Contemporary Leisure Patterns

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It is paradoxical that people in modern societies have more free time compared to 100 years ago but also feel more time constraints. Additionally, work is taking a smaller and smaller fraction of the hours of one's life. An analysis of British citizens, for instance, found that:

Although the average career length has remained around 40 years, the total life hours worked shrank from 124,000 hours in 1856 to 69,000 in 1983. The fraction of disposable lifetime hours spent working declined from 50 percent to 20 percent. (Ausubel and Grubler, p.195)

The portion of people's lives devoted to both paid work and housework is decreasing, and it appears that such declines are predicted by rising economic standards of living within a country. Jonathan Gershuny, after a meta-analysis of time use in fifteen countries, drew this conclusion and added: "There is no basis, theoretical or empirical, for thinking that we are 'running out of time.'" (p. 18)

The dilemma Americans face, however, is similar to that of a water flea.

The wish to live as intensely as possible has subjected humans to the same dilemma as the waterflea, which lives 108 days at 8 degrees Centigrade, but only twenty-six days at 28 degrees, when its heartbeat is almost four times faster, though in either case its heart beats 15 million times in all. Technology has been a rapid heartbeat, compressing housework, travel, entertainment, squeezing more and more into the allotted span. Nobody expected that it would create the feeling that life moves too fast. (Zeldin, p. 127)

When people are asked about constraints to leisure in survey research, "lack of time" is often the number one answer given to explain why one hasn't participated in some activity. Such an answer, unfortunately, has a number of meanings, none of which the researcher can be sure.

If all time constraints disappeared, the world would descend into chaos. Parks would overflow with people, museums would be jammed, the meaningfulness of much activity that springs directly from its limitedness would disappear. The millionth beer party or softball game would lack meaning. If time constraints were somewhat minimized, however, the world might be a better place. This writer has simplistically suggested that people might do this by owning less, doing less, and saying "no" more often. While many Americans and others in modern nations are in a position to follow this suggestion, in general, it appears they don't want to. Americans, in particular, still want to own even bigger cars and houses, do more things and consume, experience and achieve more.

There is, however, some evidence to the contrary. In the early 2000s there are 50 million "Cultural Creatives," providing the potential for a cultural revolution—one that is already under way (Ray and Anderson).

The "Moderns," who are currently dominant, accept the commercialized urban-industrial world and the goal of economic growth without looking for alternatives. "Cultural Creatives" are different. Their values are such that they love nature and are deeply concerned about its destruction; give a lot of importance to developing and maintaining relationships and helping other people; care intensely about psychological or spiritual development; see spirituality and religion as important in their own lives but are also concerned about the role of the "religious Right" in politics; have their finances and spending under control; and dislike the modern emphasis on "making it" and on wealth and luxury goods.

If time constraints to leisure are going to be minimized, it is likely this segment of society that will do so. For the dominant "Moderns," time constraints, to both work and leisure, will remain a way of life and a penalty willingly, if grudgingly, paid.

Its interpretation is highly political. Are rushed people who sometimes work long hours slaves to a rationalized economy and right-wing capitalism, or are they greedy individuals who want money and possessions more than tranquility and simplicity? The fact that higher income and education individuals are more likely to report feeling rushed than those with lower ones is also subject to multiple interpretations.

What does seem clear is that the distinctions between work and "free time" have been minimized for many. The industrial separation of fast, long work time and slow, short free time has come apart. Postmodernity has produced a way of life in which time is perceived as the most valuable commodity and efficient as the most prevalent value.

More Customized Leisure Behavior

While it would appear that leisure in everyday life is characterized more by mass behavior, such as eating at MacDonald's, shopping in look-alike malls, and watching network TV, a number of factors have begun to customize leisure in terms of when it takes place, what is done, the style of the activity, and the meanings and satisfactions such activity holds. Following are some reasons for more customized leisure behavior.

Explosive Population Growth About half the population increase in developed countries is coming from international migration. In the early 2000s, 15 percent of Canadians and of French were born in another country, as were one out of nine of those in the United States. These immigrants are not melting in a pot but rather customizing the culture to produce differing mosaics within each city, region, and country. What people think, eat, or do for fun will become more diverse—and so will when they do it.

