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Welcome to the Paleofuture blog, where we explore past visions of the future. From flying cars and jetpacks to utopias and dystopias.

16-Hour Work Week by Year 2020 (1967)

16-Hour Work Week by Year 2020 (1967)

The idea that advanced 21st century technology would lead to ridiculously short work weeks was incredibly popular in the 20th century. And why not? Improved efficiency meant we'd obviously be working less, right? Seems like common sense.

I don't need to tell you that things didn't quite work out as the futurists had hoped. You're probably working more hours than ever; that is, if you're lucky enough to have a job at all.

The article below ran in the November 26, 1967 Gastonia Gazette (Gastonia, NC). It assumes that people will be working significantly less and raises concerns that all this free time will lead to "boredom, idleness, immorality, and increased personal violence." The piece even proposes the possibility of a guaranteed wage.

Those who hunger for time off from work may take heart from the forecast of political scientist Sebastian de Grazia that the average work week, by the year 2000, will average 31 hours, and perhaps as few as 21. Twenty years later, on-the-job hours may have dwindled to 26, or even 16.

But what will people do with all that free time? The outlook may not be cheery.

As De Grazia sees it: "There is reason to fear, as some do, that free time, forced free time, will bring on the restless tick of boredom, idleness, immorality, and increased personal violence. If the cause is identified as automation and the preference for higher intelligence, nonautomated jobs may increase, but they will carry the stigma of stupidity. Men will prefer not to work rather than to accept them. Those who do accept will increasingly come to be a politically inferior class."

One possible solution: a separation of income from work; perhaps a guaranteed annual wage to provide "the wherewithal for a life of leisure for all those who think they have the temperament."


1967 Nov 26 Gastonia Gazette - Gastonia NC paleofuture retrofuture.jpg

Note: I originally uploaded the PDF to Scribd, but have recently been moving things over to Archive.org.

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