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Sociological Perspectives in Leisure Science

Leisure refers to the time that is spent out of work and the compulsory domestic chores. It is a time of recreation and discretion prior to or following compulsory activities like working in an office, operating a business, eating, sleeping, going to school, doing homework, and attending to domestic chore (Torkildsen 2005). Leisure has been important to the society for very many centuries and it varies from culture to culture. Communities also involve in different types of leisure activities. Even the capitalists view leisured experience positively.

This is because leisure involves buying of equipments and services, a move that stimulates and benefits the economy. Leisure is the quality time that people have to spend their resources and wealth after working for it for some period of time. Recreational services are provided to offer leisure experience to the society. With work taking the centre stage in life, many people rarely have time for themselves to do the things that they enjoy. Leisure activities are aimed at relieving stress by getting one’s attention away from work (Borsay 2006).

The primary aim of leisure is to give sense to the self. Activities carried out during leisure time are crucial in bringing about positive flow of energy in an individual. Leisure activities help in refreshing the mind so that one can go back to his day-to-day activities with a fresh mind and energy. Most scholars have realized the importance of leisure. They have as a result studied it in-depth and come up with different theories and concepts explaining their findings.

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Due to the availability of these theories and literature, leisure science has come of age.

There are different concepts and theories explaining the roots, current issues and the future of this discipline. The significance of leisure as a social issue is developing and sociological research has a challenge to contribute more to the issue (Best 2003). A lot has been done and a lot more will be done in leisure science. This research seeks to discus the contribution of Robert Stebbins to our understanding of the Leisure Experience. Development of leisure Over the past few years, many researches have been carried out and have reported the hypothetical characteristics of leisure experience.

Despite the fact that the studies are done in remote locations and using different methods of data collection, modern researches concerning leisure experiences normally come to comparable conclusions. They report attributes like: “enjoyment/fun, relaxation, social bonding, positive state of mind, companionship, intimacy, novelty, escape, communion with nature, aesthetic appreciation, timelessness, physical stimulation, intellectual cultivation, creative expression, introspection, freedom, peace, calm, and happiness” (Borsay 2006:37).

Despite the fact that there may be other attributes that are dependent on individuals, social or environmental situations, the attributes named are common to almost every person who engage in leisure. However, mere knowledge of the attributes of leisure experience contributes very little to leisure science and leisure career. There is need to have an in-depth comprehension of the dynamics and completes of the leisure experience. The major concepts and theories in leisure cannot be understood without understanding the genesis of this science.

The development of leisure is traced from earlier than the 19th century (Rojek 2005). Leisure dates far back in history. However, regulated relaxation from human labour in the western culture began in the 19th century; from then on, the term as been developed through research in the dynamics of economic development. Many cultures have been working for seven days, taking one day out of work to relax, mostly on Sunday. Most societies have been known to work hard and break regularised work with festivals. Per year, in medieval Europe there were hundred holidays annually.

As time went on, the holidays were extended with addition of half-day preparations on the eve of the feast day. Working hours depended on the daylight, weather and the work to be done. They tended to work on average, ten hours in a day. These were many hours that people had to work everyday. Towards the end of the 18th centuries economists believed that the workers would work lesser hours if their wages were increased. From this point of view, leisure came to be associated with income. With the high income earners getting more leisure time that the labourers and the working class.

During this time, leisure corresponded with breaks in the normal work cycles, especially related to agriculture. Mostly leisure was earned after harvest before they started planning for the next. The leisure festivals held in such periods was to celebrate great harvests (Roberts 1999). The development in markets and technological production eliminated the conventional leisure culture, but introduced conditions for habitual relaxation as a right. When religious reforms started especially in 16th century, the reformers criticised the lengthy and disorderly practices during the festivals.

The reformers were driven by their need to increase constancy and regularity of work. In the 18th and 19th centuries the long seasons of festivals were decreased to particular holidays. With time the employers lengthened the working hours with people required to work between 12 and fourteen hours (Borsay 2006). The situation was worse than when they had to work 10 hours per day. This was due to the increased competition that was brought about by the market driven economy. There was also the need to make efficient use of the machines that were introduced into the market.

The employers wanted the workers to work for every penny earned and to ensure that they gave industries competitive edges. During this time leisure was rare and was only available for the privileged in the society (Rojek 2005). The demands of the market-driven economy led to the demands of a more skilled and discipline workforce. This led to the criticism of the disordered nature of festival leisure that marked the leisure activity during that time. There was opposition to the animated play, drinking, gambling, and aggressive sports that was common during the festivals.

The well-to-do English progressively withdrew their support of the local entertainment points, and even went ahead to bar access to the local sports grounds to the public. The ruling class outlawed aggression, chaotic sports, and controlled the management of other entertainment joints like the gambling and drinking places (Roberts 1999). By the 1830s the reformers had realised the dangers of overworking and appreciated the need for leisure time. They recognised the social, biological and cultural costs of eliminating leisure in the name of working for efficiency.

