‘Economy and Pleasure’ by Wendell Berry

Written in 1988, almost every word of this essay applies equally – if not more – today. Berry is chiefly concerned with the importance of everyday lives in small communities. Here, he rails against the artificial distinction between work and pleasure that we have been sold in order to drive economic growth and how that distinction, in turn, has created a situation where we must wait for evenings or weekends or holidays or retirement for pleasure or entertainment. He doesn’t use the expression “TGIF mentality” but it’s there in every paragraph. 

On what he calls “the cult of competition”, he highlights the dissonance in believing that competition is inevitably good for everybody, “that altruistic ends may be met by a system without altruistic motives or altruistic means.”

The solution – he is good on solutions, which is one reason I find his essays comforting – is for people to foster a greater connection to their community, to their locality, to find greater pleasure in their work. To borrow some of my favourite lines from a poem of his (the closest thing I have to a philosophy of living and which I try to sneak in wherever I can), “Expect the end of the world. Laugh/ Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful/ Though you have considered all the facts.”

Published in What Are People For? Counterpoint, 1990