Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In Praise of Idleness” as Want to Read:
In Praise of Idleness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In Praise of Idleness

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  803 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Noted mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell tried to apply the clarity he admired in mathematical reasoning to the solution of problems in other fields, in particular ethics and politics. In this essay, first published in 1932, Russell argues in favor of a four-hour working day. Consider whether his "arguments for laziness" deserve serious consideration today.
Kindle Edition, 12 pages
Published July 14th 2014
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about In Praise of Idleness, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about In Praise of Idleness

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  803 ratings  ·  87 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A short essay, forcing the reader to see leisure in a new light of virtue (if expended rightly, and not just for fox-hunting or poacher-punishing), and the sense of duty with suspicion. Have always been astonished by the completeness of Bertrand Russell's thoughts. Leave no room for counterarguments.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the best clause of the last paragraph of the article:
"Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all."
Krishen Mohan
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A enlightened view on the self propagating inefficiency of the current economic paradigm. Reminder to the people that money is a means of resource allocation to ensure that everyone can live as comfortably as possible rather than this mindless pursuit of the impermenant that is prevalent today. Well worth the read. Succinct.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I didn’t mind his writing style, so perhaps the essay is better than 1 star. For me, the hurdle was my fundamental disagreement with his overarching ideas that:
1. There’s far too much work being done in the world, and
2. Immense harm is caused from believing work is virtuous.

I struggled to see the benefits in praising idleness. In the context of 1932, when the book was published, his points may have been more relevant, particularly because long workdays were the norm (even
Moein Esmaeeli
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has some food for thought.

" For ages, the rich and their sycophants have written in praise of "honest toil," have praised the simple life, have professed a religion which teaches that the poor are much more likely to go to heaven than the rich, and in general have tried to make manual workers believe that there is some special nobility about altering the position of matter in space, just as men tried to make women believe that they derived some special nobility from their s
Ruby Bisson
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and hilarious introduction to the writings of philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Ahmed Mahid
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have decided that this essay changed my life.
Kristopher Muir
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is the value of leisure in our lives? How might we define leisure? In 1932, philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote “In Praise of Idleness,” an intriguing essay about modern-day assumptions of the ethics of work and leisure. I read a book that contained the essay and an introduction to the essay, so I am counting it as a book. Russell’s primary argument is a reduction of work into merely two types: “first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such ma ...more
Mihai Leonte
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More relevant than ever with the emerging of "AI" and the automation of so many types of jobs. Civilization is at a crossroads - and the only sane option is reducing the work-hours or establishing universal basic income for everyone.

Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
clear, concise condemnation for our culture's (purported) need to work longer hours
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thought
Simply beautiful. And strangely more libertarian than Rothbard. And more anti-status-quo than Bakunin. But unlike the two demi-gods of their respective gangs, short and not dated.
Delia Turner
This large-print, small-footprint gift book contains a slim Russell essay sandwiched between an industriously humorous introduction and a set of equally industriously humorous footnotes and illustrated in a peculiar quasi-Victorian manner (the illustration on p. 104 is unfortunate and characteristic). I chose it because I felt like having an easy read and it didn't disappoint on that account. Would make a nice impersonal Christmas present for that philosophy major on your list, just to convey th ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, a disclaimer: I am a lazy person.

Now onto my review: I love this book.

Bertrand Russell proposed a 4-hour work week for all. There are enough resources in the world to provide for all, as illustrated by the fact that during war time when many were not involved in food production and yet did not result in famine. We should distribute the resources by distributing the workload and keeping everyone employed. Individuals will work less, thus freeing time for leisure and
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I like Russell's work and this one is also an interesting one. Although I think that it might be too simplistic when it comes to some ideas. I am pretty sure that economists would be scared of how simplistic it is for example when he writes that:

If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be
enough for everybody and no unemployment

Maybe it is true, maybe not, but it's a bold statement and should be supported by some proofs. But overall it is a nice idea to think ab/>If
Luke Jenner
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent short essay which leaves you with that joyous feeling that your mind has been changed for the better. Russell's ideas flow beautifully, are easily understood and coherent. He argues our lack of optimism and fulfillment in life is due to the nature of work, namely that we spend too much time labouring and not enough time being "idle." The little time we do get to ourselves is spent passively being entertained as we are too tired for anything else. Instead, we should take a st ...more
Sarah loves books 😻😻😻
I will make sure to read Russell collection of essays! Fabulous! I want to re read this one to grasp the full impact and meaning of it. His creative method of full immersion and then stepping away from the task and letting the subconscious work away in it, is something I have discovered over the past years works incredibly well for me. Often I find the solution to a problem when I don't think about it at all. 5stars no doubt!!
Brian Beatty
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
One of my favorite essays by Russell, and certainly worth its own separate volume. Greive's essay introducing it and Russell is a good addition to it. Thoughtful and friendly, I think it added a sense of timeliness to the original essay that will help people access Russell's work generally.
Chris Jones
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Refreshing and Concise

