I can rightly call myself an aristocrat

idlenessMortal Sin or Virtue?

André Rauch:If you tell me today that you are lazy, you are lazy, then I tell myself that he treats me as lazy because I am not doing what he wants of me. Someone who is lazy takes their freedom. Laziness is the highest degree of freedom: I don't do what you want me to do, I do what I decide for myself! Ah, you want me as your servant, as a slave, as a servant! Is someone trying to manipulate me if they call me lazy? What advantage, what use does he want to get from his insult? I put myself in his head and think he wants me to do something for him as cheaply as possible or take a risk in his interest. But no, it won't work, I'm not dependent on you.

Michael Magercord: André Rauch is a free person and he lives in the modern land of milk and honey. Because the 73-year-old professor from Strasbourg has retired, i.e. released from his university services. He is a pensioner, receives his pension; and to be awarded a transfer payment without performance at the end of working life, is the social fulfillment of the old human dream of being allowed to be lazy with impunity.

But just as André Rauch would not find himself in absolute retirement, he could not always have understood laziness as an expression of his freedom and self-assertion. On the contrary:

Smoke: I put myself back: when I was a high school student I was a lazy guy. I was lazy as a rebel. That would be the first thing I would think of if someone called me lazy. But then I would ask myself what he actually wants from me? What should i do for him? And wasn't it like this before: Didn't they just want to make fun of me in order to make my parents feel bad? Yes, he's paranoid, a bastard, and his grandparents were like that too! Only at first would I take it as an insult, because then this memory from childhood returns.

Cultural history of laziness

Lean cord: Idleness? Does anyone take it seriously? André Rauch has finally given her a story and wrote the first cultural history of this deeply human inclination. And in the beginning there was laziness, in paradise - wasn't it? Sports teacher was André Rauch and became professor of philosophy at the Academy of Sports Education in Strasbourg. He researched leisure behavior and masculinity, wrote about the culture of voraciousness, and held seminars on "The fat and the fat". And his book on laziness is subtitled: 'The Story of a Mortal Sin'.

Smoke:And now you surely want to know why I am starting with mortal sin, of all things? I think our societies, whatever we think of it, will always remain inextricably linked to the religion that preceded us or is still present in society. And for us in Europe it is without a doubt the Christian religion, whether Catholic or Protestant, that gives us the structure of our ideas about life: What is a good life? What do I do with my life? Is there any point? And the moment will inevitably come when we have to give an account of it: If you and I are called into the hereafter, you may go to hell and I to paradise or we both go to paradise, but in any case we will first - so the theoretical assumption - be asked: What did you start with your life? And from this assumption, the question of laziness, i.e. the question of the use of life, becomes the core question of life.

Lean cord: Laziness may not be at the beginning of mankind, but it is the core issue of existence - not a bad start for the endeavor to make laziness ridiculous, because I have to admit: laziness is my favorite subject; and - like maybe many others - I see myself as an expert, and even more: as a visionary. Because laziness will save us. It will help us, the modern people, to live a sustainable way of life, away from the urge to produce and optimization mania, towards freedom and self-assertion - laziness saves the modern age!

Smoke: Laziness is ambiguous. In German you say: "Melancholy". When you believe in God, laziness keeps you from praying or praising God. On the other hand, if you are one of those who attach great importance to work, laziness prevents you from getting up in the morning and going to work. So, in part, laziness is a deep suffering. It is an attack on the person that leads to the destruction of the personality. A lazy man is powerless, he cannot get out of bed and suffers when he is only supposed to stand upright.

And then, on the other hand, there is the lazy person who delights in not doing anything. Who even dreams of having nothing to do.

Throughout the 19th century it was considered lucky to be a "privateer", that is, to have an income that allowed one to live well without doing anything. This is entirely in line with the aristocratic tradition of the 18th century in our European countries. The aristocrat, the noble one, was someone who did nothing, who was totally free. So laziness is the freedom to enjoy a privilege, to have possessions without having to do anything.

From these two perspectives, two or three clichés arise that interest me: If you say that someone is "lazy", then he is always a no-good, a parasite that only lives because others work for him. Someone from whom nothing can be expected.

