As part of my thinking about a book I’m currently working on, I started to re-read a book by Jonathan Gershuny, Changing Times: Work and Leisure in Post-Industrial Society (2000). He has led the way in work on time-use studies, as well as some key longitudinal data sets. It’s the first time I’ve read this book since it was published, and I’d forgotten how interesting it is. As he points out, “Change in time use patterns is not a mere indicator of social change; it is itself part of the essence of socio-economic development. A ‘poor’ society is one which must devote the bulk of its time to low value-added activities which go to satisfy basic wants or needs.” Low value added activities are those where the ratio of paid work per minute of consumption time is low – many hours are needed to deliver the consumption experience.
All eras of technological progress have brought complaints about things speeding up and being short of time. I was reflecting on how the recent ‘slow food‘ movement fits into Gershuny’s framework. It seems to be a regression in economic development yet its advocates see ‘slow’ as the most sustainable future for the economy. They are also quite likely to be high- rather than low-income members of the community (as are the buyers of organic foods). Maybe these slow fooders are sufficiently affluent that their time spent providing for the basic need of eating is effectively leisure rather than work, a hobby not a necessity. Anyway, I shall carry on reading and see if I’m further enlightened on this question.