Simple, easy to understand argumentation. Russel argues for a four hour work day. Still very relevant in our current times, perhaps even more so.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is short personal essay on work, in which Bertrand Russell argues for a reduced work day because of the benefits it brings, such as greater happiness and an increase in morality. He exposes the elites’ justification of work to the masses – that it brings moral rectitude and so on – as self-serving, designed to make them richer while keeping the masses down. He understands that society doesn't need to work that many hours for a decent standard of living, but are forced to do so by the rulers ...more
Sadia Mansoor
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.”

The link to the essay is this >>
Gretchen Lindemann
Brilliant. Plan on reading this at least annually.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"...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."

The history and concept of work is explained in this 14-page essay by Bertrand Russell, who needs no introduction. The title of the book lures the reader to ponder how one man as erudite and intelligent as Russell could ever be in favor of laziness.

It is in fact nothing related to the concept
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This short essay, written in the early 30s, is an eloquent defense for a shorter work week. With the advent of automation this work is even more important than when it was first published.
Mr. Russell denounces the false idolatry of work as a misguided believe instill and perpetuated by the ruling classes to keep the masses under control.

He shines a light on the hypocrisy of the difference of expectations for working men to those of well to do individuals and women of his time.

Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although well familiar with the name, I don't think I could have told you anything about Bertrand Russell before reading this. A compelling, deeply thought-provoking and at times hilarious introduction to a great and inspiring thinker, contained in a neat little book perfect for consuming in one sitting.

BTG clearly cherishes BR and conveys his life and essence with insight, warmth and some priceless turns of phrase. I now want to find out more about this extraordinary, prolific and fearless ind
Andreas Andersen
Short, pointed and encouraging

Although written many years ago, this little essay strikes me as both modern and timeless. Russell's reflections on idleness and the insanity of uneccessary toil is just as relevant today as it ever was. I dare say we are slowly walking towards his vision.
Charlie Doggett
Interesting Concept

Most people would like his 4 hour work day but our total society would have to change in ways I can't imagine happening. I have found his joy of life in what we call retirement and living in the more relaxed culture of Costa Rica. And I too now praise idleness and glad to be out of the USA rat race!
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016, essay
Given the changing nature of industry, and the need for creative thinking, in this new emerging world order, this essay is as relevant today as when Russell fist penned it. Bradley Trevor Greive's commentary enriches the original content and further entertains. A very accessible and enjoyable introduction to Bertrand Russell.
Lisa Wright
Russell's wise and wonderful essay will convince even the dourest doubter's of the necessity of idleness to keep one's brain working (and one's life worth living.) Bradley Trevor Greive's introduction, notes, and afterword will have you laughing out loud. This is a charmer!
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit dated but some good arguments in favour of a universal basic income.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character
  • Working the Room: Essays and Reviews: 1999-2010
  • Melbourne
  • Chomsky for Beginners
  • Game of Knowns
  • Literature And Existentialism
  • Air: The Restless Shaper of the World
  • The Secret Life of the Periodic Table: Unlocking the Mysteries of All 118 Elements
  • Science in Seconds
  • The Pleasures of Leisure
  • Secrets of the Universe in 100 Symbols
  • By the Book: A Reader's Guide to Life
  • Nighttown (Junior Bender, #7)
  • Some Anatomies of Melancholy
  • The Essays of Montaigne - Volume 02
  • The Genius of China: 3000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention
  • Landscapes: John Berger on Art
  • Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood
See similar books…
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS, was a Welsh philosopher, historian, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, pacifist, and prominent rationalist. Although he was usually regarded as English, as he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born in Wales, where he also died.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 "in recognitio
“The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.” 3 likes
“The fact is that moving matter about, while a certain amount of it is necessary to our existence, is emphatically not one of the ends of human life. If it were, we should have to consider every navvy superior to Shakespeare. We have been misled in this matter by two causes. One is the necessity of keeping the poor contented, which has led the rich, for thousands of years, to preach the dignity of labor, while taking care themselves to remain undignified in this respect. The other is the new pleasure in mechanism, which makes us delight in the astonishingly clever changes that we can produce on the earth's surface. Neither of these motives makes any great appeal to the actual worker. If you ask him what he thinks the best part of his life, he is not likely to say: "I enjoy manual work because it makes me feel that I am fulfilling man's noblest task, and because I like to think how much man can transform his planet. It is true that my body demands periods of rest, which I have to fill in as best I may, but I am never so happy as when the morning comes and I can return to the toil from which my contentment springs.” 2 likes
More quotes…