Leisure, a Right and a Duty

It is in leisure and only in leisure that we can allow human facets that are not subject to the imperative of production to emerge. Rest is a right and a duty because in it the essentials of our freedom are played.


For a long time, leisure was seen as something negative. “She is the mother of all vices,” they said. This idea that free time was negative expanded due to the interests that prevailed in the industrial era. The slogan was to produce the maximum and, for that reason, this type of ideology was popularized, according to which the only praiseworthy thing in life was to work.

Producing more, to generate greater surpluses, led to an industrial activity without control. Part of the consequences of this are a significant destruction of the environment and a marked reduction in the quality of life of workers. Living only to work more and more leads to physical and mental illness. Therefore, leisure has now begun to be claimed, not only as a right, but also as a duty.

“Leisure time is the best of all acquisitions.”


Now, through science, we know that rest is as fundamental as work. The brain and the whole organism need periods of quietude, to function correctly. The one who rests, as often as he works, is more productive, creative and healthy. However, we are not as educated for leisure as we are for work.

Leisure, a right

As we know, there were times when the right to rest was limited to a minimum margin. Corresponds to those times when there was no legal workday, nor a legal minimum wage. Employers, then, had no problem in hiring workers for days of 14 or more hours. And in return they paid what they had good.

As by that time there was already a large mass of dispossessed, the workers accepted those totally unfair conditions. In turn, in various parts of the world began to emerge unions and trade associations. Workers from all over the world gave fierce struggles to achieve basic and universal rights. This allowed us to reach the famous scheme of the three eights: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of family life.

In many countries of the world, that scheme is still maintained, although in many parts of the world there are still conditions of semi-slavery. The important thing here is that we remember that it is a right that was conquered by arduous struggles, which even claimed many lives. To voluntarily renounce a right means to contribute to it becoming a dead letter and eventually disappear.

Leisure, a duty

Giving a place to leisure in our life is an act of self-love. It is part of the self-care that each of us must lavish. Rest is a responsibility we have with ourselves, if we appreciate our health and well-being. It seems too obvious a truth, but in today’s world it has been forgotten. The internalization of obligations is so strong that many people can not bear that there is free time, in which they do not have to answer to anyone.

Bertrand Russell, the famous English thinker, gave many lights around the theme of leisure. In one of his writings he presents an interesting example. It raises a scenario in which a group of factories produce all the pins that a country requires, employing 100 workers, 8 hours a day. Suddenly, a technology appears that generates that same production, but in half the time. What should happen then and what actually happens?

Russell says that in that hypothetical case, what happens is that many workers are fired, either because it requires less labor, or because some companies go bankrupt. In his opinion, what should happen is that the same workers and the same factories will work only half the time. That way they would all win, since they would continue selling the same, for the same price.

Protect leisure time

Currently, the consumer society has changed the priorities for many people. Not necessarily work to adequately meet basic needs, but many want to have a surplus to consume. Buy things, whether they need them or not. Replace the goods constantly. Always be buying and always be paying.

That is why, willingly, many agree to work more than is reasonable. They need more money because the market is insatiable. There will always be a more tempting offer. The one who has clothes, he wants new clothes. He who has a house wants a bigger one. He who has a car wants a plane.

Consumption, in turn, generates a closed lifestyle. It works to consume and is consumed to work. Free time is the time of shopping, or consumption. Thinking about free time sometimes does not make sense to many. In fact it worries them. This is not healthy. It is important to give great value to our moments of leisure, because it is in them where we best get in touch with the most genuine of ourselves and of life.