Jacobin Magazine on a needless technology, introduced more recently than you might think, which drains our physical and psychic well-being:
As chairs became prevalent in schoolrooms, they became a tool for teachers to control the movement of children, whose healthy tendency toward activity made them difficult to teach. Today, children in the developed world learn early that sitting still in a chair is part of what it means to be an adult. The result is that by the time they actually reach adulthood, most have lost the musculature to sit comfortably for prolonged periods without back support.
No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. 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. The general trend at most points in Western history has been that upper-class people sit in a certain type of chair – typically the crappiest, most damaging design available at the time – and everyone else tries to imitate them. Worse still, we’ve become dependent on chairs and it’s not clear that we’ll ever be free.
We’re faced, then, with a couple of depressing conclusions. One is that chairs are a sort of inanimate parasite, ensuring their continued production by addicting each successive generation of kids. The other is that they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future.