1st Edition

Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society?

By A.J. Veal Copyright 2019
    310 Pages 39 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    310 Pages 39 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The idea of a ‘leisure society’ was in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was predicted that the pattern of falling working hours which had been experienced in Western societies in the first half of the twentieth century would continue indefinitely. The leisure society has clearly not been realised. On the contrary: contemporary industrial societies seem to be characterised by a shortage of time, experienced as ‘time squeeze’ and stress. The leisure society idea can be seen as the modern version of the age-old dream of a ‘life of ease and plenty’.

    This analytically and empirically rich book traces the idea in history, through biblical, classical Greek, medieval and nineteenth century utopian writings and into twentieth century concerns with dystopia and the impact of rapid technological change. The ‘leisure society’ concept turns out to have been an elusive and short-lived phenomenon. For a variety of reasons, the trend towards shorter working hours ran out of steam in the last quarter of the twentieth century. However, while leisure scholars have deserted the topic, a diverse range of activists, including environmentalists, economists and feminists, continue to make the case for reducing working hours. Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society? concludes that the on-going ‘struggle for time’ should be supported, for the sake of human health and well-being and for the sake of the planet.

    This is a valuable resource for students and academics in the fields of leisure studies, cultural studies, history, economics, sociology and political science.

    Part I: Introduction

    1. Introduction: the elusive leisure society
    2. About work, leisure, non-work time and the leisure society

    Part II: Pre-history and History

    1. The leisure society: pre-history, history, utopia
    2. Industrialisation, automation and the problem of work, rest and leisure: 1918-1939
    3. Work-leisure relationships and mass leisure: 1945-1959
    4. Futurism, post-industrialism and the leisure society
    5. The leisure society idea: 1960-1979
    6. Unemployment, the leisure ethic and the end of work: 1980-1999

    Part III: Analysis

    1. Economics, work and leisure and the leisure society
    2. The leisure society’s critics

    Part IV: The 21st Century

    1. Work-reduced futures for the 21st century
    2. The struggle for time. What next?


    A. J. Veal is Adjunct Professor in the Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Australia. He is past President of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies (ANZALS) and former Chair of the Leisure Studies Association (UK).

    "[Tony Veal] does a great job of offering a detailed overview of the leisure society debate and in setting the record straight by correcting some of the prevailing misconceptions about it. If anybody working within or outside leisure studies ever wanted to know what the predictions and ideas of leisure society were all about, they do not need to go any farther than this book." - Utsa Mukherjee, Birkbeck, University of London, Annals of Leisure Research

    "If somebody wants to learn more about the history and the validity of the notion of the leisure society, Veal’s publication is a must. This publication provides a remarkably detailed and accurate account of positions taken with regard to the leisure society by different authors, beginning from the 1930s until today … to those who will try, in the future, to say something new about the concept of the leisure society. Please first read Tony Veal’s book. He may have said it already. This is truly an encyclopedia of the leisure society." – Jiri Zuzanek, University of Waterloo, Loisir et Société / Society and Leisure

    "Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society? authored by A. J. Veal invites the reader to explore the diverse range of scholarship around leisure, work and time. The discussions around leisure and labour remain essential for contemporary human societies due to its effect on human health and wellbeing." – Ashwin Tripathi, Indian Institute of Technology, Leisure Studies