James Suzman, an anthropologist and former executive, says one way to better understand the future of work is to learn from the history of it. He has studied an ancient hunter-gatherer society in Namibia and says our modern notions of work, economy, and productivity are perhaps too limiting.
Suzman’s answer is at once anthropological and historical, and it has to do with agriculture. “For 95 per cent of our species’ history,” Suzman writes, “work did not occupy anything like the hallowed place in people’s lives that it does now.”
But what Suzman’s foray into humanity’s past reveals is that leisure has never been the ready default mode we may imagine, even in the chillest of cultures. The psychological cost of civilization, the scourge of the Sunday scaries, and the lesson of the Ju/’hoansi converge in an insight worth taking to heart: Safeguarding leisure is work.
For the last three decades anthropologist James Suzman has been documenting the encounter between the world's most enduring hunter gatherer population - the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen of the Kalahari in eastern Namibia - and the relentlessly expanding global economy.
Antropoloog James Suzman schreef een boek over de werkende mens. Volgens hem kunnen wij moderne kantoortijgers veel opsteken van de Bosjesmannen, de laatste jager-verzamelaars.
Suzman explores a vast terrain: termites creating “intergenerational social communities”, social anthropology, the arrival of agriculture (in which prosperity was “fleeting, and scarcity evolved from an occasional inconvenience that foragers stoically endured . . . to a near perennial problem”), the Industrial Revolution, and the rise and demise of the company man.
The Observer Magazine
Blue sky Thinking: Anthropologist James Suzman says now is the perfect time to rein in our unsustainable work habits. But is it possible?