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The Right to Be Lazy

The Right to Be Lazy

and Other Writings

by Paul Lafargue, translated from the French by Alex Andriesse, introduction by Lucy Sante

Regular price $15.95
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Exuberant, provocative, and as controversial as when it first appeared in 1880, Paul Lafargue’s The Right to Be Lazy is a call for the workers of the world to unite—and stop working so much! Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son-in-law (about whom Marx once said, “If he is a Marxist, then I am clearly not”) wrote his pamphlet on the virtues of laziness while in prison for giving a socialist speech. At once a timely argument for a three-hour workday and a classical defense of leisure, The Right to Be Lazy shifted the course of European thought, going through seventeen editions in Russia during the Revolution of 1905 and helping shape John Maynard Keynes’s ideas about overproduction. Published here with a selection of Lafargue’s other writings—including an essay on Victor Hugo and a memoir of Marx—The Right to Be Lazy reminds us that the urge to work is not always beneficial, let alone necessary. It can also be a “strange madness” consuming human lives.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376820
Pages: 136
Publication Date:


The latest translated edition of The Right to Be Lazy contains essays that broaden the scope of Lafargue as a critical thinker beyond the piece of agitprop he remains most famous for writing. These include a brilliant piece of Marxist literary criticism avant la lettre on the oeuvre of Victor Hugo, as well as a sketch of his memories of his father-in-law that provides insights into Marx’s lesser-known intellectual pursuits... The clarion call of The Right to Be Lazy remains, however, the contribution of Lafargue’s that is still capable of inspiring a provocation, asking us to inquire what our days would look like if more of our time was truly ours.
—Clinton Williamson, The Nation

What makes Lafargue’s case for leisure distinctive is that he unapologetically endorses hedonistic idleness.
—Matt McManus, Jacobin

Lafargue’s mordant approach is still effective 140 years later.
—Lily Meyer, The Atlantic

[T]he fact that things didn’t turn out as Lafargue hoped. . . . takes nothing away from the cogency, the sparkle, the sheer fun of The Right to Be Lazy.
—Mitch Abidor, Jewish Currents

These piercing essays from socialist Lafargue offer a valuable window into early Marxist thinking. . . . these pieces speak to the present moment, when pandemic-related disruptions have provoked reconsiderations of where, how, and why people work. Readers will relish this incendiary blast from the past.
Publishers Weekly

The writing is vivid, pointed, hilarious. To paraphrase Elizabeth Bishop, Lafargue is scathing, but cheerful.
—Michael Autrey, Booklist

With scathing wit, Lafargue takes aim at the ideological underpinnings of late-stage capitalism. . . . A sly, irreverent sibling to The Communist Manifesto, Lafargue’s argument against our willing servitude to what we’d now call hustle culture and growth-at-all-costs is as trenchant and necessary as the day it was written, if not more so.
—David Wright, Library Journal

The writing is vivid, pointed, hilarious. To paraphrase Elizabeth Bishop, Lafargue is scathing, but cheerful.
— Michael Autrey, Booklist

[Lafargue's] ideas are even more relevant to today's enslaved societies than they were when they were first written.
—Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler

The Right to Be Lazy points explicitly to the ridiculousness of our clamoring to work the hardest; to prove ourselves the best and most tireless.
—Garth Miró, Southwest Review

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