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The Joys of Menial Labor

knittingWe have a new column in this week’s New York Times Magazine, which is a special issue on the boomer generation. Our piece is called “Laid-Back Labor,” and it actually germinated from a blog post here a few months ago. Here’s one paragraph from the column:

Isn’t it puzzling that so many middle-aged Americans are spending so much of their time and money performing menial labors when they don’t have to? Just as the radio and phonograph proved to be powerful substitutes for the piano, the forces of technology and capitalism have greatly eased the burden of feeding and clothing ourselves. So what’s with all the knitting, gardening and [as the U.S. Census Bureau calls it] “cooking for fun”? Why do some forms of menial labor survive as hobbies while others have been killed off? (For instance, we can’t think of a single person who, since the invention of the washing machine, practices “laundry for fun.”)

As always, we’ve posted some related research material elsewhere on this site. Comments welcome below.