably longer hours than the citizens of any other modern industrial nation, there is no longer any debate.” - John de Graaf

U.S. state-based comparisons



  • Frequently quoted version of “bread and roses, too” from Rose Schneiderman, in Brooks, Minerva K. “Votes for Women: Rose Schneiderman in Ohio.” Life and Labor (September 1912).
    • Schneiderman is quoted as saying: “What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist — the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.”
    • “On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers struck thousands of shops across the United States in a national campaign for the Eight Hour Day. In Chicago, center of the movement and a stronghold of anarchist, revolutionary unionism,40,000 workers struck and 80,000 workers joined a May Day parade organized by the International Working People's Association and the revolutionary Central Labor Union. In the decades that followed, the Eight Hour Day and Five Day Week became universal (the 40-hour week was even enacted into U.S. law in 1938), and in the 1930s the American Federation of Labor launched a short-lived lobbying campaign for the Six Hour Day.”
    • “Fifty years ago the American Federation of Labor called for a 30-hour work week (the U.S. Senate even passed a 30-hour law, though it was defeated in the House); in 1961 the head of the New York Central Labor Council urged unions to campaign for a 4-hour day”
    • “In 1962, New York City electricians struck for and won a 25-hour work week (though they were generally obliged to work an additional five hours at overtime rates).”
    • “Rather than organize our class at the point of production, many labor “reformers” prefer to rely on Congress. But every reduction in the work week in this country has been accomplished through labor action, through strikes and direct action on the job … by the time the U.S. Congress finally approved the 40-hour work, many workers had already won shorter working hours”
    • “German economists concluded many years ago that a 20-hour week would suffice to meet socially necessary production given an egalitarian division of labor and the abolition of unproductive activity. This is, to say the least, a conservative estimate; in 1932 engineers at Columbia University demonstrated that workers could live extremely comfortably on four hours of work a day, if industry was properly arranged. And a study by the Goodman brothers published in the mid-1960s argued that “our present-day capabilities, intelligently used, could enable each one of us to work fewer than 10 hours a week” to meet our needs. More recently, Harvard economist Juliet Schor has demonstrated that a four-hour day could have been implemented in the United States a decade ago without any decline in living standards.”
    • “Benjamin Franklin similarly wrote, more than 200 years ago, that a 4-hour day would be more than adequate to provide a comfortable living for all.”
  • IWW's The General Strike (by Ralph Chaplin, 1933)
    • An apocalyptic pamphlet articulating the eschatological image of the General Strike, a permanent new condition in which the workers take control of industry from the capitalist class.
    • section heading: “Short Hours, THE Revolutionary Demand” (42-44)
      • “The demand for shorter hours however is decidedly a revolutionary demand. On the basis of an eight hour day less than three hours are all that is necessary for the worker to earn his wage; the rest of the day he is employed in producing surplus value for the boss.” — “This accounts for the fact that the worker's demands for shorter hours have always been contested more vigorously than demands for better conditions or even increased wages.”
      • “The chief demand of the General Strike would therefore logically be a demand for an average workday of not longer than three hours or whatever length of time is technologically necessary to carry on production on a non-profit basis.”
      • Reminder of the IWW loggers who won the eight-hour day by blowing their own whistle and walking off—direct action.
    • “The General Strike is saner than insurrection and surer than political action. And beyond it—after the storm—is a scientifically planned and ordered world based on peace, plenty and security of martyrized humanity.” (48)
  • 1978 IWW typewritten pamplet Collective Bargaining
    • “Shorter hours at no reduction in pay should be a long-term objective for all union people, both to share in the profits from their own increased productivity and to spread shinking jobs among an increasing labor force.” — “As a start, try for a 30-hour weekd of five six-hour days, or a 32-hour week of four 8-hour days. Never agree to lengthen the present 8-hour day. That is a step backward.” (11)
    • “Overtime pay should be absolutely not necessary to supplement regular earnings. Some greedy oxes, having no human dignity, want to work overtime, and fight among themselves for overtime work. This is bad union practice.” — “Overtime work should be confined to unforeseen emergencies.”
  • IWW's Undated Shop Talks on Economics by Mary E. Marcy
    • A 37-page textbook pamphlet on economic principles as they apply to workers.
    • The final section is “VIII. Shorter Hours of Labor”
      • It ends: “To repeat: Modern machinery is throwing more and more men and women into the Army of the Unemployed. Shorter hours will employ more men and women, and will maintain and even increase wages, to say nothing of the tremendous development of the fighting spirit, the solidarity and class consciousness of the workers.” (36)
  • Henry Ford was a supporter of shorter working hours for economic reasons—instituted the 8-hour day on the basis of productivity studies
  • The Kellogg experiment in a 6-hour work day
    • See the book by Hunnicutt, reviewed here: “it was a combination of outside pressures and the inability of men (but not women) to learn how to use their leisure time that caused the reversion to eight-hours”
    • Adopted 6-hour day in Depression, reverted after the war
    • A shift in perspective and rhetoric about working hours
    • Also, the turn to eight hours was a union-led shift
  • Huchet Bishop, Claire. All Things Common. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950.
    • On the Community of Work in Boimondau, France: “In order to make a living they had to produce a specified amount. They figured out that the time saved on production could be used for education. Within three months, they gained nine hours on a 48-hour week. Late they were to triple the production. / So it was that, instead of working to make extra money or profit, they worked in order to better themselves. … / They did not work overtime. They worked less time. That is, they speeded up at the machines in order to have extra time. And therefore that time was covered by their pay. So that to the outsider they appeared to be paid for educating themselves. And they were, since to them all human activity is work, as we shall see later. / Then, that time which they had all together contributed to save, they used together too. They did not go out individually to spend in a private way their extra time. The group had earned that extra time as a whole. The time belonged to the group, the Community, not to individuals. / And last but not least, their choice in using that extra time is worth pondering. It was not used for additional material comfort. At the start and unanimously, they did forgo, for the time being, material raising of the standard of living for the sake of their intellectual and artistic development. It was their own choice. I am not saying that they were right or wrong. I am merely stating a fact.” (10-11)
  • UK: The ‘three-day week’, 1974 (21 Hours)
    • Imposed by a conservative gov't for two months to cut back on energy use during a resource crisis
    • “industrial production had dropped by only 6 per cent. Improved productivity, combined with a drop in absenteeism, had made up the difference in lost production from the shorter hours”
  • See Rifkin, The End of Work