A second cliché emerges from this view - perhaps less a cliché than an ideal: if all members of society worked a certain number of hours, we can democratize laziness. Being lazy, i.e. having free time, could be more evenly distributed across society. The point is not that those who have the capital should suddenly work, but that those who work are given free time. Since the middle of the 19th century, the union and political claim has been derived from this ideal in our democratic societies, according to which not only an increase in wages makes people happy, but also more freedom.

Seen in this way, laziness now seemed like the fulfillment of the land of milk and honey. It is the great dream that we have been cultivating ever since, and it comes true not only once or twice a year on vacation, but especially at the end of life with the receipt of a pension that enables us to do nothing more and this free Time to enjoy.

Today the unemployed suffer from doing nothing

Lean cord: The conflict between laziness and the conflicts it triggers is not that easy to escape - and no one knows that better than the historian. Because before the invention of leisure time and before the social concession of a pension, something else was invented: the virtue of work. This upgrading of what was already necessary created the conflicting parties of modernity, who from now on should struggle for freedom and self-assertion. And they brought into the world those of all people who were particularly keen to resolve conflicts when it came to the question of leading a good life.

Smoke:The conflict emerged with the Reformation, with the works of Luther, Erasmus, and other reformers. What is the nature of this conflict? Until the 15th and 16th centuries, someone who filled his life like a monk with prayers and thought of God was considered a good Christian. Then Luther came and said: Look at these monks, they don't do anything, they live as parasites in society, but with us you only earn paradise through work. Luther insists on the idea that man has already worked in paradise, that is, before he had committed the original sin. And that is very important: After these words from Luther and other reformers, work no longer makes you unhappy per se. And on the other hand, she makes sure that we get to paradise and happiness beckons after work.

This means that from then on laziness was no longer a question of neglect and indifference, but now it is inaction or inaction. A idiot is someone whose laziness is opposed to work, period. Suddenly the idleness turned into a parasite, and especially since the 18th century, he's been a thief. He steals other people's work, his inaction is a lack of civic spirit, and in a civil society I have duties and one of them is to work. In this sense, the lazy is someone who lacks citizenship. It was a hard and momentous blow. Then the European countries set out to colonize, which continued in the totalitarian regimes up to "work makes you free" - we experienced this horror.

So when laziness was suddenly equated with doing nothing and inaction, the argument about doing nothing became the core of our problems.

Lean cord: The story of laziness, writes André Rauch, is the story of morality, and every conflict about laziness is a confrontation with the currently prevailing morality. And "work ethic" - doesn't that sound like a challenge? The battlefield had been prepared by industrialization, one may call it "society" or "politics", and then it was - finally - to be fought in 1880, proclaimed by Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx's son-in-law: "The right to be lazy."

Smoke: In the 19th century, in the wake of Marxist and anarchist theories, political parties that we now call the left, as well as the trade unions, have developed, and the idea of ​​a "right to be lazy" has become a political weapon, a very strong argument, too because you saw that work increased the inequalities: once there were those who got the others to work and did nothing themselves. That is already a serious inequality, and because this work was even less profitable than capital, the more work was done, the more unequal the conditions became. So laziness became a political watchword. If we look at it from today, this means that since the middle of the 19th century, work and idleness have been separated from one another, primarily in terms of time. There is a clear time when we work and a time when we rest or spend free time. In this sense, laziness has become legitimate at a certain time today, it is even part of the legislation.

Finally, in the 20th century, the idea of ​​free time came up: there is work, but there are other things in life. Between the world wars, collective tourism dominated - represented in Germany by youth hostels and in France as a holiday colony. The individual is free within a society that cares about his freedom so that he does not do certain things, but only good things that are considered valuable. At the end of the 20th century, however, this idea of ​​freedom with others becomes an oppressive notion. Only when I do nothing, when I am lazy, do I stay in my rhythm and do what I want. Being together with others is more likely to be felt as a constriction. The question that now arises is what kind of leisure time corresponds to this idea? And maybe the adventure with which one can escape from the family is the ultimate in this idea of ​​laziness: someone gets on a plane, flies somewhere, he takes a personal initiative and becomes the manager of his time - a hero, our model of Idleness. When he comes back he'll have taken a lot of digital photos and he annoys everyone with his stories, but he will have been a hero.

