David Graeber makes the provocative claim that technology has advanced at the same time as what he calls “bullshit” or pointless jobs have multiplied. This is why we have not realized Keynes’ prediction that we’d all be working 15-hour weeks in the 21st century, as a result of technological progress.
Instead, we are living in a society where work gets created that is of no social value. The reason for this, according to Graeber, is the need of the ruling class to keep workers in work. While technology with the potential to reduce work time exists, the political challenge of a working population with time on its hands makes the ruling class unwilling to realize this potential. Working less, while feasible and desirable, is blocked by political factors.
The costs of long work hours, as mentioned above, are poorer health and lower well-being for workers. But for employers too there are costs in terms of lower productivity and lower profitability. Yet these costs seem to go unnoticed despite evidence pointing to their existence. Here again politics may explain why shorter work time has not been embraced by many employers.