  • “generational cycles of disadvantage, and reducing social and economic inequalities. A 21-hour week would help create the conditions for universally accessible and affordable childcare.” - 21 Hours
  • “Perhaps the future will reveal that one of the most profound effects of shorter workweeks will be a change in the structure of the family itself, as the division of labor between husband and wife in the home is changed to redress the ancient curse of female drudgery.” - Paul A. Samuelson, 4 days, 40 hours (ed. Riva Poor), 9
  • Key role of women in articulating the demand for the 10 hour system in early 1800s.
  • Rehel, Erin and Emily Baxter. ”Men, Fathers, and Work-Family Balance.“ Center for American Progress. February 4, 2015.
  • Standing, Guy. ”Global Feminization Through Flexible Labor: A Theme Revisited.“ World Development 27, no. 3 (1999): 583-602.

Religious views


Jewish Labor Committee, "Labor Rights in the Jewish Tradition" by Michael S. Perry (from p. 7: “Limits on Hours of Work”):

"A third set of Talmudic laws relate to hours of work. The most important law comes directly from the Bible: the requirement that workers be granted a day of rest, which was quite an innovation for that age. [Exodus 20:9-10] The Sabbath is one of Judaism’s most important contributions to humankind, exemplifying the idea that individuals are more than merely tools to be exploited. Two other laws relating to hours of work are mentioned in the Talmud. The first requires that workers be paid for hours spent walking to work (although not for hours spent walking home). This law - incorporating at least in part the principle of “portal to portal” pay - was designed to prevent an employer from compelling a worker to leave home before the normal working day began. [Baba Metzia 83b] A second law prohibits a worker from working at night after working a day shift. This ancient “Fair Labor Standards Act” provision ostensibly protects the employer - workers cannot perform their regular day jobs satisfactorily if they are exhausted from working all night - but is as much for the benefit of the worker as for the employer. (Tosefta Baba Metzia 8:2)"

There's more in that document about the dignity of labor, and the Biblical value placed on work, as well as the Talmudic emphasis on labor rights.



