The Leisure Society II: the era of critique, 1980-2011

World Leisure Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
World Leisure Journal, 2012, 54 (2), pp. 99 - 140
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The ``leisure society thesis was developed primarily in the 1960s and 1970s and a recent paper in the World Leisure Journal summarised the relevant literature from that period and analysed contemporary recollections of it (Veal, 2011). This paper follows the story of the leisure society thesis since 1980. Set against the background of discussions of work and leisure in periods of high unemployment, the work ethic, working hours, post-work and worklife balance, the paper reviews the post-1980 offerings of proponents, analysts and critics of the leisure society thesis. A four-fold typology of leisure society conceptualisations and reduced-work future scenarios is proposed, comprising: the current leisure society; the evolutionary leisure society; the leisure society as a political project; and other reduced-work scenarios/projects. The second half of the paper reviews literature that is analytical, ambivalent and/or definitional regarding the leisure society thesis and that which is critical. This involves discussion of the failure of paid working hours to fall in the second half of the twentieth century as had been predicted, and appraisal of a range of critical theoretical/conceptual issues. While the significance of the leisure society thesis as an early project of leisure studies is debatable, and it is clearly now an historical reference point rather than a current project, the question is raised as to why the leisure studies community has failed to join with others who are pursuing the cause of reduced paid working hours for all.
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