Friday, May 3, 2013


It is often said that Switzerland is a hyper-efficient country, though this is not entirely true.  It is more accurate to say that the Swiss are perfectionists who love work.

Where Americans, for instance, might be said to have embraced the potential of technology to eliminate labour, the Swiss are more interested in its ability to elaborate labour. In other words, Americans double their productivity in tribute to Henry Ford, while the Swiss put their shoulder to the wheel for Calvin.

The goal in Switzerland is not to be without labour; this is not only unproductive but immoral. In many parts of the world there is a trend to de-formalize work, to work from home, to dress more casually; in Switzerland the opposite is the case.  Indeed, more than once Swiss voters have actually held referenda to refuse longer holidays or shorter work weeks.

This baffles outside observers, but only those who are not anthropologists of Helvetican Quotidianity.  

We are reminded of Nestor the Chronicler’s account of the arrival of the emissaries of Christianity and Islam making their respective cases to Vladimir the Great for theirs to become the state’s official religion.  Vladimir’s response was that Islam’s prohibition on alcohol would be fatally incompatible with the Russian psyche, his people’s position on the sweet hereafter being substantially more flexible than their position on vodka.  Russia has been Christian ever since.

And so it goes with the Swiss, who can no more become idle than Vlad the Great’s people could become teetotal. 

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