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The anti-work ethic states that labor tends to cause unhappiness, therefore, the quantity of labor ought to be lessened. The ethic appears to have originated in anarchist circles and to have come to prominence with essays such as In praise of idleness by Bertrand Russell, The Right to Useful Unemployment by Ivan Illich, and The Abolition of Work by Bob Black [1], published in 1985. Paul Lafargue's The Right to Be Lazy essay is one of the most classical works on the subject (Lafargue was Karl Marx's son-in-law).

The followers of this ethic typically argue that capitalist and communist societies tend to encourage a "labor" mentality towards life either directly or indirectly through the cost of living, labor markets, the work week, applying normative values to economics, and social conventions. The critics then ask why with increasing mechanization the number of hours in the average work week have not fallen significantly; for example, Bob Black asks, "Why hasn't the average work week gone down by more than a few minutes in the past fifty years?" The devotees of the anti-work movement therefore attempt to find answers and practical solutions towards reducing the volume of work for a typical person and encouraging the activities they see as conducive to happiness.

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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  • The idea of the "job" as the answer to all woes, individual and social, is one of the most pernicious myths of modern society.
    • How to be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson (2005)
  • It has become an article of the creed of modern morality that all labour is good in itself; a convenient belief to those who live on the wealth of others
  • If work were so pleasant, the rich would keep it for themselves
  • Freedom begins where work ends
    • Work and the Free Society, Anarchist Federation UK Pamphlet
  • What is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so.
  • Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.
  • Can one live without working? We can only live without working.
    • In Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem, The Idler 34 (2004)
  • "Arbeit macht frei" is a German phrase meaning "work brings freedom" or "work shall set you free/will free you" or "work liberates" and, literally in English, "work makes (one) free". The slogan is known for being placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps.
  • Like Christ, the doleful personification of ancient slavery, the men, the women and the children of the proletariat have been climbing painfully for a century up the hard Calvary of pain; for a century compulsory toil has broken their bones, bruised their flesh, tortured their nerves; for a century hunger has torn their entrails and their brains. 0 Laziness, have pity on our long misery! O Laziness, mother of the arts and noble virtues, be thou the balm of human anguish!
    • The Right to be Lazy, Paul Lafargue (1883)
  • No one should ever work. Workers of the world... relax!
    • The Abolition of Work, Bob Black (1985)
  • Ali G: "unemployment is wicked because you get money for doin' nothing" Tony Benn: "What do you mean? This idea that you're unemployed because you're lazy is rubbish." Ali G: "Me ain't saying that it's cause you lazy, me saying you wanna chill, whatever, y'know?"
    • Ali G interview with Tony Benn

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