Re: Luddites and Neo-luddites

Kathleen A. Gillogly (Kagillogly@AOL.COM)
Mon, 29 Jan 1996 11:44:50 -0500

In a message dated 96-01-28 18:53:02 EST, John McCreery writes:

>_ that each stage of the industrial revolution has
>dramatically shortened the work week: steam from 80 to 60
>hours, oil and electricity from 60 to 40 [quoting Jeremy Rifkin in _The End
of Work_]

Do you, and other anthro-l participants, accept this? I am in sympathy with
the general arguments of Rifkin's work, but I don't agree with this point.

Labor time/energy studies among the !Kung, who live in a desert, who that
they work far less hours a week to gain subsistence than do any farmers or
industrial workers. I believe studies of Australian Aborigines yielded
similar results. This is, of course, Sahlins' argument in _Stone Age
Economics _. My own observation of horticulturalists in the Solomon Islands
and even of cash crop farmers in northern Thailand support this, although I
didn't quantify labor time. The upland farmers (especially young women) in
Thailand worked the longest hours of all, but only through the agricultural
season. Levels of work decreased markedly in the non-agricultural season,
although development and modernization are beginning to take up the slack

Needless to say, foragers and small-scale horticulturalists in the Solomon
Islands were not working to support a state structure with all of its
attendant costs. No infrastructure, etc.

What does this do to Rifkin's argument? Does it change the tone or the
point? Perhaps the answer to the end to work is that of 'voluntarily
simplicity.' Is this also part of the Luddite (or neo-Luddite) program?

Kate Gillogly
Univ. of Michigan