  • Jesus preferring Mary over Martha's frenzied labor.
  • Jesus calling people from their jobs to consider his preaching, from fishermen to prostitutes to tax collectors
  • The lilies of the field
  • Jesus on the Sabbath as being for the people, not the people for the Sabbath
  • In general Matthew 6:19-34 is full of insights on work and liberation and resistance to serving money

Medieval sources

  • Thomas Aquinas: “To live well is to work well, to show a good activity”
  • Meister Eckhart: “Works do not sanctify us, but we should sanctify the works” (quoted in Fox, The Reinvention of Work, 81)

Jonathan Edwards

From Hunnicutt's Free Time:

  • “what Edwards called 'necessary secular business' … were decidedly means to the 'main end.' With growing wealth, 'ease' might increase as the necessity to work decreased. With increasing ease and as God granted humans their 'contrivances and inventions,' the redeemed would have ever 'more time for more noble exercise' and for 'spiritual employments.' (15)
  • “Tis probable that the world shall be more like Heaven in the millennium in this respect: that contemplation and spiritual employments, and those things that more directly concern the mind and religion, will be more the saint's ordinary business than now. There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business so that they will have more time for more noble exercise . . . [and the people] may be as one community, one body in Christ.” (15, “Miscellanies” No. 262, in The Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards from His Private Notebooks)
  • “A man should be so much at liberty that he Can Pursue his main End without distraction. Labor to Get thoroughly Convinced that there is something else needs Caring for more than this world” (15, from the sermon “Cares of This Life Hinder the Word of God”)
  • During the Great Awakening, Edwards noted the resemblance of every day to the Sabbath. He had to persuade people not to be too negligent of “worldly affairs”. “eve'y day seemed, in many respects, like a sabbath day” (16, from A Narrative of Many Surprising Conversions)
  • ”[God] will give you liberty to recreate and delight yourself in the best, the purest and most exquisite pleasures, as much as you please, without restraint” (29, from the sermon “Christian Liberty”)
  • Robert Lowell, his descendant

Samuel Hopkins

A close friend and disciple of Jonathan Edwards.

From Hunnicutt's Free Time:

  • “In the days of the millennium there will be a fullness and plenty of all the necessaries and conveniences of life to render all much more easy and comfortable in their worldly circumstances and enjoyments … and with much less labor and toil, … it will not be then necessary for any men or women to spend all or the greatest part of their time in labor in order to procure a living, and enjoy all the comforts and desireable conveniences of life. It will not be necessary for each one to labor more than two or three hours in a day, … and the rest of their time they will be disposed to spend in reading and conversation, to improve their minds and make progress in knowledge, especially in the knowledge of divinity, and in studying the Scriptures, and in private and social and public worship, and attending on public instruction, … [and] in business more entertaining and important.” (17, from The Works of Samuel Hopkins (vol. 2), 286-87)

William Ellery Channing

Unitarian, patrician, reformer.

From Hunnicutt's Free Time:

  • “because of his support of labor's ten-hour cause, he represents the transition from the kingdom of God in America to the secular American dream of Higher Progress” (18)
  • Channing: “With the increase of machinery, and with other aids which intelligence and philanthropy will multiply, we may expect more and more time will be redeemed from manual labor for intellectual and social occupations.” (19, from The Works of William E. Channing, 46)
  • With the concern that people would misuse their free time, according to Hunnicutt, Channing “mounted a spirited defense of active and socially engaged leisure” (20)
  • Channing: “Of all the treasons against humanity, there is no one worse than he who employs great intellectual forces to keep down the intellect of his less favored brother” (25, from The Works of William E. Channing, 710)
  • Channing: “We do not find that civilization lightens men's toils: as yet it has increased them; and in this effect I see the sign of a deep defect in what we call the progress of society. It cannot be the design of the Creator that the whole of life should be spent in drudgery for the supply of animal wants.” (25, from The Works of William E. Channing, 103)


Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, prays by associating sloth not with doing nothing but with needless work:

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice. (45)

"Work is Prayer: Not!" by Terrence Kardong, a Benedictine monk:

Benedict divides up the monastic day into three essential activities: prayer, labor and biblical study. A close study of his timetable indicates that about three hours were spent in church at the Divine Office; five hours were devoted to manual labor; and two or three hours were given over to biblical study. According to the seasons of the year, both natural and liturgical, this schedule was fine-tuned, but it is fixed in its three-part form. From the modern standpoint, the surprising thing about this horarium is how little work it calls for.
If we take prayer in the narrowest sense, it means facing God alone in privacy. "When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret" (Mt 6.6). Obviously, this kind of prayer is incompatible with work. Everything and everybody else is excluded from this prayer. In fact, it is a completely personal and private exercise. Probably no one knows what we are up to except God. "Your Father who sees in secret will repay you," Yes, but you don't do this kind of praying in order to get repaid. If you do, the whole thing collapses, for prayer for a reward is really a work. Pure prayer is not a work at all but an act of faith. In this sense, the Protestants are right: work undermines faith.


