Recently the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published its Better Life Index. While the United States ranks at or near the top in housing access and in wealth, the United States ranks near the bottom in work-life balance. Derek Thompson argues that we can find the answer in looking at the increased number of hours Americans work…well not Americans, but specific types of Americans. Working class men, for example have more leisure time than anyone–because they aren't working. And people with more than a college degree have little to no leisure time (ask any academic whether adjunct, tenure-track, or tenured what we do over the summer…I wake up a bit later but I'm on the same grind I ever was, just minus the teaching). Perhaps most important, nearly forty percent of mothers are the primary breadwinners.
One of the best books I've read over the past couple of years was The Problem with Work by Kathi Weeks. She argues that we've made the right to work so much a part of our political struggles that we've lost the capacity to imagine what a struggle for leisure would and should look like. Tommie Shelby is working on a somewhat similar project focusing on urban cores. Here's one way to think about it–given how bad long-term unemployment is, how much better off would we be if we reduced the 40 hour work week to 25, so more people could work AND play?
With tuition and housing costs rising, and savings decreasing perhaps this is a pipe dream. I think this particular dream is one worth having.