leisure, sociological studies of

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leisure, sociological studies of Leisure generally involves withdrawal from routine activities such as work, and involvement instead in a pleasurable activity, highly valued by the individual. It may or may not be productive but it does not involve the social responsibilities attached to one's other social roles. Playing of games is an obvious example—although so is the hard physical labour associated with rebuilding old cars or steam engines for pleasure.

The sociology of leisure has two main traditions. The first—which has been called the formal approach—consists of empirical studies into relatively discrete problems of which three are prominent: how leisure patterns shift across the life-cycle, as in R. and R. N. Rapoport , Leisure and the Family Life Cycle (1975)
; how work and leisure inter-relate, as in Stanley Parker's Leisure and Work, 1983, in which he outlines the interconnections of ‘extension’ (work and leisure are similar), ‘opposition’ (they are polarized and demarcated), and ‘neutrality’ (they are distinct but not polarized); and, finally, research into specific types of leisure, such as cinema attendance, football, or dancing.

By contrast, there is a more historical and theoretical approach, which asks questions about the changing nature of leisure and its varying role in social change. Two of the most prominent of such arguments are functionalist and neo-Marxist in tenor. The much criticized functionalist position, inherent in the ‘logic of industrialism’ arguments of Clark Kerr et al. (Industrialism and Industrial Man, 1960), suggested throughout the 1960s an inevitable movement towards a ‘leisure society’. By contrast, neo-Marxists saw an inevitable commercialization of leisure, turning leisure into a market product. The work of the Frankfurt School of critical theory also pessimistically analysed the emergence of the ‘culture industry’ of commercial mass entertainment (popular cinema, sport, television, comics, and so forth) which would exploit individuals and homogenize culture. However, not all neo-Marxists were as pessimistic: those located within the cultural studies tradition, for instance, argued that much of this culture was used by class fractions as a symbolic means of resisting incorporation into the dominant ideology (see for example S. Hall et al. , Resistance through Ritual, 1976

Despite these debates leisure has rarely been a central concern of sociologists. However, as a consequence of the ‘cultural turn’ in English-speaking sociology in the early 1990s there were signs of increasing sociological interest in the media, sport, cultural studies, and consumerism, and so the subject of leisure generally may come to feature more prominently in future research (see, for example, C. Rojek 's Capitalism and Leisure Theory, 1985