BREAKTIME: Living Beyond the Work Ethic in America by Bernard Lefkowitz

BREAKTIME: Living Beyond the Work Ethic in America

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Reporter Bernard Lefkowitz has latched onto a relatively recent and as yet not-fully-explored phenomenon in American culture--the emergence of unemployment by choice, which is estimated to account for 25 to 37 percent of unemployment cases nationally. His approach was to roam the country and conduct in-depth interviews with some 100 people who had reached a ""breakpoint""--the decision to terminate all work commitments (Lefkowitz let his subjects define what they meant by ""work""). Some of the conclusions may be surprising: that we are witnessing the devaluation of the work ethic, along with an increase in social acceptance of nonwork; that the security of a man's position in the family no longer depends exclusively on his money-making capacity, and may in fact be enhanced by unemployment (families are supportive, fathers are present); that many people no longer shrink from leisure as a waste of their humanity. Lefkowitz makes no bones about his admiration for these ""trail blazers"" and ""advance scouts""--he believes that our culture's affluence has afforded them an opportunity to follow their ""hearts,"" to search for ""focus"" after disillusionment with work. The book at times succumbs to hyperbole and pomposity: ""The revolution of the 1970s was personal, internal, and individual; it was waged in the silent confessional of the human psyche."" But the carefully spun-out stories--of ex-magazine editors, hit men, farmers, professors, housewives--are pointed and personal enough to carry some weight. The conclusion? We are moving toward a future where those who find work abhorrent will have a choice. Not exhaustive, but thought-provoking.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1979
Publisher: Hawthorn