The Right To Be Lazy: And Other Writings

NYRB Classics. Nov. 2022. 136p. tr. from French by Alex Andriesse. ISBN 9781681376820. pap. $15.95. PHIL
First published in 1883, this bracing anti-capitalist manifesto gets a fresh translation for the era of the Great Resignation. With scathing wit, LaFargue takes aim at the ideological underpinnings of late-stage capitalism, the “disastrous dogma of work,” calling with irresistible logic to free the “miserable servants of the machine” from boom-and-bust cycles of overproduction via the institution of a three-hour workday. Less persuasive is his lengthy takedown of Victor Hugo, a splenetic diatribe that calls out the beloved literary titan as a mercenary hypocrite with a tendentious rancor that, especially juxtaposed with the fawning hagiography of his father-in-law Karl Marx that follows, highlights the LaFargue’s rhetorical zeal over his more substantial but less showy critiques on women’s rights and socialism, not included here.
VERDICT A sly, irreverent sibling to The Communist Manifesto, LaFargue’s argument against our willing servitude to what we’d now call hustle culture and growth-at-all-costs is as trenchant and necessary as the day it was written, if not more so.
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