Increasing Urbanization and Population Density For the first time in history, more than half the world's population will be living in urban areas by 2010, and by 2030, the United Nations projects, 60 percent of the population will be urbanized (McGee). Increased urbanization will customize leisure behavior not only by social class, income, and ethnicity as it always has, but due to the increasing cultural differences of urban residents and visitors, such differences will be magnified.

As higher population densities occur, the sequencing of daily life's routines will need to be customized. Centralized periods of vacations, holidays, and other forms of mass leisure will be less likely to occur. For instance, as the number of cars on the beltways around Washington, D.C., increases, producing permanent gridlock, there will be mass customization of travel patterns. When people go to work (if they go at all), when they shop, vote, or visit the beach, will need to be spread out. Most models of "mass" transit will also require customization since there is increasingly no "center" of work for people to be transported to. "Rush hour" may take place across most of the hours of the day and night. Those who manage leisure and tourism services will do more to "guide" visitors to their sites, and such guidance will become customized for any inquiring visitor. Such customized guidance will be increasingly valuable to the potential visitor, as the logistics of visitation become more complex due to higher volumes of traffic, whether such traffic is automobiles, motor scooters or bicycles, or other people movers. "In sum, most forms of mass activity, including leisure, will be customized to the extent the population increases and becomes more dense and urban. If the whole world flushed the toilet at once . . .." (Godbey, De-Jong, Sasidharan, and Yarnal)

A Revolution in the Life Course and the Family Modernity is reshaping the life course and family structure. Many developmental psychologists no longer speak of "life stages," since the comparatively common stages of life that individuals went through in an industrial economy no longer occur or don't occur at common ages. Modern nations are also "de-familied," with more than one-fifth or more of households having only one person in them and the average household having less than three occupants. In the United States, almost half of the adult population is not married. Where there is a family, it is likely to be more diverse in form, often the result of divorce and remarriage, or it may be a gay or lesbian family, a multiethnic or multiracial family, or a "family" of unrelated individuals. All these trends encourage more customization of leisure behavior.

Rapid Aging of the World Population People are also becoming more different because they are living longer. The average life expectancy in the world in the early 2000s is about sixty-five years and more than ten years higher than average in modern nations. Germany, together with other Western European nations and Japan, are the advance guard of the historic demographic changes accompanying the rise of technological societies. If the global economy continues to raise living standards, developing countries will most likely follow the European model to eventual low fertility and large elderly populations. In 2025, those sixty and older will account for 25 percent of the U.S. population, compared with 31 percent in Western Europe.

From Specialists to Generalists People are in the process of moving from being "specialists" in regard to time use, such as taking care of children and a household or working at a given occupation or pursuing a single form of leisure expression, to becoming generalists. Since the mid-twentieth century, in most modern societies the percentage of people who undertake both paid work and housework is increasing. So, too, is the percentage of people doing activities previously limited to the elite, such as going to museums. "Task combination and the combination of cultural with leisure activities are on the rise. In their respective domains, both combinations imply a time squeeze. . . .." (van den Broek, p. 21)

Increasing Levels of Education Higher levels of education, particularly for women, are occurring in many regions of the world. People with higher levels of education are more likely to become "specialized" in a given form of leisure behavior, moving from the general to the specific within the activity form and, often, from catharsis to pleasure to meaning in terms of benefits sought. Those with higher education are more likely to participate in most forms of outdoor recreation, sports, high culture, continuing education, reading, tourism, and volunteer activities.

More highly educated people will become more individually distinct in their participation in leisure activity, seeking more information and complexity in the experience. The increasingly diverse mix of education levels of people residing in close proximity will mean that providing mass leisure activities, such as local festivals, will need to be undertaken with multiple strategies.

