Monday, October 15, 2007

How Many Hours Do/Did You Work?

How many hours per week do you, or did you if you are retired, have to work?

In considering the answers to this question that were given by people who studied the economy, please not the dates when they were written.

"The so-called "division of labour" has grown under a system which condemned the masses to toil all the day long, and all the life long, at the same wearisome kind of labour. But if we take into account how few are the real producers of wealth in our present society, and how squandered is their labour we must recognise that Franklin* was right in saying that to work five hours a day would generally do for supplying each member of a civilised nation with the comfort now accessible for the few only."
Chapter VIII, FIELDS, FACTORIES & WORKSHOPS, Peter Kropotkin, Second Edition 1912.

*Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790).
That's right. According to Ben Franklin's analysis of the market, and we may rely on the business acumen of a man born into a poor family of with thirteen children who became a millionaire and statesman; already in the 18the C. it was possible to attain a comfortable standard of living working five hours a day.

In reading the next quotes think about the implications of what Kropotkin is saying would have for Shmitta:

"In the domain of agriculture it may be taken as proved that if a small part only of the time that is now- given in each nation or region to field culture was given to well thought out and socially carried out permanent improvements of the soil, the duration of work which would be required afterwards to grow the yearly bread-food for an average family of five would be less than a fortnight every year; and that the work required for that purpose would not be the hard toil of the ancient slave, but work which would be agreeable to the physical forces of every healthy man and woman in the country.

It has been proved that by following the methods of intensive market- gardening-partly under glass-vegetables and fruit can be grown in such quantities that men could be provided with a, rich vegetable food and a profusion of fruit, if they simply devoted to the task of growing them the hours which everyone willingly devotes to work in the open air, after having spent most of his day in the factory, the mine, or the study. Provided, of course, that the production of food-stuffs should not be the work of the isolated individual, but the planned-out and combined action of human groups.

It has also been proved-and those who care to verify it by themselves may easily do so by calculating the real expenditure for labour which was lately made in the building of workmen's houses by both private persons and municipalities -that under a proper combination of labour, twenty to twenty-four months of one man's work would be sufficient to secure for ever, for a family of five, an apartment or a house provided with all the comforts which modern hygiene and taste could require.

And now, in the presence of all these conquests - what is the reality of things?

In industrially developed countries, a couple of months' work, or even much less than that, would be sufficient to produce for a family a rich and varied vegetable and animal food.
One month of work every year would be quite sufficient to provide the worker with a healthy dwelling."
Chapter IX, F F & W

"For centuries science and so-called practical wisdom have said to man: "It is good to be rich, to be able to satisfy, at least, your material needs; but the only means to be rich is to so train your mind and capacities as to be able to compel other men-slaves, serfs or wage-earners -to make these riches for you. You have no choice. Either you must stand in the ranks of the peasants and the artisans who, whatsoever economists and moralists may promise them in the future, are now periodically doomed to starve after each bad crop or during their strikes and to be shot down by their own sons the moment they lose patience. Or you must: train your faculties so as to be a military commander of the masses, or to be accepted as one of the wheels of the governing machinery of the State or to become a manager of men in commerce or industry." For many centuries there was no other choice, and men followed that advice, without finding in it happiness, either for themselves and their own children, or for those whom they pretended to preserve from worse misfortunes.

But modern knowledge has another issue to offer to thinking men. It tells them that in order to be rich they need not take the bread from the mouths of others; but that the more rational outcome would be a society in which men, with the work of their own hands and intelligence, and by the aid of the machinery already invented and to be invented, should themselves create all imaginable riches. Technics and science will not be lagging behind if production takes such a direction. Guided by observation, analysis and experiment, they will answer all possible demands. They will reduce the time which is necessary for producing wealth to any desired amount, so as to leave to everyone as much leisure as he or she may ask for. They surely cannot guarantee happiness, because happiness depends as much, or even more, upon the individual himself as upon his surroundings. But they guarantee, at least, the happiness that can be found in the full and varied exercise of the different capacities of the human being, in work that need not be overwork, and in the consciousness that one is not endeavouring to base his own happiness upon the misery of others.

