Walking down Fuencarral street in Madrid this past Friday, three paste-ups burst out of the walls inviting passersby to leisure and idleness as basic vindications at a time when work has colonized most aspects of life. In a historical moment that can be thought of as the brutal attack of the accumulation of capital against the rights of workers, the author or authors of these fragile pieces made up of paper and ink echo Paul Lafargue (The Right to be Lazy 1880-1883) who argued for a reduced volume of work and for creativity and laziness as key sources for human well-being and progress. This paste-up uses G. E. Lessing‘s praise of laziness (1747), with which Lafargue opened his own text:
The defense of enjoyment and happiness as inalienable rights also guides Robert Louis Stevenson’s brief essay “An Apology for Idlers” (1877), that has been recently edited in Spain (1). For Stevenson, idleness does not consist in doing nothing: to the contrary it consists in “doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class.” He goes on to observe that “perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.” These observation and demands emerged in nineteenth century industrial Europe out of the perplexities produced by the alienations of capital. They come back to question and interpellate us through the creativity of these paste-ups on the streets of Madrid.
(1) Stevenson, R.L. En defensa de los ociosos. Trad. Belén Urrutia. Madrid: Santillana, 2014.