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European Journal of Philosophy


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To us today, it seems intuitive that an ideal society would secure for its citizens some time for leisure that is, some time to do “whatever they want” after having attended to their various responsibilities and natural needs. But, in this essay, I argue that—in 19th century social philosophy—the status of leisure (Muße) in an ideal society was actually surprisingly controversial: whereas J.G. Fichte makes a strong case for leisure as part of an ideal society (going even so far as considering it its central good), G.W.F. Hegel implicitly argues against this idea. For him, leisure is a crook that we only need as long as the social conditions are not sufficiently ideal—whereas a truly rational society would create a new type of work that subsumes the benefits of leisure into work itself. In this essay, I reconstruct this largely forgotten disagreement and argue that although both positions contain an important overstatement, each includes an important lesson for the contemporary debate on leisure and society.


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