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Essay Paper on Compare and Contrast four Different Views on the Meaning of Leisure

Generally speaking, the definitions of leisure had been influenced by a classical view of the phenomenon promulgated by writers such as Josef Pieper and Sebastian De Grazia, who saw leisure as a condition of the soul or a state of being which might or might not be achieved during free time. Today, the so-called residual definition of leisure, that is time which is not occupied by paid work, unpaid work or personal chores and obligations, is widely accepted for its proven utility in research and is inclusive and non-normative. However, Roberts notes that the residual definition of leisure proves difficult to apply to unemployed and retired people, as well as among women, regardless of their employment status. He also recognizes that technological, economic and social changes in society impact on leisure, making it necessary to ask repeatedly whether we need to revise our notions about what leisure is.

It is important to emphasise that the in this case leisure is not defined only, or even primarily, in relation to paid work. The normative dimension is omitted from the residual definition: leisure is not, of itself, seen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Leisure time and activity can be used for good or ill and that itself will often be a contested, subjective judgement. No doubt, public policy related to leisure is inevitably normative – leisure policies seek to promote those activities which are deemed, through a political process which may or may not be contentious, to be socially beneficial and to restrict, or even prohibit, those activities deemed to be socially harmful. Acceptance of the ‘residual’, time-based definition of leisure does not imply a view of leisure as necessarily culturally residual and does not deny that leisure has many complex meanings and functions for the individual and society, which are open to research and investigation.

The role of leisure in a society is incredibly immense. Economic forces have been the driver of change which has produced such significant social and cultural change since the mid-1970s, with monetarism emerging to challenge unbridled Keynesianism in the world of economic policy and the rise of the political ‘New Right’ based on ‘economic rationalism’. A changing relationship between work and leisure over recent years should be taken into account in this case. The economic theory of ‘income/leisure trade-off’ posits that work and leisure time operate in connected markets, mediated in particular by the wage rate: workers choose more or less work depending on their own desires and needs and on the going wage rate – that is, what employers will pay the worker to give up an hour of leisure time. Indeed, the model, as normally promulgated, is too simplistic and ignores the power of employers in the market situation and the social realities of the labour market.

When it comes to the role of leisure in the life of an individual, current perspectives on work, leisure and well-being highlight a range of measures of well-being and enjoyment. The relationship between work, leisure, social structure and well-being is of considerable concern. Work has been with us a long time. Tools made to a common pattern have been discovered 2 million years old. Some anthropologists argue that interaction with the physical and social environment (work) led to the development of both tools and the organism, stimulating our evolution. Work can be considered central to human functioning. Both Marx and Freud extolled the potential importance of work for the individual and society. The historian of work, Applebaum (1998), states that ‘The work ethic is the human ethic’. In fact, where work has substantive complexity there is an improvement in mental flexibility and self-esteem…

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