Viva la Siesta: Should Southern Europe Really Be More German? Part 1

Published on Spiegel Online International, an Essay by Max A. Höfer, July 05, 2013.

In the wake of the euro crisis, Southern Europeans have increasingly traded their traditions of leisure for more work and more consumption – often at Germany’s prodding. As backlash sets in, this logic must be questioned. 

Europe is groaning under German hegemony, but that isn’t something we in Germany like to hear. From the perspective of most Germans, when it comes to saving the euro, Berlin more or less selflessly comes to the aid of bankrupt euro countries by spending vast sums of money. This explains why they find it so incomprehensible when Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben proposes the creation of a sort of “Latin Empire,” consisting of France, Italy and Spain, as a bulwark against the north … //

… Consumption over Culture: … //

… The Spirit of Capitalism: … //

…  Time is Money:

Benjamin Franklin’s famous adage, “time is money,” is the epitome of the capitalist spirit. The only time that counts is time that can be converted into money. For Franklin, time spent lazing about is lost time, and the interest on the money that is not being earned as a result is lost interest. Man, he argued, should have a need only to be useful, not a need for time.

The need for time contradicts the neoclassical economic assumption of endless needs. Anyone who desires to do nothing wants for nothing, and appears not to have endless needs. Sleep, which is so similar to idleness, fundamentally calls the total utilization of time into question. In this sense, sleep has always been suspect to puritans. Cotton Mather warned the first settlers in Massachusetts that sleep was a “temptation of the devil,” designed to prevent them from working.

Franklin criticized the French in 1784, in his “Journal de Paris,” writing that they went to bed too late and didn’t wake up until noon, which was inefficient and costly because it meant that a lot of money was being spent on candlelight. His lack of understanding for the French way of life is remarkably similar to that of American tire magnate Maurice Taylor, who earlier this year criticized the work ethic of French tire workers in the northern city of Amiens, setting off a diplomatic tiff between Paris and Washington. Taylor declined to buy a tire plant there, because, as he claimed, the plant’s “so-called workers” worked only “three hours” a day and spent the rest of the time idle.
(full text).

Part 2: The War on Sleep: In his extensive study The Slumbering Masses. Sleep, Medicine and Modern American Life, anthropologist Matthew Wolf-Meyer shows that the original puritanical and functional attitudes about sleep, oriented toward usefulness, “continue to shape the understanding of sleep in America today,” and that medical sleep research in the United States long aimed to “make sleep American by intensifying interests in its efficiency and management.”
Today Americans suffer from a chronic sleep deficit. The National Sleep Foundation has found that many people sleep less during the week and make up for it on weekends. The consequence is a growing abuse of sleeping pills and an increase in admissions to sleep clinics …;

Socialism from Below and Indigenous Resurgence: Reclaiming Traditions, on New Socialist Webzine, Canada, by DL Simmons, June 19, 2013.

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