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It took a century to create the weekend – and only a decade to undo it (Part II)

It took a century to create the weekend – and only a decade to undo it (Part I)

[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]

Henry Ford’s capitalist contribution – Đóng góp của Henry Ford

One of the key agents in normalizing the weekend for the rest of American workers was actually a staunch anti-unionist, auto tycoon Henry Ford.


In 1914, Ford raised the daily wage in his factories from $2.34 per day to $5.00. It was a radical move, and a PR sensation. Thousands showed up hoping for work, causing a near riot that was damped down when the police department turned firehoses on men in bitter winter. But the raise wasn’t exactly the Owen-style socialism, it superficially resembled; Ford was convinced to go along with an increased wage only when his vice president, James Couzens, pointed out that not only would the move be great publicity, but more money would give the workers an incentive to spend – perhaps on cars. In 1926, Ford echoed this argument when he introduced the five-day workweek. “People who have more leisure must have more clothes,” he argued. “They eat a greater variety of food. They require more transportation in vehicles.”


Ford, probably by accident, articulated a contradiction that sits at the heart of the weekend as we have come to know it: It’s both a time of rest and a time of consumption. A Marxist might point out that the weekend is an act of corporate trickery, a dangling carrot that keeps workers tethered to their jobs.


As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it, the mission of production – and business – is to “create the wants it seeks to satisfy” – and the weekend is the time of satisfying wants.


All of which is probably true, but it’s just as true to say that the yearning for a weekend doesn’t arise solely from a desire to shop. With work quelled, space opens up in which to be with others, or in solitude with the self – or both. The clock that propels us all those other days is silenced (or quieted, at least), and time opens up, awakening our own desires, our thoughts and impulses.


It was less poetry than pragmatism, however, that finally cemented the two-day weekend. During the Depression of 1929, many industries began cutting back to a five-day schedule. In a tumultuous, underemployed economy, fewer hours for some would mean more work for others (an idea that still reverberates in some European countries: In Germany, the response to the 2008 economic crisis was to implement a nationwide work-sharing program called Kurzarbeit, meaning “short work”). Americans experienced what it was to work less, and they liked it. Politicians noticed. Guided along by organized labor, with President Roosevelt signing off, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 enshrined the modern weekend: Americans were now promised the eight-hour day, and the forty-hour workweek.


Say hello to the weekend – Hãy chào đón kỳ nghỉ cuối tuần

The weekend skipped across the globe over the next several decades. By 1955 the two-day weekend was standard in Britain, Canada, and the United States, and short Saturdays were common across Europe. By the 1970s, no European country exceeded a 40-hour workweek – many worked less – and all observed the weekend.


In the Middle East, Friday-Saturday weekends became the norm over the last half of the 20th century, while some Gulf and North African countries booked off Thursday and Friday. But as economies have reoriented from local to global, the financial boon to a country that keeps hours in line with the West has altered the shape of the weekend. Oman switched from a Thursday-Friday weekend to a Friday-Saturday weekend in 2013. The same year, Saudi Arabia followed suit with a royal decree that looked a lot like an open-for-business sign.


The state of the weekend is an ongoing battle in Israel, where the official weekend is the day and a half that constitutes the Sabbath, from Friday evening through Saturday. But Israel’s weekend is changing, too – tensely. Some Orthodox Jews, appalled at Sabbath-breakers, have reportedly thrown stones at Israelis taking the bus on Saturdays. With Arabs and Christians to please, there have been calls for a full, two-day Friday-Saturday weekend to accommodate holy days for all groups.


Whether it’s motivated by the push of business or the pull of the soul (or some combination of the two), two days off is what feels normal and human. After hundreds of years of debate, bloodshed, and dogma, a weekend should be an enshrined right – yet that isn’t exactly what happened. It took a century to win the weekend. It’s taken only a few decades to undo it.




staunch /stɔːntʃ/ (adj): trung thành

tycoon /taɪˈkuːn/ (n): ông trùm

radical /ˈræd.ɪ.kəl/ [C2] (adj): triệt để

sensation /senˈseɪ.ʃən/ [B2] (n): tin giật gân

riot /ˈraɪ.ət/ [C1] (n): cuộc bạo loạn

damp sth down /dæmp/ (v): hạ nhiệt, dập tắt

superficial /ˌsuː.pəˈfɪʃ.əl/ [C2] (adj): thuộc về bề ngoài

resemble /rɪˈzem.bəl/ [C1] (v): giống

incentive /ɪnˈsen.tɪv/ [C2] (n): sự khuyến khích

echo /ˈek.əʊ/ [C2] (v): lặp lại, nhắc lại (một quan điểm)

leisure /ˈleʒ.ər/ [B1] (n): thời gian rảnh

articulate /ɑːˈtɪk.jə.lət/ (v): gắn kết

contradiction /ˌkɒn.trəˈdɪk.ʃən/ [C2] (n): sự mâu thuẫn

trickery /ˈtrɪk.ər.i/ (n): trò lừa bịp

dangle /ˈdæŋ.ɡəl/ (v): treo lủng lẳng

tether /ˈteð.ər/ (v): trói buộc

yearn /jɜːn/ [C2] (v): khao khát

arise /əˈraɪz/ [C1] (v): nảy sinh, phát sinh

solely /ˈsəʊ [C1] (adv): chỉ

quell /kwel/ (v): chấm dứt, chế ngự

solitude /ˈsɒl.ɪ.tʃuːd/ [C1] (n): sự đơn độc

propel /prəˈpel/ (v): thúc đẩy

awaken /əˈweɪ.kən/ (v): đánh thức

impulse /ˈɪm.pʌls/ (n): cơn bốc đồng

poetry /ˈpəʊ.ɪ.tri/ [B1] (adj): thơ mộng

pragmatism /ˈpræɡ.mə.tɪ.zəm/ (n): chủ nghĩa thực dụng

cement /sɪˈment/ (v): củng cố

tumultuous /tʃuːˈmʌl.tʃu.əs/ (adj): hỗn loạn

reverberate /rɪˈvɜː.bər.eɪt/ (v): phản ánh

implement /ˈɪm.plɪ.ment/ [B2] (v): thực hiện

enshrine /ɪnˈʃraɪn/ (v): ghi nhận

exceed /ɪkˈsiːd/ [C1] (v): vượt quá

norm /nɔːm/ [C1] (n): thông lệ

reorient (v): tái định hướng

boon /buːn/ (n): lợi ích

in line with [C2] (pre): phù hợp với

alter /ˈɒl.tər/ [B2] (v): thay đổi

decree /dɪˈkriː/ (n): sắc lệnh

ongoing /ˈɒŋˌɡəʊ.ɪŋ/ [C2] (adj): đang diễn ra

constitute /ˈkɒn.stɪ.tʃuːt/ [C1] (v): tạo nên

tensely /ˈ (adv): căng thẳng

appall at sb/sth /əˈpɔl/ (v): bất bình với ai/cái gì

accommodate sth to sth /əˈkɒm.ə.deɪt/ (v): điều chỉnh cái gì cho phù hợp với cái gì

holy /ˈhəʊ.li/ [C1] (v): thánh

bloodshed /ˈblʌd.ʃed/ (n): sự đổ máu

dogma /ˈdɒɡ.mə/ (n): sự giáo điều


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