The important business of idle loafing

In our godless, post-industrial, hyper-competitive world, rest is seen merely as recuperation: it’s when we man-machines ‘recharge our batteries’, as the cliché goes, before dashing back to the factory or work-station. It’s a negative concept. You rest for a reason, which is to avoid burnout. All you should really do to be happy is read light novels or self-help books, advises Montaigne But as this charming and subtle meditation on the subject from a grand French historian shows, rest used to be far more than just taking time off. It is a religious concept. Take the rest enjoyed by Adam and Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost. In the Garden of

Promethean grandeur: Maurice Broomfield – Industrial Sublime, at the V&A, reviewed

When Maurice Broomfield left school at the age of 15, he took a job at the Rolls-Royce factory, bending copper pipes on a turret lathe. That was what you did in Derby in 1931: Rolls-Royce was the town’s biggest employer, and entire generations expected to pass the best part of their lives behind the walls of its 13-acre plant. But Broomfield didn’t stay. Not long into his new job, he saw a photo of an ageing employee being packed off into retirement with a handshake and a gold watch. This was a person who’d never had any real control over his own life; who’d worked when he was told to,

The rise of the neo-Luddites

Yesterday, a pair of Just Stop Oil protesters glued themselves to a John Constable painting in the National Gallery, covering The Hay Wain with a printout of an alternative vision of England. The cart crossing the River Stour in Suffolk is perhaps Constable’s most famous painting. But instead of a bucolic, biscuit tin Albion, Just Stop Oil’s version shows the Stour tarmacked over, a belching power plant in the distance and a commercial jet overhead. The message is clear: our modern world is sick. I have some sympathy with these student activists, or at least I envy their certainty. Their view of the world is simple: bad things like fossil fuels,