Revolutionary Changes in the Roles of Women and Men What it means to be female (and consequently, to be male) is in the middle or beginning of a revolution in every country in the world. One reason for this is simply massive declines in birth rates and increases in longevity. While women in eighteenth-century Europe, for example, gave birth to an average of eight children, in the early twenty-first century birth rates are well below two, and life expectancy exceeds seventy years. While industrialism was built on specialization of work and other obligated activity, the postindustrial society is producing generalists, who undertake a broader range of activities and roles. Males are already beginning to emerge as the educationally disadvantaged group, compared to females. In knowledge economies, this will change numerous forms of relationships.

There is cultural lag in Americans' perception of the educational attainment and achievements of girls and boys. While the feeling persists that girls are ignored in public school, remain passive, have low self-esteem, and so forth, girls are far higher achievers in public schools than boys, and they are more likely to go to college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, girls get better grades in public schools, are slightly more likely to enroll in higher-level math and science courses, and outnumber boys in student government, honor societies, school newspapers, and debating teams. Girls read more books than boys, outperform them on tests for artistic and musical ability, and are more likely to study abroad. Boys are more likely to be suspended from school, held back, drop out, or be involved in crime, alcohol, or drugs. Boys are more than three times more likely to receive a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. While girls are more likely to attempt suicide, boys are more likely to succeed in killing themselves by a ratio of more than five to one. In 1996, there were 8.4 million women but only 6.7 million men enrolled in college, and the projections are that by 2007, women will outnumber men in college even more substantially—9.2 million women and 6.9 million men. (Sommers, p. 29)

The comparative power of women with high levels of education will increase, the wage gap will close or favor women, more joint career decisions will be made that consider women's job prospects first, and the centrality of women as decision makers will increase in regard to use of free time within families and couples.

Such changes may mean that women's leisure patterns will diversify and their leisure desires will be addressed to a greater extent. When they are not, women will make increasing demands for differentiation of leisure sites and services to meet their interests, and they will exert more power in shaping them.

A Revolution in Work Changes in technology have revolutionized work in ways that are revolutionizing the rest of life, customizing every individual's life in the process. When the factory system standardized work in Europe and North America, which was done outside the home in big ugly buildings, public education followed suit. The factory approach to public education resulted in standardized buildings, standardized curricula, standardized textbooks and teacher qualifications, and standardized notions of the truth.

Leisure became more standardized, too, from bowling alleys to shopping malls to TV shows, which more than half the households in the country watched. The scientific management of factory work, including time and motion studies undertaken by Fredrick Taylor, carried over into leisure activity such as sport; coaches began to use the same time and motion analysis of athletes and specialization of tasks that Taylor used for workers (Kanigel). Standardized retirement assistance, social security, produced a standardization of the age of retirement—sixty-five—in Germany first and later in many countries.

Work is undergoing a revolution. The notion that a "job" is a fixed bundle of tasks is disappearing. "Jobs" are moving targets, demanding continuous learning and change on the part of the worker. More people work part-time, work at home, have no designated place to work, or combine work with college, raising children, or retirement. Workers who work during daylight hours on weekdays may become the minority.

Work will intrude into every aspect of life, including leisure, and leisure will intrude into work. "The barrier that since the 1800s has separated work and the rest of life is being shattered" (Boyett, p. 5). The "home" will often be where work is done, as it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. Leisure behavior will be customized to reflect such changes. Among some of the major impacts will be less distinction between weekday and weekend in terms of leisure activity. Already, the majority of hours of "free time" occur during weekdays, and this trend may intensify (Robinson and Godbey).

As more workers telecommute or use satellite offices, cities no longer will be the center of commerce. Cities in developed nations will atrophy or re-create themselves at centers of leisure, culture, tourism, and entertainment. Simultaneously, cities in developing nations will become more critical, and the migration from rural to urban to suburban to small town will continue and intensify.

A Revolution in the Bases of Modern Economies—Postcapitalist Economies of Knowledge and Experience In most countries and even within individual cities, a mosaic of economies exists alongside one another: from hunter-gatherer to agriculture to mercantilism and trade to industrialism to services to a knowledge and experience economy. The most modern economies are "postcapitalist." That is, the ultimate basis of wealth is not capital but rather knowledge and the application of knowledge to produce profit (Drucker).

