Culture Crisis

If you would like to comment on anything you find here, you can email us. Our email address is On the subject line of your email please type "culturecrisis" and the identification number (in square brackets at top right) – in case the writer who contributed the material wishes to reply. If you find yourself in sympathy with many of the ideas presented at this website, then please consider bringing it to the attention of family and friends. Our general attitude can be summarized as follows: Down with the abject superstition that free-markets always know best. Down with the naive faith that technology always improves our lot. Down with the crass commercial values that wrench a society free of tradition and produce a standardized, mechanical culture. Down with the work and spend cycle. Why should we dedicate our lives to the service of the economy? Time, often parted with far too readily and extravagantly for mere money, is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Most of us would be happier and healthier if we led slower, simpler, less competitive, less specialized lives. To live well is to work well. Amen.



A little work directed to a good end is better than a great deal of work directed to a bad end.

Bertrand Russell

It is better to do nothing than to do harm. Half the useful work in the world consists of combatting the harmful work.

Bertrand Russell

The person who chooses his work because it fulfils a purpose he approves is the only one who grows in stature by working.

To inflict on a man the most terrible punishment so that the most ferocious murderer would shudder at it beforehand, one need only give him work of an absolutely, completely useless and irrational character.


There is dignity in work only when it is work freely accepted.

Albert Camus




I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.

Henry David Thoreau

What counts in a market-intensive society is not the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort, but the coupling of labour with capital, however useless or damaging the result.

A human being has a right and a duty to preserve his individuality from forces attempting to absorb it and reduce it to type.

When you are gifted you have to do what you're gifted at, whether you can make money at it or not.

Barbara Sher




The less you have, the more free you are.

There are limits beyond which commodities cannot be multiplied without preventing their consumers from affirming themselves through the exercise of their personal freedom.

When market dependence reaches a certain threshold it deprives people of their power to live creatively and to act autonomously. And precisely because this new impotence is so deeply experienced, it is very difficult to express.



That state is a state of slavery in which a man does what he likes to do in his spare time and in his working time that which is required of him.

Eric Gill

The wage system is a form of slavery.

Few people realize how much of their happiness, such as it is, is dependent upon their work, upon the fact that they are kept busy and not left to feed upon themselves.

John Burroughs




Labour: one of the processes by which A acquires property for B.

Ambrose Bierce

The payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Albert Einstein

When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him whose.




Leisure is an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world.

Josep Pieper

Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture.

The sphere of leisure is no less than the sphere of culture in so far as that word means everything that lies beyond the utilitarian world. That is why when culture is endangered, leisure is called into question.

If you are losing your leisure, look out! You may be losing your soul.

Logan Pearsall Smith



With the trivialization of leisure came the return of the work ethic.

You're a social outcast in this society if you don't have too much to do. Even retired people seem to be uncomfortable with the concept of leisure.

Work is the essence of who I am.

Carol Heilbroner

True leisure cannot be enjoyed without some recognition of the spiritual world, for the first purpose of leisure is the contemplation of the good.

Josef Pieper

The more materialistic a civilization is, the more it's in a hurry.

Fulton Sheen




What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of system.

Milton Friedman

I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself is in many ways extremely objectionable.

John Maynard Keynes

In our society competitive capitalism has put family life and working life on a collision course.

Normally speaking, it may be said that the forces of a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer and thus increase the gap between them.

Jawaharlal Nehru

Under capitalism the more money you have, the easier it is to make money, and the less money you have, the harder.

Consumer capitalism is dedicated to the proposition that production is good in itself, no matter what is produced. The net effect is the massive production of absurd, empty and useless items which are nevertheless utterly serious since we earn our living from them, and dedicate our leisure time to them.

Jacques Ellul

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste.

Dorothy L. Sayers

The chief safeguard of personal freedom in a democratic society is the anarchy and disorder of capitalist individualism.

Christopher Dawson




The media extols every gain in speed as a success, and the public accepts it as such. But experience shows that the more time we save, the less we have. The faster we go, the more harassed we are. I know that I will be told that we need to have all these means at our disposal and to go as fast as we can because modern life is harried. But modern life is harried because we have the telephone, the fax, the jet plane, etc. Without these devices it would be no more harried than it was a century ago when we could all walk at the same pace. "You are denying progress then?" Not at all; what I am denying is that this is progress.

Jacques Ellul

What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another.

Havelock Ellis

When the goal of progress is no longer clear, the word is simply an excuse for procrastination.

G. K. Chesterton




A life of clutter is a life too full of things and busyness to be enjoyable.

Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one's self?

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our life is frittered away by detail...Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau

Even though I'm busy all the time I feel unproductive.

(overheard in a restaurant)




In 1900 William James, the American pragmatist philosopher, delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Here is an excerpt: Among us English- speaking peoples especially do the praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant: the liberation fro material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are or do and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly – the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape. When we of the so-called better classes are scared as men were never scared in history at material ugliness and hardship; when we put off marriage until our house can be artistic, and quake at the thought of having a child without a bank-account and doomed to manual labour, it is time for thinking men to protest against so unmanly and irreligious a state of opinion.




Fabrication of necessary illusions for social management is as old as history. But in the democratic system the necessary illusions cannot be imposed by force, rather they must be instilled in the public mind by more subtle means. A totalitarian state can be satisfied with lesser degrees of allegiance to required truths. It is sufficient that people obey. What they think is a secondary concern. But in a democratic political order there's always the danger that independent thought might be translated into political action. So it is important to eliminate the threat at its root. Debate cannot be stilled and indeed should not be stilled in a properly functioning system of propaganda. The reason is that it has a system reinforcing character if it is constrained within proper bounds. What is essential is to set the bounds firmly. Controversy may rage as long as it adheres to the presuppositions that define the elite consensus. And it should furthermore be encouraged within these bounds. That helps establish these doctrines as the very condition of thinkable thought, and it reinforces the belief that freedom reigns.

Noam Chomsky

A study by Benjamin Ginsburg concluded that the market place of ideas, built during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, effectively disseminates the beliefs and ideas of the upper classes while subverting the ideological and cultural independence of the lower classes.

It would hardly come as a surprise if the picture of the world presented by the media were to reflect the interests and perspectives of those who control it.

Noam Chomsky