It feels like this book took too long to finish. It’s only 161 pages, but when I was reading it it felt like it dragged on forever, though I guess it only took a few hours altogether.
It’s not even because it wasn’t interesting. The writing style is just very dry (or perhaps just old-fashioned) and it takes a bit to get into the right mindset.
In Praise of Idleness is a collection of fifteen short essays by Bertrand Russell, purportedly on the topic of idleness. In them, Russell explains his vision of society, essentially. He talks about what he sees as fundamental dysfunctions in the way the world works, and how to fix it.
He talks about economics, politics, history, education, mortality, &c.
All of these essays were written during the Interbellum, at a time when many people in Britain were apparently defending Fascism as a viable way of doing things, so he spends some space to explaining what he sees as the problems with that (and Communism) as well.
While they’re all very interesting as far as understanding the mindset of people between the two World Wars goes, most of them are of very limited use today. Much of what he says is immediately obvious to anyone today, and some of his predictions have just fallen flat entirely.
Russell is a socialist as well (and he’s very careful to distinguish that from Communism, as it should be), but his vision of socialism suffers greatly from the biases of his time. Almost none of his Case of Socialism can reasonably be said to still be relevant today, except to provide a convenient straw man to its opponents.
Still, the whole thing is a pretty interesting read, for historical context if nothing else, and I’d recommend it. Only knowledge of the past can help us avoid repeating it.