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Review: Work: A History of How we spend our Time

Work: A History of How we spend our Time by James Suzman
My rating: (3.5 / 5)


The work we do brings us meaning, moulds our values, determines our social status and dictates how we Spend most of our time. But this wasn’t always the case: for 95% of our species’ History, work held a radically different importance.

How, then, did work become the central organisational principle of our societies? How did it transform our bodies, our environments, our views on equality and our sense of time? And why, in a time of material abundance, are we working more than ever before?

Leading anthropologist James Suzman charts a revolutionary new history of humankind through the prism of work, from the origins of life on Earth to our ever-more automated present, challenging some of our deepest assumptions about who we are.


[I received a copy through NetGalley and Pigeonhole, in exchange for an honest review.]

I started this book through Pigeonhole, but was also approved soon after on NetGalley, so my Review goes for both.

All in all a very interesting read, although a little dry, which made it a little longer for me to read than I usually do (I admit I read it in a period where I was quite tired, and would’ve needed a lighter style).

This book gives us a lot of things to think about, from the origins of humanity and our relationship with ‘work’ at the time, to how it is now (and, interestingly, how what used to be work, such as hunting or sewing, has now become a hobby for a lot of people). More than once, I realised I was reading something that should’ve been obvious, yet I had never seen it that way, and as a result, it made me want to research this some more.

Humanity in general has a very complex approach to work, in that it has come to define us in ways that are sometimes good, and sometimes not so good (I’m thinking of the way unemployed people are too often viewed as “loafers” and “moochers”…), but is also something we crave through the recognition and social contacts it provides us. It’s food for thought, really: in a utopian world where we wouldn’t need to work to live, would we really do nothing, or wouldn’t we find work of a different type to fulfil those needs?

3.5 stars

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Review: Work: A History of How we spend our Time


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