140 of 145 people found the following review helpful
Thought provoking but not necessarily the right solutions,
This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)Do you feel that we live in an overly regimented, joyless, conformist, colourless, soulless and work-obsessed society? Do you yearn for a more spontaneous, exciting, and creative life? If you do then this very well may be the book for you! It is another polemic from the patron saint of idlers, the one and only Mr Tom Hodgkinson, who wrote the wonderful `How to be Idle'.
The central premise is that of Jean Paul Sartre's existential philosophy - we live in an absurd, meaningless universe, but we are free to create our own lives and our own meaning. It is our own "mind forged manacles" that condemn us to lives of robotic tedium and wage slavery. Hodgkinson examines the different factors that inhibit our freedom and looks at alternative ways of thinking and living. The underlying political message is essentially that of anarchism. He believes that we should take far more responsibility for our own lives, create mutual support mechanisms, be a lot less materialistic, resist consumerism, and grow our own food. He attacks the current obsession with owning property, making the case that we are in thrall to the banks who really own our homes. He also attacks the soul crushing tedium that most paid employment involves, and the way in which it devours our time on this earth.
He quotes the great critics of industrialised society, John Ruskin and William Morris, who deplored their society's denigration of individual creativity and beauty. Hodgkinson explores the idea that the Middle Ages actually offered comparatively more freedom and fun than the modern, hi-tech society offers today. There were far more holidays and festivals, and peasants did not have to work as hard for their feudal masters as today's wage-slave has to do for the omnipotent multi-national corporations. He makes a very compelling argument, but as with most polemics little space is given to counter-arguments. He downplays the less attractive aspects of this period, such as low-life expectancy, almost non-existent medical provision and horrendous diseases. He also suggests that the general influence of Protestantism has been less benign than that of Roman Catholicism. His argument is that the former has created money orientated, self-righteous, power mad zealots, whereas the latter might have been corrupt, but it was more humane. It is an interesting argument, but again it involves over-simplifications, and Protestantism was initially more anti-authoritarian and helped to foster a spirit of inquiry, which in turn resulted in the growth of the scientific method.
Probably the best way to approach this book, and its predecessor, `How to be Idle', is as stimuli for thought and discussion. I don't always agree with Tom, and there are times when `How to be Free' feels just like a get-back-to-the-land rant. The one big misgiving I have with both books is that occasionally Tom extols the virtues of rioting and expresses admiration for criminality, neither of which I feel tie in with a philosophy of mutual aid and creativity. However, it is impossible not to be won over by the charm and grace of his work. His message is life-affirming and humane, and although I am not sure I could personally adopt all of his recommendations, the underlying spirit is one that I thoroughly endorse. D.H. Lawrence once said that he "did not want life to be a paltry thing", and neither does Tom. He wants all of us to embrace freedom, creativity, risk and joy, so that our lives are as rich as they could possibly be.
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Initial post: 29 Jul 2008 17:03:49 BDT
Simon Johnson says:
Great review. I think you perfectly summed up the sense of Tom's work. I have read the book and agree wholeheartedly with your appraisal. Well done.
In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2012 21:51:54 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Oct 2012 21:57:26 BDT
Allan Gordon says:
Thank you very much Simon. I am a big fan of The Idler which Tom edits, and although I don't always agree with some of his views, I am really glad that there are individuals like him who seriously question aspects of how we live. Many people privately share these concerns but they are rarely a part of mainstream political discourse. Have you read How to be Idle?
Posted on 28 May 2013 20:48:17 BDT
An excellent & fair review.
I loved How To Be Idle and am thoroughly enjoying HTBF too. I`m sure Tom H wouldn`t mind at all his readers` quibbles with some of his assumptions and solutions. After all, he embraces independence and thinking for oneself, doesn`t he?
Posted on 3 Sep 2013 17:48:26 BDT
C. J. OBRIEN says:
A good review and reasonably fair. I've read all his books and I really do like his views on life which have much merit in today's world (in my opinion). Nonetheless counter-arguments and some obvious impracticalities are not really discussed, but that's up to the reader. Tom's views are more to provoke a change in thinking/perception rather than to prove a specific point.
Posted on 22 Sep 2013 10:38:21 BDT
Mr. M. G. Page says:
Now read this: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comme
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