While part of the new economy may be described as a "knowledge" economy, another increasingly important part of the new economy is the offering of memorable experiences:

When a person buys a service, he purchases a set of intangible activities carried out on his behalf. But when he buys an experience, he pays to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that a company stages—as in a theatrical play—to engage him in a personal way (Pine and Gilmore, p. 2).

Such experiences are as distinct from services as services are from products. The emergence of an experience economy may progress as follows: in the emerging experience economy, the experiential component of a product or service is increasingly the basis of profit. "Just as people have cut back on goods to spend more money on services, now they also scrutinize the time and money they spend on services to make way for the more memorable—and more highly valued—experiences" (Pine and Gilmore, p. 12).

Experiences are not synonymous with entertainment but rather with engaging the guest. While many experiences are entertainment, experiences may also be educational, escapist, or aesthetic in nature.

As the experience economy grows, many managers of leisure and tourism sites will find that the issue will be less of managing people and natural resources than of managing "meaning." What does this site mean? What is worth doing, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, feeling, and ultimately remembering? Those who seek to consume "experiences" in their leisure will exist side by side with those who seek to consume material goods. The desire for memorable experience will both make diversity of environment and culture more valuable while simultaneously threatening it, as those seeking memorable experience want to swim with dolphins, visit the South Pole, or spend the night in a bamboo forest.

A Revolution of Networked Economies and Globalization As every nation moves toward an economy that is networked by computers and globalized, the provision of leisure and tourism services will change how they operate in numerous ways, customizing services based on increasing levels of information about customers. The characteristics of a networked economy, as described by Kevin Kelly, include numerous implications for the delivery of leisure and tourism services. Such an economy requires operating in real time, mass customization of products and services, and company boundaries that stretch across borders. A networked economy reshapes not only when leisure takes place but also how organizations that provide leisure and tourism services function to customize experience.

The Impact of Globalization Globalization of commerce has brought with it increasingly differentiated conditions both among countries and within countries. It is also an engine that drives immigration at a startling rate. The top fifth of the world's people in the early 2000s have 86 percent of the gross domestic product and the bottom fifth about 1 percent (UN Development Report, cited by Mitchell). As northern nations have increasingly pressured southern nations to open their economies to foreign trade and investment, about 20 percent of southern residents have increased their wealth but 80 percent have become poorer. Overall, southern nations have become poorer. "That gives southern nations less and less incentive to manage legal and illegal immigration" (Sassen, p. 2).

This process also makes it certain that "terrorism" and low-intensity wars will become the ways of fighting for the "have-nots" against the "haves." The line between crime and war is disappearing, and, as that happens, lowintensity conflicts of attrition will largely replace wars fought from traditional strategies. Terrorism as a long-term condition of life will make leisure and especially tourism behavior more deliberate and more subject to sudden change. It may also mean that assurances of safety, predictability, and isolation from the increasing conflict between haves and have-nots will be more appealing.

While globalization will bring sameness to some parts of life—"McDonaldization"—in many other ways it will further customize life. While federal governments may seek to "harmonize" currencies, policies, and procedures, leisure behavior becomes more diverse. Even the celebration of holidays becomes customized as political or religious-based holidays become factionalized. Ramadan, Cinco de Mayo, or "Chinese" New Year celebrations may occur in San Diego, London, or Jakarta.

Multipolar and Multicivilizational Politics and Power

Globalization takes place in a post–Cold War era in which "power is shifting from the long predominant West to non-Western civilizations" (Huntington, p. 29). Global politics have become multipolar and multicivilizational. In the early twenty-first century, the most important countries in the world come from civilizations that are vastly different civilizations, and "modernization" of such countries does not mean that they will "Westernize." While, during the last 400 years, relations among civilizations "consisted of the subordination of other societies to Western civilization" (Huntington, p. 51), this pattern has been broken.

