[Marxism] Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than you | The Great Debate

michael yates mikedjyates at msn.com
Sun Sep 1 21:22:23 MDT 2013

Carl is correct that the serf is not a slave. I only made the point about the serf as servus to suggest that those free days were embedded in an oppressive system of exploitation. The serfs weren't taking holidays at the beach. In early capitalism, weavers working at home under the putting out system had considerable freedom in terms of the use of their time. As Thompson tells us, there were weavers who had mastered calculus. But the putting out system beat down wages so severely that collections were taken up for the next school child who would die of hunger. Capitalism eventually forces a modern time discipline. Time is money as they say. And this is felt as a loss of freedom by those whose own lives were pretty miserable. The factory whistle that I took for granted when I was a child wasn't taken for granted by the weavers. 

Even given the horrors of feudal oppression, we can still see the lack of a strict time discipline as something capitalism takes away, and with it part or our humanity. Certainly, this humanity is worth winning back. By the same token, the leisure time of gatherers and hunters is something we should envy, rather than dismissing our ancestors as primitive with little to teach us. 		 	   		  

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