John Paul II: encyclical "On Human Work" written 1981:

"Man ought to imitate God both in working and also in resting, since God himself wished to present his own creative activity under the form of work and rest…He works with salvific power in the hearts of those whom from the beginning he has destined for "rest" [Heb 4:1, 9-10] in union with himself in his "Father's house" [John 14:2]. Therefore man's work too not only requires a rest every "seventh day" [Dt. 5:12-14, Ex. 20:8-12], but also cannot consist in the mere exercise of human strength in external action; it must leave room for man to prepare himself, by becoming more and more what in the will of God he ought to be, for the "rest" that the Lord reserves for his servants and friends [Mt. 25:21]."

Msgr. John Ryan

"Why Isn't Every Monday Like Labor Day?" HuffPost article:

Monsignor John Ryan, an economist and Catholic priest, argued in 1931 for shorter hours and against what he called a "new gospel of consumption" designed to justify income inequality and human suffering…'Just why a people should spend its time in turning out and consuming a hundred kinds of luxuries which minister only to material wants, instead of obtaining leisure for the enjoyment of higher goods of life is not easily perceptible,' Ryan wrote. 'After all, neither production nor consumption is an end it itself.'


From Benjamin Hunnicutt's 2011 sermon (Readings/HunnicuttSermon.doc):

  • Working systematically in his multivolume Church Dogmatics, Barth argued: “Human work cannot be done for its own sake.” “No independent meaning of work, no intrinsic necessity, can be proved in the framework of Christian ethics. On the contrary, the idea of an independent value . . . of work for work’s sake, can only be dismissed.”
  • Jacques Ellul: “The great danger of work is that we become so immersed, enticed by our own work, that we bow down before the things human beings have made, and attribute to the works of our own hands all kinds of divine qualities. And when the Bible warns us about this, it does not aim only at “graven images,” simply at the statues of false gods . . . the prohibition in the Ten Commandments are directed at the “work of our hands,” which is a general term. This is the first commandment . . . Work itself can become the source of idolatry, and the ‘work of our hands’ may well create a false religion”
  • the Henny Youngman quote on Hunnicutt's website: “I thought about becoming an atheist, but I found out they don't have holidays.”

Among the Lowell workers, “Juliana”:

"What, has a beneficent Creator bestowed upon us faculties and powers of mind which are capable of being improved and cultivated *ad infinitum*, and which if trained aright assimilate us to God and the Angels ...? [S]hall we suffer them to wither and perish for lack of proper time and attention on our part? Forbid it righteous God!" (Hunnicutt, _Free Time_, 36, from _The Voice of Industry_, May 7, 1847)

Henry Ward Beecher:

"Well, blessed be God for leisure. I hate laziness, and love leisure. He whose feet rest, and whose hands no longer toil, may keep the golden wheels of the mind working all the more. The highest products of life are not those which are found in warehouses. Better than these are books, pictures, statues—the various elements which belong to intellectual life, and which leisure breeds. There can be no high civilization where there is not ample leisure. And as you go toward the spiritual world, there will be more leisure and less laziness." (Hunnicutt, _Free Time_, 69, from sermon "Moral Theory of Civil Liberty," 1869)

"Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy" by John Piper:

In other words, the rest is not to be aimless rest, but God-centered rest. Attention is to be directed to God in a way that is more concentrated and steady than on ordinary days. Keep the day holy by keeping the focus on the holy God."
[God] has indeed designed that we work. But our work neither creates, nor saves, nor sanctifies. For these we depend on the blessing of God. All things are from him and through him and to him. Lest we ever forget this and begin to take our strength and thought and work too seriously, we should keep one day in seven to cease from our labors and focus on God as the source of all blessing.

He goes on further to discuss Jesus not abolishing the sabbath and people seeing the sabbath as a burden, and why that's not ideal.