They realised the fact that people cannot be productive by being overworked and tired. By the 1850s factory owners in Britain started giving female workers half-holiday on Saturday to give them a chance to do shopping and carry out other preparations for the Sunday, which was traditionally a family rest day (Torkildsen 2005). During this period the reformers also realised that the intensity, regularisation and lengthy working hours, had an effect on education and development of the children. The long working hours for women, threatened their child-bearing and a chance to cater for their families.

Women were not left with enough time to be with their children or their husbands as to sire more children. It was because of this issue that the English 10-Hour Day Law of 1847 for Women and Children was passed. The employers and governments in America and Europe unwillingly allowed the right to leisure, providing it in phases, beginning with the children, then to women, and finally to men in the very difficult and tiring jobs (Roberts 1999). It was the Victorian reformers who promoted new kinds of leisure in ‘rational recreation.

’ This was a modern version of leisure or recreation. This form of recreation was aimed at restoring the body, improving the mind, and compensating for the lack of family time that resulted from separation of work from the family. One of the characteristic of ‘rational recreation’ was creation of parks that would give workers amble time with their families. The parks provided a home-like recreational experience with rationalised sports and other leisure activities. Such ideas of leisure started with the middle classes.

However, with time they moved down to the labourers, and the working class who upheld many elements of the convectional festival leisure. Rational recreation was mostly applicable to the suburban dwellers of the bourgeois family residence that had come up by the year 1850. They got a chance to enjoy quality time with their families away from the chaotic life of the urban areas. Leisure had started to garner meaning at this time (Rojek 2005). Late Victorians and 20th century philosophers like Le Bon, Durkheim, and Freud felt that free time from work would release the passion of the people.

Some were convinced that relaxation would raise productivity and the requirement of more concentrated work. Then the scientific management that was initiated by the American Frederick Taylor emerged towards the end of the 19th century (Borsay 2006). He argued that increased wages, improved work methods, and reordered industries could improve output and enable the employers to reduce the working hours. Particularly in the second decade of the 20th century, trade unions and reformers suggested an exchange of more intense and stringently controlled work for an 8-hour work day.

Starting with Herman von Helmholtz in the mid-19th century, scientists started to see the body as a ‘motor’ with a measurable capability to work and the need for relaxation (Torkildsen 2005). This is the school of thought that challenged the general belief that human laziness could be overcome by serious external discipline. Scientists like Angelo Mosso argued that it was possible to maximize output if exhaustion was avoided. Overworking tended to reduce longevity, led to insomnia and nervousness and encouraged drinking. Efficiency in the human body would be possible if it was allowed regular rest.

The superiority and popularity of work science developed during the time of the First World War. There was strong support for 8-hour, 6-day week that became widespread in the year 1919 (Rojek 2005). By the beginning of the third decade of 20th century, Western European employees got a yearly paid holiday and those in the United States a 2-day weekend. Past the Second World War, Europe acquired working-class tourism, with the United States getting suburbanisation. In the period after the war, there was balance between leisure and work. Particularly in the United States, the balance is almost perfect.

Beginning from the 1970s, multifaceted economic and social changes have upturned the historical development toward having increased leisure experience. At this time scientists, sociologists and other scholars realized the importance of leisure experienced. Many had begun to carry out researches to explain and help in understanding this concept. Theories and concepts were developed contributing to leisure that had become a science (Roberts 1999). Contributions of Robert Stebbins Robert Stebbins is one of the many researchers who have studied and come up with theories explaining various aspects of leisure as a social issue.

He has spent time writing publications on sports, leisure and work, as well as the sociological connections that link them. One of his greatest contributions to this issue is Serious Leisure, a concept that illustrates how leisure comes in different forms, degrees of intensity and duration across different social contexts. He reveals that fact that leisure can range from relaxed, transitory engagements, to intensive short-term ventures, to more serious long-term commitments that necessitate a lot of time, finance and energy.

He argues that leisure is anything but insignificant to the more serious and committed persons (Stebbins 2006). His argument produces the claim that since leisure activities are in most cases a major part of life to many people and a revelation of a lot of attention and time to others that they dedicate a lot of time and financial resources, then it calls for sociology to renew its investment and concentration into the understanding of this key component of social life. The theory of Robert Stebbins provides a wide-ranging examination and analysis of the current status of the sociology of leisure (Torkildsen 2005).

While defining ways in which people spend their leisure time, Robert Stebbins grouped leisure activities into serious, casual and project-oriented leisure. He further separated the categories into various types and subtypes. All together he came up with his theory that he referred to as “serious leisure. ” This theory has changed the way that leisure experience is understood. According to Robert Stebbins serious leisure refer to the efficient recreation of amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer central activity which is highly considerable, interesting and fulfilling.

