Leisure- The Wealth of Man

Leisure- The Wealth of Man

In the Autumn 1957 DISSENT, Henri Rabasseire continued his attack on the Protestant work ethic which he had started with his fine piece “The Right to be Lazy” in Winter 1956. I am in full agreement with him that it is more important to increase our ability to enjoy life than to maintain an ethic which has become a mere justification for the drudgery of others. He is right too in his critical remarks on the role of the Protestant ethic in the history of the socialist movement. He is, however, mistaken in maintaining that Marx was “entirely on the side of Protestants.” One reader, at least, has the suspicion that Rabasseire has been carried away by his desire to be a heretic in socialist circles. He uses Marx as a bate noire, though in an unusual manner. Yet the present fashion of Marx-baiting is no less meaningless than the older Marxist habit of replacing arguments with Marx quotations.

This suspicion seems to be justified because Rabasseire himself has coyly confessed in the Winter 1956 issue that after his attention had been drawn to the passage in Capital, vol. III, where Marx wrote that the realm of freedom lies beyond the realm of material production proper, he seemed to his regret less heretical than he had fondly believed. He consoled himself with the remark that this passage in Capital may not conform with the whole trend of Marx’s thinking. This, however, he should have tried to prove, since well qualified writers think otherwise. Thus, Georges Friedmann has seen in this passage the essence of Marx’s thinking and quoted it because it expresses so well his own thought. Maximilian Rubel, the only professional Marx scholar working in freedom, has discussed this passage at length in his recent book Karl Marx, Essai de Biographie Intellectuelle as most representative of Marx’s thought which he summarizes with the phrase: “Le loisir, voila, selon Marx, la vraie richesse humaine … ” [Leisure—that, according to Marx, is the true wealth of man.]

If we want really to ascertain the trend of Marx’s thinking on this matter, we should turn to his notebooks, dated 1858, which were published for the first time in 1953 as Gundrisse der Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. Here Marx noted down his most intimate thoughts on work and leisure and on the idea of integrated man. Though at the time automation was not even in sight, Marx nevertheless wrote that when it would come, his law of labor value would cease to be valid.


Lima