So far, I've only read the title essay, "In Praise of Idleness", but I must say that it rings as true (if not truer!) today than it must have in 1932 during the Great Depression.
The value and virtue of "hard work" and the vilification of "idleness" is indeed a dual construct of the upper (leisure) class and the puritanical (right-wing) religious origins of our country. Must keep those working-class lackeys occupied so they don't revolt! Or fall to drinking, gambling, and crime!
There is nothing wrong with "idleness", especially if it is active, involved idleness. A contradiction, you say? Oh no. Russell uses the dual example of "peasant dances" set against urban leisure such as "seeing cinema" and "listening to the radio". Today I would use the examples of declining volunteerism, creative hobbies/crafts, even active sports, set against television and, yes, still, cinema. The problem is not so much in the leisure as in the passiveness and placation of society. This kind of social construct, being fed pablum by the mass media (including the news outlets), told what to think, how to feel, what matters to us, is as sure an oppression as any form of dictatorship or totalitarianism. (At this point, I could devolve into a long rant on the power elite and class structure, but I won't.... it's a little off topic...)
What really concerns me in this particular essay, though, is the distribution of work and the distribution of goods (those goods necessary for survival: food, shelter). There are enough resources in this country to go around, except that those resources have been hoarded by those in the highest echelons. For example, there are an estimated 1.5 million homeless people in the US (this is a low estimate in my opinion: homelessness is very difficult to quantify especially as it is in constant flux, and there are questions of who, exactly, should be included in such a count). At any rate, there are currently approximately 750,000 foreclosed homes on the market, owned by banks or investors, sitting empty. This does not include all the "newly" constructed homes that never did sell after real-estate crash. That, in case you can't do the math, is one empty home for every two homeless people. Why not train and/or employ some of these people to do renovation on the many trashed or "scavenged" foreclosed homes in return for reduced occupancy fees? It would solve at least two problems with one blow. But no, those empty homes represent material value to the banks and investors, and they will not share those resources, even when the perceived market value of those resources has fallen by 50% or more!
But again, I'm drifting off topic. Read the essay. We should all be able to meet our needs on 4 hours of work per day, and the rest of our time should be a choice, between working harder for "extra" consumer goods, spending time with family and friends, or painting, writing great literature, working on solving the worlds social ills, or all the many other things that one can't do while drudging away for 8 to 10 hours a day in jobs that are frequently pointless in the first place.
This is a view of socialism I can live with!