The term ‘serious’ covers attributes such as solemnity, genuineness, significance and carefulness. They reveal the seriousness of the participants of these activities in their everyday life. They show the fact that pursuing these activities brings about self fulfilment and not something that can be taken for granted. The participants in the research argued that their leisure is serious and differs completely to what people refer to as casual leisure. It is carried out for the sake of it (Stebbins 2006). Amateurs are evident in art, sport, science, and the entertainment industry.

He studied this area of research for a long time and came up with convincing conclusions. Amateurs unavoidably connected with professional corresponding persons, along with the societies that the factions share, into a three-way structure of associations and interrelations. The major difference between this group and the hobbyists is that the latter do not have the professional alter ego of the former, despite the fact that at times they have commercial equals and sometimes a few in the society tends to take interest in the things they do.

The issue in sociology comes up since the professionals are recognized and described in commercial instead of sociological means. Workers in this case rely on the finance from an activity that others pursue with very little or no compensation as leisure (Stebbins 2009). The second group, that is, hobbyists, is grouped according to five classes: collectors; makers and tinkerers; activity participants; players in games and sports; and the enthusiasts of the hobbies.

The participants are in activities that are non-competitive, rule-based like fishing. The games and sports in questions are competitive, rule-based pursuits with no expert counterparts such as running and competitive swimming. The fans of liberal art hobbies are focused on reading pursuits (Torkildsen 2005). The volunteers are voluntary help that participate either formally or informally, with or without a token of appreciation, to benefit others. They participate either in serious, casual or project-oriented activities for the benefit of others.

However, in sociology the prevailing understanding of volunteering no-profit setup is volunteering as a non-paid worker, and not volunteering as a leisure experience. The prevailing conception describes volunteering as working without payment for a livelihood. This understanding leaves out the motivation to work as a volunteer for leisure. Volunteering can also be done by people seeking to spend their time away from their everyday stressing activities like going to work, operating a business, going to school and working on domestic chores.

The theory of serious leisure therefore brings about a new and clear understanding of the distinction between volitional conception and commercial conception of volunteer activities. The concept of “career volunteer” is commonly used to differentiate those who participate in serious leisure from the ones pursuing casual of project-oriented volunteering (Best 2003). Like most of other researchers in this area of sociology, serious leisure reveals an up-to-date and comprehensive review of the contemporary studies in leisure science.

Robert Stebbins provides an account of the meanings, careers, social environments, organizations and networks that include different leisure experiences. His work his based on long term research providing an excellent contribution to the understanding of leisure from different perspectives. He attempts to unpack the generic components and the phases of involvement between each of the elements of leisure. His approach may seem taxonomic to those studying leisure science, because description he makes between the kinds of leisure are sometimes expressive lacking hypothetical richness and profundity.

However, these rather ordinary groups, for example leisure career is typified by five phases: commencement, growth, establishment, maintenance and decline, are favourable over hypothetical characterizations seen they are observed to be sensible to those participating in their individual terms. According to Stebbins “most people in society do not go about their routine leisure thinking of it as mass, elite, alienated, anomic, sedentary, or even playful” (p 121). He rejects the Frankfurt and neo-Durkheimian schools of thought.

He developed a whole new understanding of the leisure understanding (Stebbins 2009). Conclusion Leisure has developed through a long history. From a traditional form of leisure that was carried out as festivals, to the organised modern form of leisure experience. The festivals were carried out on regular bases but in a chaotic and disorganised manner. Industrialization and mechanization of the market affected festival leisure by requiring people to work more hours. However, reformers opposed overworking of the workers, introducing shorter working hours and thus time to relax.

During the Victorian and post Victorian period, the modern form of recreation and leisure was introduced. This form of recreation allows people time with their families. In the 20th century recreation started to take a more important position than work. The importance of leisure led to extensive researches and studies on various concepts of leisure experience. As a result many theories and concepts were developed to explain leisure that had developed into a field of study. This is how theorists like Stebbins came to be known as key contributors to the understanding of leisure experience.

References: Best, S. 2003, A Beginners Guide to Social Theory, Sage Publications, London Borsay, P. 2006, A History of Leisure: The British Experience since 1500, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire. Roberts, K. 1999. Leisure in Contemporary Society, CABI Publishing, Wallingford. Rojek, C 2005, Leisure Theory Basingstoke Palgrave Stebbins, R. A. 2006, Serious Leisure: A Perspective for Our Time, Transaction Publishers, Brunswick NJ Stebbins, R. A. 2009, Serious Leisure and Work, University of Calgary, Calgary. Torkildsen, G. 2005, Leisure and Recreation Management (5th Edition), Routledge, East Sussex.

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Sociological Perspectives in Leisure Science
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