Tao Te Ching (Mitchell translation):

  • “We work with being, but non-being is what we use”
    • He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures“


"Buddhist Right Livelihood" by Dharmachari Saddharaja, based on the fifth limb of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path: Right Livelihood:

Working in a Buddhist way means seeing your daily working life as an opportunity for developing your spiritual practice. For instance, the practice of mindfulness needs to be practiced away from the meditation cushion as well as on it, and the work place can be a useful arena for this practice.
A Right Livelihood business will aim to provide its workers with sufficient time and money to pursue their spiritual practice in ways other than Right Livelihood. For instance, time to meditate daily, to go away on retreat regularly, and to be involved in local Dharma activities or projects.
It is all too easy for us to be mindful and friendly at the Buddhist centre or on retreat, but come Monday morning we transmute into chaotic tyrants if we are not careful. There can be a split between how we behave in our free time and how we behave at work, and this split can even be unconscious, a blind spot. So work can be an opportunity for practicing mindfulness and metta, thereby suffusing our working day with creative activity that benefits the task, other people and ourselves.

There was another article I found from a Buddhist philosopher that talked about wanting to end the dualistic nature of work-life:

The Buddha threw down the gauntlet challenging us to awaken. To be awake is not part-time or divided. It is always now and in every thing. No separation, no division, no preference. Instead, a stark, beautiful, and breath-taking (and breath-giving) engagement with being alive…Our challenge is to be awake on our way to work, while at work, and on our way home from work. Our challenge is strive towards being open, receptive, and truthful with each moment.


Bhagavad Gita is a reflection on work and duty

  • “action is greater than inaction” – but one is not the actor. ”'I am not doing any work,' says the person who is in harmony, who sees the truth“ (Fox, The Reinvention of Work, 39)
  • “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. Work not for a reward; but never cease to do thy work” — which might be read either as an apology for exploitation or as a call to disconnect work from capital.


International Labour Office: "Convergences: decent work and social justice in religious traditions: A handbook": This is a fairly comprehensive handbook when it comes to Protestant, Catholic, Islamic, Jewish and Buddhist views on work and social protection/labor rights.


"Rights of Workers in Islam" by Muzammil H. Siddiq

Workers are our brothers and sisters. They are our helpers. We need them; we depend on them for many things that we cannot do for ourselves…Workers should not be given work beyond their capacity. They should have a humane and safe environment for work. They should be compensated if they are injured on the job. They should have time for work and time for themselves and their families. Children or minors should not be used for labor.

"The Qur'an and Worker Justice":

The Holy Qur’an teaches that people should “fulfill all of your obligations,” said Imam Al-Amin. “An employer is obligated to properly compensate, which is not just about money. We’re talking about providing a good atmosphere; good working conditions, benefits, and allowing a person to have time with their families.” In Islam, perfect honesty is enjoined in all business transactions, including how an employer treats an employee. Those who are in a better financial position and employ others have more responsibility to ensure that they treat people with fairness, remembering that all humanity is one…"“Muhammad the Prophet said, ‘Pay the worker while the sweat is still on the brow.’ This speaks of timely compensation,” said Imam Makram Al- Amin.