These are the horizons which the above inquiry opens to the unprejudiced mind." End of Chapter IX, F F & W

"Overwork is repulsive to human nature--not work. Overwork for supplying the few with luxury--not work for the well-being of all. Work is a physiological necessity, a necessity of spending accumulated bodily energy, a necessity which is health and life itself. If so many branches of useful work are so reluctantly done now, it is merely because they mean overwork, or they are improperly organised. But we know--old Franklin knew it--that four hours of useful work every day would be more than sufficient for supplying everybody with the comfort of a moderately well-to-do middle-class house, if we all gave ourselves to productive work, and if we did not waste our productive powers as we do waste them now." - Peter Kropotkin, ANARCHIST COMMUNISM: Its Basis and Principles, 1887

Kropotkin treats the matter of how many hours of work are required of whom and under what conditions in depth in Chapter VIII of THE CONQUEST OF BREAD (See:

We have already obtained the unanimous assent of those who have studied the subject, that a society, having recovered the possession of all riches accumulated in its midst, can liberally assure abundance to all in return for four or five hours effective and manual work a day, as far as regards production."
Anarchism: It's Philosophy and Ideal", Peter Kropotkin, 1896

See: Johann Most's speech: " THE BEAST OF PROPERTY", c. 1884, which can be found on the following URL:

"Under socialism…With the idle rich and the idle poor working and the work day four hours long their bodies will grow strong again and their minds sane.""Brutal Treatment of the Unemployed in Sacramento Star" – Helen Keller, March 16, 1914

"It can be statistically proven that three hours' work a day, at most, is sufficient to feed, shelter, and clothe the world and supply it not only with necessities but also with all modern comforts of life."
Alexander Berkman, Now and After: THE ABC OF COMMUNIST ANARCHISM, Chapter 22, New York: Vanguard Press, 1929.

"No one wants to spend their whole life in the factory or workshop, but everyone needs nails, transportation, or rope at some time, It would only be fair that all people spend a few hours every week helping to provide these useful products in co-operation with their fellows. Machines do help us make these things more easily; people only become slaves to their machines because they are slaves to their bosses and to a wasteful, growth-oriented economy. If there were no useless bosses who collect the profits but do no work at the machines they own or oversee, and if production did not always have to be increased to fuel an ever-expanding, growth-oriented consumerism, then it is doubtful that any of us would have to work more than a few hours per week. Those who are by temperament "workaholics" could spend their time improving upon, and experimenting with, products or projects of their choice." - "ANARCHO-SYNDICALSIM, TECHNOLOGY and ECOLOGY" by Graham Purchase, writing in 1995.

The Catholic Worker Movement: Societal structures need to be built so that it will be "easy to be good." Advocates the four-hour work day in order that workers become scholars and Scholars workers. (See: ).

Is it any less imperative for Jews to be scholar-workers than for Catholics?

I have spoken to an inventor about this matter. He has a number of patents to his name. In response to my question: How many work hours would be required of a person to live an upper-middle class lifestyle today, given today's technology; his answer was: TWO hours per day. All the rest that you work is going into someone else's pocket. Internalize that.

Think of how many things you could do for your community, how much more energy you would have, how much more time you would have with your loved ones, how much you could do to edify yourself if all of those work hours that are being stolen from you in order to make someone else rich were given back to you.

What do you expect the length of your work life to be, or, if you are retired, of how many years' duration was it?

Kropotkin says in his book
that technology had advanced his Franklin's time. Let's read on.

"But we have made some progress since Franklin's time, and some of that progress in the hitherto most backward branch of production--agriculture --has been indicated in the preceding pages. Even in that branch the productivity of labour can be immensely increased, and work itself rendered easy and pleasant. If everyone took his share of production, and if production were socialised--as political economy, if it aimed at the satisfaction of the ever-growing needs of all, would advise us to do--then more than one half of the working day would remain to everyone for the pursuit of art, science, or any hobby he or she might prefer; and his work in those fields would be the more profitable if he spent the other half of the day in productive work--if art and science were followed from mere inclination, not for mercantile purposes. Moreover, a community organised on the principles of all being workers would be rich enough to conclude that every man and woman, after having; reached a certain age--say of forty or more--ought to be relieved from the moral obligation of taking a direct part in the performance of the necessary manual work, so as to be able entirely to devote himself or herself to whatever he or she chooses in the domain of art, or science, or any kind of work. Free pursuit in new branches of art and knowledge, free creation, and free development thus might be fully guaranteed.. And such a community would not know misery amidst wealth. It would not know the duality of conscience which permeates out life and stifles every noble effort. It would freely take its flight towards the highest regions of progress compatible with human nature."
Chapter VIII, FIELDS, FACTORIES & WORKSHOPS, Peter Kropotkin, Second Edition 1912.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign
Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!