Free Time

Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream

Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Free Time
    Book Description:

    Has the "American Dream" become an unrealistic utopian fantasy, or have we simply forgotten what we are working for? In his topical book,Free Time, Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt examines the way that progress, once defined as more of the good things in life as well as more free time to enjoy them, has come to be understood only as economic growth and more work, forevermore.Hunnicutt provides an incisive intellectual, cultural, and political history of the original "American Dream" from the colonial days to the present. Taking his cue from Walt Whitman's "higher progress," he follows the traces of that dream, cataloging the myriad voices that prepared for and lived in an opening "realm of freedom."Free Timereminds Americans of the forgotten, best part of the "American Dream"-that more and more of our lives might be lived freely, with an enriching family life, with more time to enjoy nature, friendship, and the adventures of the mind and of the spirit.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0716-0
    Subjects: Business, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Higher Progress—the Forgotten American Dream
    (pp. 1-12)

    At one time economic progress and technological advances were understood to have a definite goal: abundance. After adequate economic progress was made so that everyone was able to afford the necessities of life, a condition Monsignor John Ryan (the “Right Reverend New Dealer”)¹ described as a life of “reasonable and frugal comfort,” our nation would be able to make real progress, exploring liberty that transcended material concerns and the marketplace.²

    Scarcity has not always seemed to be eternal—it was not always understood as the everlasting human condition or the foundation of our nation’s economy. For the most part, perpetual...

  5. 1 The Kingdom of God in America: Progress as the Advance of Freedom
    (pp. 13-25)

    J.G.A. Pocock emphasized that personal independence, selfless duty to the state, and military valor were the primary virtues of pre-Revolutionary America’s “Country Ideology”—an ideology that, “belonging to a tradition of classical republicanism and civic humanism” and “looking unmistakably back to antiquity and to Aristotle,” exhibited a “civic and patriotic” rather than a “leisure or Arcadian . . . character.”¹ However, Gordon Wood recognized the importance of the “leisured and Arcadian” aspects of civic humanism during the colonial and early national periods. He pointed out that “the classical devotion to leisure among the gentry” was not for the practice of...

  6. 2 Labor and the Ten-Hour System
    (pp. 26-47)

    America’s educated elite initiated and led the antebellum period’s reform causes: temperance, peace, women’s rights, prison reform, and the abolition of capital punishment and slavery. Shorter working hours was the exception. While receiving vital support from people such as William Ellery Channing and Horace Greeley, workers began pressing for limits to their workday on their own. Prompted by their own motives and led by their own visions, workers also provided the organization and political will necessary to sustain their cause for over a century.

    As the labor movement began, middle-class reformers who envisioned progress as the gradual reduction of working...

  7. 3 Walt Whitman: Higher Progress at Mid-century
    (pp. 48-69)

    In 1855 in his first preface toLeaves of Grass,Walt Whitman’s democratic vision was clear, bold, and optimistic, not yet clouded by events and democracy’s rude growths. But after the Civil War and with the publication ofDemocratic Vistas,he had become painfully aware of freedom’s failures: rampant hypocrisy in literature, political corruption and business frauds, and social posturings and overreachings, among others. Most troubling was the widespread failure of belief:

    Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of...

  8. 4 The Eight-Hour Day: Labor from the Civil War to the 1920s
    (pp. 70-94)

    Continuing to be inspired by their vision of “the reduction of human labor to its lowest terms,” American workingmen and workingwomen renewed their efforts to win the eight-hour day after the Civil War, making significant advances.¹ As Karl Marx famously observed, “The first fruit of the Civil War was the eight-hours’ agitation that ran with the seven-leagued boots of the locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California.”²

    Just as it had been during the origins of the labor movement, the shorterhours movement continued as a grassroots effort. Middle-class reformers and observers lent their support and,...

  9. 5 Infrastructures of Freedom
    (pp. 95-108)

    More than thirty years after its publication, Daniel Rodgers’s bookThe Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850–1920remains one of the best accounts of work attitudes in the United States. He, and James Gilbert inWork without Salvation,described a crisis that occurred during the last decades of the nineteenth century: a period of dissolution in which the “work ethic,” a traditional amalgam of cultural values and republican virtues (independence, self-reliance, control, creativity, self-expression, and social mobility) rapidly eroded in the onrush of technology. Whereas the “industrial economy was in large part a creature of the intense regional faith...

  10. 6 Labor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Dream
    (pp. 109-121)

    Up until the beginning of World War II, organized labor and America’s workingmen and workingwomen struggled to reduce their working hours. Even after the war and through the 1960s, labor pressed for the reform, continuing to fuel widespread expectations that an age of leisure would soon be a reality. Workers held fast to their traditional understanding that industrial progress meant higher wages and shorter hours. The Great Depression intensified speculation that the age of leisure was fast approaching.

    The reasons given for shorter hours remained constant, with minor variations. In the place of British tyranny or Southern slavery, the image...

  11. 7 Challenges to Full-Time, Full Employment
    (pp. 122-147)

    Criticism of Roosevelt’s new vision of Full-Time, Full Employment was widespread during the Depression and began again after the war. Examples abound. Two of the best are Frank Lloyd Wright’s and Robert Hutchins’s.

    After the Great Depression, Frank Lloyd Wright reiterated his original claim that free time was bound to increase, strengthening his argument by pointing out that the machine was obviously capable of creating enough of the basics of life for everyone.¹ The forces that humans had harnessed “in this Machine Age are the forces of Nature. They have so increased production as to have made poverty an anachronism...

  12. 8 Labor Turns from Shorter Hours to Full-Time, Full Employment
    (pp. 148-165)

    After World War II, labor renewed the call for shorter hours. Using familiar arguments, some of which were over a hundred years old, laborites called for reducing weekly work hours to below forty to combat unemployment, create jobs, promote health and safety, and stimulate economic demand to make sustainable growth possible. Briefly, labor leaders challenged FDR’s dream of “full employment” at forty hours a week (Full-Time, Full Employment) returning to labor’s original vision of Higher Progress. The unions presented shorter hours and higher wages yet again as the roadmap for America’s future.

    Throughout the war, the American Federation of Labor...

  13. 9 Higher Progress Fades, Holdouts Persist
    (pp. 166-182)

    While increasingly rare, representations of Higher Progress could still be found in the United States after the 1970s. Rank-and-file union workers in locations such as Battle Creek, Michigan, and Akron, Ohio, through the 1980s and into the 1990s held on to the vision. However, after voting twice to reinstate the six-hour day after World War II, Kellogg’s workers began to move to eight-hour days during the 1970s, and Goodyear ended its short-day schedule in the 1950s.¹ The controversial change from six back to eight hours sparked a discourse about leisure and work that was a microcosm of the national debates....

  14. 10 The Eclipse of Higher Progress and the Emergence of Overwork
    (pp. 183-190)

    One of the primary purposes of this book has been to support the hypothesis that the loss of the original American dream is one of the main reasons that interest in shorter hours ended and that working hours began to increase over the last thirty years. However, as working hours grew in the absence of Higher Progress and in the presence of the ideology of Full-Time, Full Employment, the issue of shorter working hours reappeared in the late 1980s and the 1990s in a new form: as a solution to a range of problems created by what scholars and journalists...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 191-226)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 227-237)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-238)