Today, when we have big problems with work again - where unemployment is seen as the big mishap, as the social disease par excellence, the unemployed now again suffers from not doing anything. He lacks something that would balance his life; doing nothing - I'm not talking about laziness - can no longer be balanced by work. That is, if you really have nothing to do, then being lazy is completely uninteresting. So what is interesting about laziness is that we can only perceive it as the counterpart to working hours. Then all of a sudden completely new questions arise: If I have been working, are the moments of idleness the culmination of life? Or as we say in French: the cherry on the cake? And if doing nothing is no longer suffering, if laziness no longer has to be suffering, if it is even considered a moment of happiness, is it easy at all to do nothing?

Does a society make sense in which everyone can live their own laziness?

Lean cord: That was it, the history of laziness: from being lazy in paradise and in the land of milk and honey to world pain and aversion to the world to leisure and unemployment; And to the last of all questions this story asks us, André Rauch, who is also a recreational researcher, has a clear answer:

Smoke: Someone who has chosen a job that gives their life meaning - which should happen - it will be really difficult to do nothing. Even at school we teach the children to be busy in their free time. The school teaches that doing nothing is not good, morally, not psychologically, and not good for education. So whoever surrenders to doing nothing is not with himself. For someone who goes on vacation, who has a right to vacation, whom one then asks: "What did you do on vacation?" and who then replies: "I haven't done anything" that is a catastrophe. He's not doing anything? He doesn't do anything besides his work? Step by step, the idea of ​​leisure has freed itself from that of rest and has been taken over by the idea that leisure is a time full of activity in which laziness no longer has a place.

Lean cord: Nothing is lazy about free time. Now there we have it, the free time, and yet we don't do nothing. Why? Because free time is not free time at all. Work and leisure are only two sides of the same coin. The right to free time has also failed to resolve the ambiguity of laziness. Anyone who wants to get further on the path to sustainable modernity - with and with the help of laziness - must look ahead, must transfer laziness into the future, must design laziness as a vision for a future world. And if you have visions, it is better to first consult a historian:

Today we live in a world of overproduction, a growth that causes great damage in the long term, ecological, social - don't we need the recognition of laziness in our societies? So non-productivity as a possible, even honorable way of being, in order to ultimately find a way of life that is more sustainable for people and their planet?

Smoke:As the utopian that you are, you are of course absolutely right. Of course. But the problems are not that simple. Part of the issue is how society is organized; Europe's governments are currently unwilling to reduce working hours. So that would first and foremost be a political and organizational question. Another aspect is the question of reducing production, which would mean a reduction in working hours. It seems easier to organize the time when you are not working. Tourism has already increased tremendously, and what Europe produces best are tourists. But is that really a kind of society that can prevail? I can not answer that.

But behind your question there is a fundamental idea, namely that firstly, laziness is no longer something that should be condemned; second, that laziness is not just about doing nothing; and third, that doing nothing is the activity with which we produce ourselves.

In other words, the individual, the individual you, the individual me, we all have the burden of cultivating ourselves. This is no longer the old idea of ​​laziness; it is about the development of personality. But it is also a deepened individualism: I think of myself, my distress begins with myself - but that would then be a society that no longer has the structure of a communal corpus. That is a risk, and the question arises whether it makes sense to have a society in which everyone - for themselves - can live their own laziness? How does the social ego find its expression in the individualism of Western societies?

Lean cord: Complaints - at least - an individual will probably still be able to complain, for example about the acceleration of society, which is deeply felt by so many, due to the innovative impulses of technology and the increased demands due to its application. Should the individual simply have to redeem these claims, should he bow to them without complaint?

No, because it is perhaps precisely this individual, the individual, the modern person, who can be consciously lazy, who has the strength to say: Yes, it would be better now if I was in this moment, in this state of society and the world, don't get active, just stay lazy.This modern individual is the only decision-maker who has the means and scope to make conscious choices for a more humane way of life.

