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The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams... At Any Age You Want by Mitch Anthony

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Chapter 3. A Short History of Retirement

When I want to understand what is happening today, I try to decide what will happen tomorrow; I look back; a page of history is worth a volume of logic.

Oliver Wendell Holmes.

When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of putting it into practice.

—Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898)

Retirement, as we understand it today, did not exist in preindustrial America. In those days, older members of society weren't sent to the sidelines. They actually held a more prominent place as a resource for their insight, knowledge of skills and crafts, and lessons gained from experience. It was the industrialization era that accelerated the conditions that gave us the traditional version of retirement. Industrialization ushered in a profound redefinition of work. Mass production became the popular mode of work, and workers began to be viewed as parts in the system, subject to wear and replaceable.

With the advent of industrialization came a population shift from the country to the cities. This brought about a significant lifestyle adjustment as people went from self-sufficiency to dependency. Work became a means to an end—an income to live on—as opposed to a way of life. In his book The Sociology of Retirement (John Wiley & Sons, 1976), Robert C. Atchley made an insightful comparison between a craftsman and a worker. A craftsman controls the process and the product, which makes his work both satisfying and integral ...

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