Thursday, April 2, 2009

The pleasures of not having to do a day's work in your life

Alain De Botton's new book is out. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is a another philosophical self-help treatise, or so it's been described in the Metro this morning (I am reading the free Metro on the bus). I have not read the book.

It's kind of a bad time, I guess, for someone who does not need to work, at a time when many are being put out of work, to write about the pleasures of a 9-5 grind in the office.

I am sure I read a columnist in the Times or Mail on Tuesday who also had a go at DB because DB has never had to work - the claim made was that DB inherited 200 million from his father. The Metro, on the other hand, says that while his father was eye-wateringly rich, DB's "money is his own". Hmmm, confusing messages. Especially for me, as I really want to revel in being pissed off and envious, and the latter report rather stands in my way.

Anyway at least I can gloat over some reviews:

Naomi Wolf wanted to hurl it across the room.
The merciless Daily Mail review here.

PSOTSCRIPT Sat 4th April:

To be fair (and to qualify my admittedly rather petty comments above), I have since found these reviews which are much kinder:
Telegraph.

Todays' Guardian.

I should of course read Alain's book before commenting myself, so will do and put up a review later. I have also promised a short review of Singer's latest book.

8 comments:

Toby said...

As regards his wealth, it's probably a bit of both. He may have made money from his books and films now, but had a privileged upbringing (and was possibly supported in early adulthood).

So those of us who didn't come from a wealthy background or go to a public school can still be envious and pissed off!

Paul P. Mealing said...

We live in a society where it's considered that, unless what you're doing is earning money, then it's a waste of time. Yet I think the best things I've done haven't earned me a cent. For most people (but not me), raising children is probably the most important thing they will do yet it doesn't earn them any money at all, quite the contrary.

For many males, their job is often their identity but I've never subsribed to that philosophy, which may simply mean I have the wrong job.

Having said that, I can't complain as I work with intelligent people on diverse projects, and live quite comfortably, especially compared to the great majority in the world.

On another topic altogether, but relevant to subjects oft discussed on this site, you might want to check out the following Not in Kansas

Regards, Paul.

Alain de Botton said...

Stephen, your blog is normally great but this time, you've really a hit low. For a start, you write about a book you haven't even read and imagine what it is. For goodness sake, read the damned thing (I'll get you a copy) before blogging on it. It's not about how fun it is to go to the office. You're such a fool to blunder in like this. You're supposed to be a philosopher, you can't even do the basic task of a journalist.
And then you repeat some bulshit you've also picked up in the gutter about my family background. I'm completely proud of my dad, who came from nothing and died a rich man. He didn't leave me any money and that's the way I like it because I'm a very rich man myself now, from the sweat of my own brow. I could sit back for the rest of my days and live off my royalties but I never will. I work every day of my life and almost never have a holiday - because for me, my work is my life. I've often thought that your philosophical writing betrays the feeling of a man who is doing it all 'just as a job', not for passion, not from some inner need. You're onto a losing wicket. Find something you really love, find something you'd do even if you weren't paid to do it - then you might find you'd become really successful about it. In the meantime, I'm sorry my life makes you feel bad but don't take shoot cheap shots.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Alain

Yes you are quite right I should read the book - will do. Sorry if this made you feel bad. It wasn't intended to and I apologise for that.

Of course, if you read my comment again you will see I was mocking myself a little too...

Stephen Law said...

Actually I guess a good thing to do is to read the book and discuss it here. Then you, Alain, and others can comment if you wish. We can see to what extent we agree with these other reviews.

Kosh3 said...

"I've often thought that your philosophical writing betrays the feeling of a man who is doing it all 'just as a job', not for passion, not from some inner need."

My impression - formed from reading this blog - is that Stephen does philosophy, and in particular, gets involved in matters of religion, rationality, secularism, humanism, and all the rest of it, because he genuinely believes (as many do) that these are important matters that need discussion.

Surely that same kind of thinking rested in behind 'Status Anxiety' - the social utility that examination of why it is that we feel a need to promote ourselves in terms of status could hold for us.

Stephen Law said...

Hello again Alain

I have done a bit of reflecting on this post. It is a bit petty and unnecessary. Also, as I say, I certainly regret causing any hurt, which was not the intent. Won’t do it again.

I suppose that in my defence I could point out:

(i) It just is a bad time to be bringing out a book about the pleasures and sorrows of work, if you don’t have to, and many are losing their jobs. This was not meant to be a criticism, just an observation that your timing is unlucky.
(ii) It just is true that there have been conflicting reports in the press about the sources of your wealth, which I did find puzzling. I am being entirely accurate about the content of the reports.
(iii) I say I am envious of your amazing success, but am being honest and being a bit self-mocking about it (maybe that did not come across). Not really something I can be criticised for, surely?
(iv) I link to the two online reviews, which are bad (not my fault).

The one other thing I can be faulted on, perhaps, (as well as pettiness) is saying you write “about the pleasures of the 9-5 grind in the office.” Possibly you do not, but I assumed you did because the book is called the pleasures and sorrows of work, and menial office work is work (and included I believe), so I concluded you are writing about the pleasures and sorrows of menial office work – and hence the pleasures of menial office work. Possibly I drew a faulty inference. Of course I don’t say you said it’s fun to work in an office (you’re attacking a straw man there).

I won’t respond to the criticism of my books - people can make their own minds up.

best wishes
Stephen

Gail Renard said...

Actually I think it's a great time for Alain de Botton to be bringing out his book, when so many are examining attitudes to work, money and ethics, and the relationship (however tenuous) between them.... and actually have the time to read it.