Smoke: On the one hand, this question is very topical, but it also runs through the history of laziness. When the Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians and French discovered America, they said: Man in the natural state is wild man. They said: Can we finally find out what the true nature of man is like? How does man live in a natural state?

What did the explorers actually see? They recognized a reflection of their European society of aristocrats with their servants and servants. Many treatises arose on human nature and how the society of the 'Ancien Régime', the aristocratic society, the regimes of the European kingdoms, put them in chains.

The transition to democracy at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century completely changed the view of nature - especially with regard to freedom. And the question you asked me is about that freedom. What is the concept of freedom when we speak of an explicit right to be lazy?

The freedom that we mean today is primarily independence, not being dependent. What you, what we call laziness, is the right to dispose of yourself. That is the alpha and omega of freedom in the 21st century. This gives me the second idea: I am free, but: doing nothing now brings me nothing but an expression of my freedom - freedom now not only means not having to obey any more - it also means the freedom to set a goal.

But if we want to continue using the concept of laziness, then laziness no longer means the lack of work - it is now about the deprivation of work. And especially the lack of own ambitions and projections for the future. This is also a question of individualism, because individualism sometimes also means tormenting obsessions in life.

And then laziness becomes the state in which there is no projection for the future, i.e. there is an inability to develop an idea for the future.

And now our history is accelerating, society is moving faster and faster. This acceleration of history comes from the acceleration of the cycles of production and consumption.

It gives us a kind of dizziness that we cannot get out of. But at the same time the acceleration leads to moments of pause. You take a deep breath, stand on the side of the road and say: Now let me live a little too!

And that is our laziness nowadays, it shows itself in those moments when, in the face of the acceleration of history, we are looking for a place where we are not haunted by the need to acquire this or that, or the Airbus, for example, still a little faster to have to produce than a Boeing and so on.

However, this approach is not the only possible one. There is also the other big vision, according to which - as soon as one has no more projections about the future - one has no more wishes. Our laziness may then take us exactly there: to be a person who no longer has any desires or desires. Someone who not only cannot make a projection for the future, but who even doesn't want a future. And then suddenly we feel a great fear of losing the desire, which initially only makes psychiatrists and psychologists richer.

Must grant everyone the right to be themselves

Lean cord: Too lazy to hope In this case, the historian advises using the services of present-day coping practices, while the visionary sees hopelessness as a strategy: the conflict of laziness can be used to come to terms with the past and to manage the future.

And what does the historian say when laziness is to become the utopia, the hope of always finding something even better that is no longer necessary? That would not necessarily be a negative thing for people, but also a great liberation. Maybe life without hope is possible after all ...

Smoke: What you are saying is only theoretically possible for me. If you have a son, daughter, brother or sister, someone close to you who suddenly starts to think like that, parents or siblings will say: What is he eating? What cricket has attacked him? Which demon came upon him? His next step will surely be drugs, and then he finally goes over to his artificial paradise of laxity.

Of course, there were and are societies that can do without projections of the future, societies that do not live in history. This was also one of the great utopias of the 19th century. The Orient was thought of as a place where time stood still: Nothing changes and that's why you can totally indulge in voluptuous pleasures. No history, no past, no future - there were such societies here too, of course not nowadays, but in the Middle Ages one valued in eternity that nothing more moves or changes at the moment. In contrast, we live in a historical society today, where there is a before and an after ... The laziness is also so interesting because it shows us that we are torn here and there. It reflects how every epoch, every time, every society or even every nation sees itself, it shows us our phantasms. And also what really drives us and our steadily advancing societies. Because if there is a counterpart to progress, it is laziness.

Lean cord: And laziness also shows how the visionary sees himself. Laziness - Mortal Sin or Virtue? My laziness is the lived pacifism against myself, because who stands particularly effectively in the way of the need to be lazy? Oneself.

Couldn't the whole catalog of human rights be summed up in two very simple statements: Everyone has the right to be unproductive and useless.

Smoke: We no longer even have to say "unproductive and useless", but simply grant everyone the right to be themselves - but always mindful of the illusion or assumption that there is a "self" at all.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandradio Kultur does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions.

(Decision of October 4, 2015)