When Enough is Enough
By Robert Skidelsky & Edward Skidelsky
Other Press, $24.95, 272 pages
For this father and son team of academics, economics is a moral enterprise that enables a discovery of life’s fundamental concern: what does it mean to live well? Their answer, “enough to live a good life,” opens this fascinating account of how to redeem society from the rampant and destructive mindlessness of consumerism, the head-long pursuit of productivity as an end in itself and self-destructive patterns of competition that reduces us all to our lowest level of meaning.
“We might add that it is largely because leisure has lost its true meaning of spontaneous activity and degenerated into passive consumption that we throw ourselves, as the lesser of two evils, into work.”
This is a strong charge, but the Skidelskys make a powerful case, in writing that is fluid, smart and enjoyable to read. They spell out the nuance of what they mean by ‘enough.’ “To reduce the pressure to consume,” they believe, requires, “educating people for leisure.” And leisure is their end goal, the point of a life well lived. Such a goal requires “application and taste” in order not to be another form of idle consumption. There is a rigor in their view of leisure. It is productive, but not so much of things as of experiences animated by intrinsic motivation. Eliminate the propulsive force of self-interest narrowly pursued, and leisure becomes a form of social wellness, a striving for the common good rather than the individual accumulation of more and more.
Reviewed By Neil Liss