The 300,000-year case for the 15-hour week: To understand the future of work, look deep into our past, writes anthropologist James Suzman

For three decades, I have been documenting the lives of the Ju/’hoansi people of the north-western Kalahari, and their often traumatic encounter with modernity. The Ju/’hoansi are perhaps the best known of the handful of societies who still sustained themselves by hunting and gathering well into the 20th century. And to them, very little about the relentlessly expanding global economy makes sense.

Why, they asked me, did government officials who sat in air-conditioned offices drinking coffee and chatting all day long get paid so much more than the young men they sent out to dig ditches? Why, when people were paid for their work, did they still go back the following day rather than enjoy the fruits of their labour? And why did people work so hard to acquire more wealth than they could ever possibly need or enjoy?

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