Labour vs. Leisure: A Colonial History

4:55p.m. 8 August 2016

Open the index of any undergrad economics textbook, and you’ll find nestled under the letter B the ‘backwards-bending labour supply curve’. Just like a lot of economic and financial jargon, the backwards-bending labour supply curve sounds inherently technical, and dull. But excavate its past and you find, first, that it was a key component in the long history of economics as a coercive, colonial science. Secondly, it was a way of thinking about the work of millions of people that facilitated exploitation and expropriation from the Highlands of 18th century Scotland to the gold mines of 20th century South Africa. Thirdly, it was not a benign, retrospectively-theorised concept but a crude device used by colonial elites to maximise low-wage labour, exports and profits - cleaving the days, weeks and years of recently-colonised lives into ‘labour’ and ‘leisure’....

See attachment for full referenced article.

By Henry Mitchell

Labour vs. Leisure: A Colonial History


Communal Leisure is a space for discussion and sharing of music, art and politics, based in Glasgow. We aim to unpack ideas of work, labour, ‘DIY’ culture, and leisure. Our online poster wall primarily features events that are non-profit, free or cheap, politically aware and implicitly or actively working against forms of oppression based on race, gender, sexuality, ability, bodies and class. We have an open collective of people working on both our print and online forms, and are always up for new people getting involved. Everyone is free to add their own event.

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