Starting today and into most of next week I will be excerpting and analyzing Paul LaFargue’s The Right to be Lazy (or alternatively here). Heaping praise and raising criticisms where I think necessary. I can’t promise much content in a given post but hopefully we’ll all get something out of it.
After this is all done I will post The Right to be Lazy in its entirety here.
To be clear I have never read this before and am using this site and series as a mutual excuse for content on here. But hey, I have the right to be…oh you know what joke I am going for!
Anyways we start off with a golden quote that LaFargue says is reflective of “…the ethics of the capitalist class”:
I wish to make the influence of the clergy all powerful because I count upon it to propagate that good philosophy which teaches man that he is here below to suffer, and not that other philosophy which on the contrary bids man to enjoy.
Because of course, for many in the ruling class our pleasures should be limited, controlled, taxed and regulated. Oh sure, it can be advertised everywhere, on the streets and in your face and online. But can it actually be indulged with freely so long as you are not harming others? No. It must be seized and possessed through permits and institutional barriers by the state and regulatory boards cheered on from everyone in the so-called “progressive” left to the traditional right. Our pleasures cannot be our own because if we could actually extend our autonomy into the realms of our desires and pleasures at least some of us would become (of course) unfulfilled in the end and only want (and hopefully demand) more.
Part of that can be seen to be happening in the libertarian movement with the legalization of weed and at least some of us realizing that these moves to control our pleasures by the capitalists and the state tend to not be ones for our greater good.
I do not claim that our pleasures alone will cause some sort of revolution. I am not necessarily a hedonist, but I am sympathetic to hedonism in some ways and particularly in how much of an important role pleasure seems to be in guiding our actions at times. It is certainly a virtue in many (but not all) cases alongside others. That doesn’t mean it will always have revolutionary potential and indeed is sometimes just a good way to deal with the current structures of our day that cause us so much pain. That is a respected thing in of itself but obviously should not be our only way of using pleasure for our benefit.
The next paragraph sees a link between Christianity and capitalism:
Capitalist ethics, a pitiful parody on Christian ethics, strikes with its anathema the flesh of the laborer; its ideal is to reduce the producer to the smallest number of needs, to suppress his joys and his passions and to condemn him to play the part of a machine turning out work without respite and without thanks.
The capitalist ethos therefore not only denies the pleasures of the flesh but also strikes against them. Using the ways of work-discipline to try to corral us into its machinations more peacefully and not notice what it is denying us. Of course, people don’t always go along with this so you see, for example, workers during those times and before drinking either on the job or after to the point of not being able to come in the following day.
This work-discipline then can be overcome and historically has been time in and time out. Whether by our pleasures and the simple attempts to deal with our current environment or using it as an attempt to somehow liberate ourselves from whatever structures we feel imprisoned by. The pleasures we gain are not always the key to the prison doors but they may help us find them in some cases.
This link by the way is especially fitting if we use people like the Puritans and people who embodied/ies their ethics and ideas about pleasure and work. That we should all work hard and always be grateful for it even when it sucks.
In the last part of this preface LaFargue calls to those he wants to take part in responding to this through action and with certain aims in mind:
The revolutionary socialists must take up again the battle fought by the philosophers and pamphleteers of the bourgeoisie
…that in the communist society of the future, which we shall establish “peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must,” the impulses of men will be given a free rein, for “all these impulses are by nature good, we have nothing to avoid but their misuse and their excesses,” and they will not be avoided except by their mutual counter-balancing, by the harmonious development of the human organism
There’s a lot said in…well this one sentence. Seriously the last paragraph is just one bitg sentence with a whole lot of commas.
It is interesting that LaFargue still wants to use the bourgeois banners for the revolutionary socialists. But who are these revolutionary socialists? Are they intellectuals, owing to no particular economic class? Peasants? Lumpenproles? Who exactly are we talking about? Perhaps we will find out in the future.
In this second part we can see a clear demand for communism and one that will be forcible if it must to achieve its ends. I don’t exactly know who this force is supposed to be used against and in what scenarios exactly but I have a feeling is a general ethical defaulting on the capitalist class and opening them up for rabbit season.
I don’t personally think this is the best use of our time (and declaring a war on the capitalist class surely isn’t one for the lazy, is it?) nor does it seem all that ethical to just line up the capitalist class and violently knock them down but then again the “must” in there is important. Using that you could stipulate that it would only come into play for self-defense and the like from the capitalist class or the state or whatever. I am much more sympathetic to such a claim but I am not sure that that is the claim that LaFargue is making.
But anyways that’s all for now. Hope everyone enjoys the series. Like I said, I am coming into this cold and without any prior reading so I may say dumb stuff and not know that my questions will be answered later. Try to keep this in mind and think of this as a “first impressions” sort of run through as I said before.