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations are converted), but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerns often forget this fact; non-Westerners do not. (Huntington, p. 51)

Christianity accounts for slightly less than 30 percent of the world's people. Islam, which accounts for a bit less than 20 percent of the world's population, will continue to increase in numbers since ". . . Christianity spreads primarily by conversion, Islam by conversion and reproduction." (Huntington, p. 65) The ways in which various religions react to globalization will be diverse and unpredictable.

All these trends mean that the power to shape leisure, popular culture, sport, tourism, hobbies, crafts, mass media, outdoor recreation, and a variety of other behavioral forms related to leisure will be diversified.

Revolutionary Changes in Environment Perhaps the most important revolution that is taking place is the transformation of the environment of the planet in ways that have no historical precedent. Such change includes the mass extinction of animal life and plant life at a rate and magnitude unknown in human history. Additionally, "we have driven atmospheric carbon dioxide to the highest levels in at least two hundred thousand years, unbalanced the nitrogen cycle, and contributed to a global warming that will ultimately be bad news everywhere." (Wilson, p. 23)

A combination of exponentially rising consumption and increasing population means that: "In short, earth has lost its ability to regenerate—unless global consumption is reduced, or global production is increased, or both." (Wilson, p. 27) Since poverty and the second-class status of women are largely responsible for the plague of human population growth, the chances for human survival are linked to the elimination of poverty and changes in the rights, education, and life chances of women in most nations.

Environmentally, the human race is entering an unprecedented era. The cost of natural disasters in 1998 alone, for instance, exceeds the cost for the entire previous decade. Although the causes remain disputed, the fact is that sea level rise in the twentieth century was double the rate of the nineteenth century. Much of the shoreline of the world will be changed, sweeping many island nations under water in the process. Bangladesh, for example, may suffer a catastrophe. "There is complete certainty that stratospheric ozone depletion will increase the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface, while there is high certainty that global warming will increase average temperature and raise sea level. It is less certain, but still likely, that extreme weather and climate events (e.g., intense rain and snowstorms, floods, and droughts) will increase." (Fisher et al., 2000)

Environmental change will customize leisure behavior everywhere. Many beaches will disappear, "tourist seasons" change and customize, extreme weather events cancel or interfere with more planned events, attitudes toward exposure to sunlight become dialectic, and environmental degradation will render some leisure environments uninhabitable or more highly regulated.

A Revolution in Urban Areas Nucleated cities emerged in the nineteenth century where industrialization occurred. They had a well-defined commercial area, known as downtown; industry was lined up along the railroad tracks; and residential areas were arrayed around the edges and segregated along lines of income, ethnicity, and race.

These cities were replaced by emerging "galactic" cities, as the automobile became the primary means of transport. Rather than think of this as urban sprawl, Peirce Lewis contends this is a new kind of city. Galactic cities, which take lots of space and have no real center, help ensure that travel by automobile dominates. Walking is often useless to get anywhere. Public transportation is sometimes ineffective because the city has no center.

Such urban patterns ensure customization of daily life, transportation, work arrangement, and leisure. The automobile is the ultimate customizer of travel and, therefore, of daily life. It can carry one person on a customized travel pattern. Innovation in urban "mass" transportation will seek to mimic the automobile in terms of allowing the individual to undertake customized travel patterns

A Revolution in the Mass Customization of Products and Services In the early twenty-first century, technological change is being organized around biological models, and biology operates on the principle that difference is better. The revolution in how work is done is producing a revolution in what work provides: mass customized services based on greatly expanded information about the client or customer. Medicine, for instance, is beginning to be custom-made, taking the patient's medical history and physical condition into account.

While every living thing has its own unique sense of time, the ideal of the industrial society was to treat people equally and regiment them to common time patterns. The ideal will now become be to treat people appropriately—and that means having sufficient information about them to recognize their unique needs with regard to time. Daily life will be reorganized with time patterns and schedules that vary for every single person. Treating people equally makes no sense in a decentralized society since people are not interchangeable parts. Treating people appropriately will make more sense, as diversity becomes even more prevalent. Leisure and its use will be reshaped by this fundamental shift in human relations.

See also: Leisure Education; Leisure, Theory of; Urbanization of Leisure; Work and Leisure Ethics


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Geoffrey Godbey