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Benanav Speaks With the Washington Post About the Four-Day Workweek

April 3, 2024

Financial Times,The Washington Post,Vox

Aaron Benanav

Aaron Benanav

Long before Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) filed a 32-hour workweek bill, another leader—Vice President Richard M. Nixon (R)—made a similar proposal in a speech that campaign season, saying he envisioned a “not too distant” future where the “backbreaking toil and mind-wearying tension will be left to machines and electronic devices.”

Nixon’s vision did not materialize over the next decade—or in the 68 years that followed. But discussions surrounding a four-day workweek have gathered steam in recent years following the rise of artificial intelligence and a pandemic that shattered workplace expectations for millions of Americans.

“Most of the reductions in the workweek had come through collective bargaining and not through legislation. Also, unemployment rose in the ’70s, and competition with other countries was heating up,” says Aaron Benanav, assistant professor of sociology. “There were all these things that made bargaining conditions a lot harder for workers, and that’s basically why it stopped.”

But, in contrast to the middle of the last century, the driving force behind today’s four-day workweek push is not coming from the blue-collar and union workers, but from white-collar and corporate employees, Benanav says.

“It’s because blue-collar jobs are regulated,” he says. “There’s a 40-hour workweek, and if you work more than that, you’re required to be paid overtime. But those rules don’t apply to salaried workers in America. And there’s just been this real pressure on salaried workers to work a lot more and there’s no law that prevents companies from doing that.”

Some of what Americans want today—better work/life balance and stronger community—can be found in what Nixon proposed long ago, Benanav says. And, he adds, while the disgraced former president may seem like an unlikely champion of the four-day workweek, he was fairly progressive on economic issues by today’s standards.

Read more in the Washington Post article, “Before Bernie Sanders, Richard Nixon championed the 4-day workweek.”

Benanav was also featured in the Vox article, “A utopian strand of economic thought is making a surprising comeback,” and cited in the Financial Times article, “Superfluous people vs AI: what the jobs revolution might look like.”

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