Science Fiction


Scheduling software



General readings

  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics - on the slavery of wage labor
  • Aronowitz, Stanley (editor). Post-work: The Wages of Cybernation. Psychology Press, 1998.
  • Clawson, Dan and Naomi Gerstel. ”The Time Crunch: Will Labor Lead?.“ New Labor Forum. July 29, 2014.
  • Clawson, Dan and Naomi Gerstel. Unequal Time: Gender, Class, and Family in Employment Schedules. Russell Sage Foundation, 2014.
  • Cloyes, To Work and to Love.
  • Coote, Anna, Jane Franklin. Time on Our Side: Why We All Need a Shorter Working Week. New Economics Foundation. September 18, 2013.
  • Coote, Anna, Jane Franklin, and Andrew Simms. 21 Hours. New Economics Foundation. February 13, 2010.
  • Crowley, Jocelyn Elise. Mothers Unite! Organizing for Workplace Flexibility and the Transformation of Family Life.
  • DeBord, Guy. TheSociety of the Spectacle.
    • has a concept of “temporal surplus value,” building on Marx's surplus value.
  • de Graaf, John (editor). Take Back your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2003. (NYPL)
  • de Grazia, Sebastian. Of Time, Work, and Leisure. The Twentieth Century Fund, 1962.
  • Garson, Barbara. All the Livelong Day: The Meaning and Demeaning of Routine Work. New York: Penguin, 1994.
  • Graeber, David. "A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse". The Baffler 22 (2013).
  • Granter, Edward. Critical social theory and the end of work. Burlington, MA: Ashgate, 2009.
    • “That the technical means exist for work to be abolished is one of the more obvious irrational features of advanced capitalism, according to Critical Theory. Marx had suggested that the abolition of capitalist labour as we know it was within reach many years earlier.” (2) — “capitalist (that is, all modern) societies hide their own potential from themselves, in order for the current system of economic and social domination to be perpetuated.” (3) — Marx “attempted to posit free time as central to the establishment [of] a new form of value that was better suited to measuring human freedom—itself the most valuable commodity of all.” (179)
    • Thinkers he engages with include Marx, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Gorz, Negri, Offe, Habermas
  • Gregg, Melissa. ”The Neverending Workday.“ The Atlantic. October 15, 2015.
    • “Researchers monitored the pulse rate of workers running on treadmills to gauge fitness as far back as the 1910s. The idea that the body could be conditioned to ever greater efficiency informed the famous Hawthorne Studies of the 1930s, where doctors recorded the blood count, organ size, and sleeping patterns of young women in assembly jobs.”
    • “Companies encourage the heroics of individual careers because they are relatively easy to reward. In the high-stakes game of promotion and preferment, singular personalities get the spoils, while the rest of the team is left cheering from the sidelines.”
  • Hayden, Anders. Sharing the work, sparing the planet : work time, consumption & ecology. London: Zed Books, 1999. (NYPL)
  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.
  • Hunnicutt, Benjamin Kline. Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013.
  • Husson, Michael and Stephanie Treillet. ”Liberation Through Vacation.“ Jacobin. June 1, 2015.
    • Good discussion of 35-hour policies in France
  • Illich, Ivan. The Right to Useful Unemployment.
  • Jacobin's discussions on the topic:
    • Sarah Leonard on Marissa Mayer, "She Can't Sleep No More"
    • Chris Maisano on full employment, "Working for the Weekend"
    • Chris Maisano on shorter working hours, "Take This Job and Share It"
      • André Gorz is a thinker who keeps coming up. Here we see his ideas about technology and automation. Frase elsewhere embraces his notion of non-reformist reforms, turning capitalism against itself.
      • “Marx himself was rather clear on this point. Near the end of Volume 3 of Capital, he famously argues that the 'true realm of freedom” lies beyond the sphere of material production, and that “the shortening of the working day is its prerequisite.' While the necessity for people to do some sort of potentially alienating work to ensure social reproduction will likely never be totally abolished, it should entail 'the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature.'”
  • Kelso, Louis O. and Patricia Hetter. How to Turn Eighty Million Workers into Capitalists on Borrowed Money. Random House, 1967.
    • Especially in the concluding chapter, “The Rising Sons,” lots on the need for an economic framework that aims toward useful leisure
  • Keynes, John Maynard. ”Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.“ 1930.
  • Lafargue, Paul. The Right to Be Lazy. 1883.
  • Luce, Stephanie. ”Time Is Political.“ Jacobin. July 20, 2015.
  • Pieper, Josef. Leisure, the Basis of Culture. Faber and Faber, 1952 [1948].
  • Pinsker, Joe. ”America's Fantasy of a Four-Day Workweek.“ The Atlantic. June 23, 2015.
  • Roediger, David R. and Philip S. Foner. Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day. Greenwood, Colorado: Greenwood Press, 1989.
  • Russell, Bertrand. “In Praise of Idleness.”
  • Schor, Juliet. The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure. New York: Basic Books, 1992.
  • Schulte, Brigid. Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time. Sarah Crichton Books, 2014.
  • Standing, Guy. ”Tertiary Time: A Precariat's Dilemma.“ Public Culture 25, no.1 (2013): 5-23.
    • See notes in author page linked above.
  • Taylor, Sunny. ”The Right Not to Work: Power and Disability.“ Monthly Review. 55, issue 10 (March 2004).
  • Vanderkam, Laura. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Portfolio, 2010.
    • Description:​ “a fun, inspiring, ​practical guide that will help men and women of any age, lifestyle, or career get the most out of their time and their lives.”
  • White, Gillian B. ”The Murky Boundaries of the Modern Work Day. The Atlantic. November 18, 2014.