Friday, February 16, 2007

The End Of The Leisure Society

Many Canadians probably feel as if they are working longer hours. Now, a new study by Statistics Canada finds they are right: Workers are spending more time on the job and less time with their families.

On average, workers had 45 minutes less time with their families on workdays in 2005 than they did almost two decades earlier, says the study released Tuesday. Most of that lost time is taken up by work.

While 45 minutes every day might not seem like much, the time adds up. Based on a 260-day work year, that means 195 fewer hours spent with the family in 2005 than in 1986. That's almost five, 40-hour work weeks.

From 1998 to 2005, the average work week in the active population increased from
44.6 to 46.3 hours, while leisure time declined from 31.5 hours to 29.5 hours,

effectively erasing two decades of gains on that front.
¨ Over the same period, fathers’ average work week increased from 49.1 to 53.2 hours
and mothers’ from 39.4 to 44.1 hours.
¨ During the 1990s, fathers increased the time they devoted to household chores and
care of the children, while mothers increased both their working hours and their leisure
time. But this trend toward closing the gender gap in caring and working came to a halt
in 2005.
¨ Parents with children under the age of five are the most likely to report being time stressed
– two-thirds of mothers and just over half of fathers.

The crisis of leisure time was a fixation amongst sociologists and popular culture pundits, in the Sixties and Seventies we were promised a glorious future of the end of work, or at least a working week of twenty hours by 2000.

Instead the End of Work has become the End of Leisure and the extension of the exploitation of the masses by the extension of the working day and the work week.

Labor saving technologies were supposed to usher in the Leisure Society and in the 1960s the concern was what would we do with all the time on our hands? How delighfully naive. Labor saving technologies meant one person could do more! It was like the paperless office promise...about as practical as the paperless bathroom :-) Yes, we will find work to do for all the idle hands.

Instead of the eight hour day and the forty hour week in Alberta we now have a 44 hour week, before overtime is considered. And we have many folks working more than one job, thus a longer work time. All this because capitalism is a failed dream for the vast majority of workers. And in a grand case of irony the Leisure Studies program at the University of Calgary was canceled due to budget cuts.

While our leisure time was supposed to liberate us in the recreation of ourselves from workers into the ultimate renaissance (hu)man it has simply created a literal cottage industry of consumers owning a second home and consuming capitalist recreation.

The leisure industry channels and organises our desires and enables optimum enjoyment, preferably in a second home. For while the first home excels in usefulness and efficiency, the second home symbolises all that is good in life. Here, on a carefully chosen sofa, we can finally take a breather from our busy lives, preferably in leisure wear and with a Bloody Mary. Here, we are far removed from bosses and technology, close to nature and our loved ones, and do only what we feel like doing.

When we think of leisure, we likely ponder pleasure in paradise, or we entertain the idea of being somewhat lackadaisical, perhaps in a sunny clime. We might not think of “leisure” as a topic of study per se and we probably give little thought to what researchers of leisure actually do outside of their leisure time.

“A lot of people cringe,” admits Don Dawson, acting chair of the Department of Leisure Studies at the University of Ottawa. “They wonder what I am talking about.”

In fact, what he is often talking about is a theoretical concept of leisure and utopia. And he talks about it formally in a presentation at the international Canadian Congress on Leisure Research in Edmonton in May. This topic represents the culmination of his 20 years of research into a diverse number of subjects — from his first major project in the early 1980s, which looked at the leisure activities of immigrants, to other interests such as sustainable tourist development in northern Qu├ębec, mentoring at-risk youth through recreation and family leisure activities.

Above all, Dawson suggests most outside observers have a very limited understanding of the field of leisure studies.

“What strikes people is the diversity,” he says. “The recreation field, for example, stretches from therapeutic recreation to eco-tourism, from sports to the arts, from the sociology of pleasure and leisure constraints to post-modernity and culture.”

He adds that the range of this field is huge, and has its own distinctive history and its trends. Over the past decade, for example, many investigators have concentrated on leisure constraints, the factors that have prevented people from enjoying their recreational activity. Similarly, others have examined the effects of leisure — not simply the personal benefits, but also social, community, economic and ecological impacts. More specifically, leisure studies has analysed tourism, which generates $50 billion worth of spending in Canada every year, leaving its mark on the country in many different ways.

We could have the leisure society if we wanted it. But Samuel Smiles won; our lives are ruled by a work ethic and a duty to consume ...

This is the contradiction of advanced or decadent capitalism as predicted by Marx in his Grundrisse; and by futurists today.

The black box economy is a strictly theoretical possibility, but may result where machines gradually take over more and more roles until the whole economy is run by machines, with everything automated. People could be gradually displaced by intelligent systems, robots and automated machinery. If this were to proceed to the ultimate conclusion, we could have a system with the same or even greater output as the original society, but with no people involved. The manufacturing process could thus become a ‘black box’. Such a system would be so machine controlled that humans would not easily be able to pick up the pieces if it crashed - they would simply not understand how it works, or could not control it. It would be a fly-by-wire economy.

Thorstein Veblen declared the existence of the leisure class at the end of WWI and the IWW declared that the four hour day could lead to full employment. Yet here we are almost a hundred years later and we are nowhere close to that liberatory experience instead we are going backwards to the future, forward to the past, working longer hours and ending up with the ten and twelve hour day. Something we fought to end in 1888.

Technology, automation, computerization, has not liberated us it has merely
made us cogs in the cybernetic machine of modern capitalist society. And it is our bosses, our managers, and the professional class that continue to enslave us to their conceptions of life in their machine age.

And this is the Big Lesson: it takes workaholics to create, maintain and expand capitalism. As opposed to common beliefs (held by the uninitiated) – people, mostly, do not engage in business because they are looking for money (the classic profit motive). They do what they do because they like the Game of Business, its twists and turns, the brainstorming, the battle of brains, subjugating markets, the ups and downs, the excitement. All this has nothing to do with pure money. It has everything to do with psychology. True, the meter by which success is measured in the world of money is money – but very fast it is transformed into an abstract meter, akin to the monopoly money. It is a symbol of shrewdness, wit, foresight and insight.

Workaholics identify business with pleasure. They are the embodiment of the pleasure principle. They make up the class of the entrepreneurs, the managers, the businessmen. They are the movers, the shakers, the pushers, the energy.

Also see;

Black History Month; Paul Lafargue

Take Time From the Boss

Work Sucks

Time For The Four Hour Day

Tyrant Time-Tempus Fug'it

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