The Harried Leisure Class

Staffan Burenstam Linder

Harried Leisure Class coverSince I have read, at a conservative estimate, 8,000 books in the past 80 years, several of which have had a profound influence on my thinking, how to choose?  Somewhat arbitrarily, and with a wistful look at Virginia Woolf, George Eliot and other candidates, I fixed on Staffan Burenstam Linder, The Harried Leisure Class.

Linder’s thesis is that the only truly happy people are those who own very little and thus do not use up their precious time in taking care of, or buying and storing unnecessary things.  He writes, “We had always assumed the beneficial result of economic affluence to be a tranquil and harmonious manner of life…what has happened is the exact opposite.  The pace is quickening and our lives in fact are becoming steadily more hectic.” He develops this idea at length and persuaded me that by keeping belongings to a minimum I could have plenty of time to do what I most wanted to do: spend time with my children and grandchildren, teach, read and write. He built a theoretical base for Thoreau. Life is never simple, but on the whole I think they were both right.

Anne Firor Scott
Professor Emeritus
Department of History

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Last modified November 18, 2011 10:35:35 AM EST