German university offering grants to people who want to do absolutely nothing

Researchers say project will help us discover how to step off ‘life’s hamster wheel’

Adam Forrest
Friday 21 August 2020 11:55 BST
Researchers will pay people to laze around
Researchers will pay people to laze around (Getty Images)

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Researchers in Germany are giving out scholarships in “idleness” and are willing to pay people to do as little as humanly possible.

The University of Fine Arts in Hamburg is searching for exactly the right people to take part in a unique project examining laziness and lack of ambition.

Applicants will have to convince the academics they will be inactive in a particularly interesting way to win one of only three 1,600 Euro (£1,450) scholarships available.

The application form asks potential idlers both “what do you not want to do?” and “why is it important not to do this thing in particular?”

Professor Friedrich von Borries – who designed the project – thinks it is important to study laziness more closely to help bring about an “eco-social” transformation. “It is about exiting the constant success spiral, getting off life’s hamster wheel,” he said.

Applicants from across Germany are invited to submit their pitches on their plans for “active inactivity” before 15 September.

“If we want to live in a society that consumes less energy, wastes fewer resources, this is not the right system of values,” Professor von Borries told Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

“Wouldn’t it be nicer to gain social prestige by saying, ‘I have time to dream … meet friends, put up my feet – I have time to do nothing?’”

Not everyone is convinced the project is worthwhile. Professor von Borries said Germany’s Taxpayers’ Association have questioned the idea and demanded to know who is financing the experiment.

“The search for success never ends, even if people have financial security,” said Professor von Borries.

The project will form part of an exhibition called School of Inconsequentiality: Towards A Better Life planned at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg next year.

It comes as researchers in Berlin prepare give a select group of people just over £1,000 a month, no strings attached, as part of an experiment to assess the potential benefits of introducing a universal basic income (UBI).

The German pilot study will initially see 120 people handed the monthly sum of 1,200 Euros to monitor how it changes their work patterns and leisure time.

The radical idea has attracted a growing amount of interest around the world as a way of potentially supporting people during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Advocates claim a small, regular income from the state to all citizens would help tackle poverty, encourage more flexible working practices, and allow some people to spend more time caring for older family members.

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