Though early American labor organizers agitated for the eight-hour workday on the grounds that they were entitled to “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will,” free time as a political good has received little attention from politicians and political philosophers. In her book, Free Time
(Princeton University Press, 2018), Julie L. Rose
explains that this neglect arises from the mistaken characterization of free time as a matter of personal choice and preference. The book instead argues that not only should we understand free time as a resource that is required for the pursuit of one’s chosen ends and for the exercise of formal liberties and opportunities, but also that it is a resource to which citizens are entitled on the basis of the widely held liberal principles of individual freedom and equality. The claim that the fair distribution of free time is required for justice serves as grounds for the book to interrogate a whole host of policy choices—including maximum work hours provisions, restrictions on over time, universal basic income, income subsidies to caregivers, publicly provided caregiving services and facilities for the elderly, disabled, and children, and workplace accommodations, among others. Though Rose notes that the specific choices societies make about how much free time is required and how exactly to guarantee it will vary, she ultimately argues that the just society must ensure that all citizens have their fair share of free time—time not consumed by meeting the necessities of life, time to devote to their own projects and commitments, whatever those might be.
Emily K. Crandall is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is a fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics in the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.