Dawdler. "Layabout. Shit-heel. Loser. For as long as mankind has had to work for a living, which is to say ever since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, people who work have disparaged those who prefer not to. This glossary, which closely examines the etymology and history of hundreds of idler-specific terms and phrases (whether pejorative, positive, or simply descriptive), aims not merely to correct popular misconceptions about idling, but to serve as a preliminary foundation for a new mode of thinking about working and not-working. It is intended to be specifically useful for journalists, who will never again have any excuse for describing an indolent person as languid, Epicurean behaviour as dissipated, or an idler as a slacker. Mark Kingwell's introduction offers a thoughtful but playful defence of the idler as the highest form of life, enlisting support from literary and philosophical sources (Aristotle, Kierkegaard, Russell, Bataille) as well as making some key distinctions: leisure vs. 'leisure time'; idler vs. slacker; not doing vs. failing to do. Kingwell also makes note of some lurking problems, such as the Idler's Conundrum, whereby dedicated idling succumbs to a form of work ethic, and Positional Goods Creep (per Veblen), whereby idling becomes a shorthand for social status and wealth. The Idler's Glossary is destined to become the Devil's Dictionary for the idling classes, necessary reading for any and all who wish to introduce more truly free time into daily lives.
About the Authors:
Joshua Glenn is an independent scholar and journalist. He writes a blog and a weekly column for The Boston Globe's Ideas section; and he is the editor of Taking Things Seriously (2007), a book about 75 ordinary objects with extraordinary significance. In the 1990s, he published the journal Hermenaut. He lives and writes in Boston.
Mark Kingwell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper's Magazine. He is the author of ten books of political and cultural theory, including the national bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000)), Nearest Thing to Heaven: The Empire State Building and American Dreams (2006) and, most recently, Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City (spring 2008). His articles on art, architecture and design have appeared in, among others, Harper's, The Harvard Design Magazine, and The New York Times. A collection of his esays on art and philosophy, Opening Gambits, will appear in fall 2008.