Chairs: a horror story

by Toby Manhire / 18 December, 2012
Health hazards with a shameful history, "chairs suck - all of them".
Chairs. Not something most of us, Clint Eastwood excepted, give a lot of thought, despite the fact that we spend so much time parked on them.

Colin McSwiggen has, however, and his assessment, in a smart and funny essay for the Jacobin magazine, is this:

Chairs suck. All of them.


Why? They have been proven an orthopaedically perilous (stools are preferable). And their history reeks of status and class politics: the very word “chairman” derives from a time when only the top bloke sat in such a structure.

He writes:

Not only are chairs a health hazard, they also have a problematic history that has inextricably tied them to our culture of status-obsessed individualism. Worse still, we’ve become dependent on them and it’s not clear that we’ll ever be free.


McSwiggen would love to see “a cultural shift away from chairs and toward more active sitting, on the floor or squatting or whatever”, but he can’t see it happening.

The best we can hope for from chairs right now is a lesson on the dangers of fashion and a historical counterexample to the myth that the public acts in its own collective interest. If you want to sit healthily, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands; the best habit to develop is not to stay seated for more than ten minutes at a time.


 
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