Pages:7 (1989 words)
Document Type:Research Paper
Is Leisure a Right or a Privilege? How Leisure Time Affects the Rich vs. the Poor
The concept of leisure is on that has been used to measure the equity within the masses and the degree to which different classes, genders or groups share the same amount of “free” time. One of the problems with examining leisure, however, is that it is a rather subjective experience—and what constitutes leisure for one may be vastly different from how another sees it. This paper examines the issue of leisure from the standpoint of class by looking at how leisure time is experience among the rich and the poor. Ultimately it shows that leisure is not a universal concept that means the same to all people or is even experienced in the same way, so it is superficial to draw comparisons between groups or classes based on how much leisure time they have or how they experience leisure.
Equity in Leisure?
Equity in leisure is a rather fanciful concept because it is simply unrealistic to expect that all classes, all groups of people, all cultures, and all nations will view leisure in the same way. In a society that values work over leisure, people are not going to see this issue in the same light as people who come from a culture that values leisure more highly than work. As Hofstede (1998) shows, these differences are real. But it is not even an issue just on a cultural level. Even the genders experience leisure and engage in leisure differently (Codina & Pestana, 2019). From the standpoint of the rich vs. poor dichotomy, however, there are a few points that must be made before exploring this paradigm.
The first point is that class differences exist but that they reflect cultural differences at root (Hogan, 2017). How leisure is perceived by those who experience it is not going to be the same as how it is examined by those who are studying it from the outside looking in. Leisure is different for everyone: it is not a universal.
The second point is that historical shifts in culture, economy, politics, class, and so on, have impacted the way people experience leisure. As The Economist (2014) explained, the rich used to have abundant time for leisure. From Downtown Abbey to the books of P.G. Wodehouse, examples of this fact are not wanting. However, in more recent times, the tendency to work a great deal has shifted from the poorer classes to the upper classes. The work ethic has transferred from the poor to the rich in a sense, and so now it is not uncommon to find the richest people working through the weekend while the poorest indulge themselves at a more leisurely pace (Economist, 2014).
Moreover, because of cultural shifts, working hours have declined in the modern era for the working classes. The 40 hour workweek is now taken for granted, but it was never the norm prior to the 20th century. People who are rich in the 21st century—especially if they have worked their way up from nothing—all tell the same story about how they never stop working (Economist, 2014). For them, leisure is not on their radar. At least, it is not on their radar in the same sense that it was for Bertie Wooster in any one of Wodehouse’s novels. But that is a difference in culture—not class. Equity in leisure is determined not by the amount of money one has but by the frame of mind one possesses.
Is Leisure a Right or Privilege?
The question of whether leisure is a right or a privilege is a rather loaded one. The notion of human rights is still a relatively novel one in the wider scope of human history. It stems mainly from Enlightenment philosophy—i.e., Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine. They created their philosophical framework by breaking with the Old World definitions of human nature (that human nature was fallen). Rousseau and Paine put forward the idea that human nature is not fallen, that nature is good in and of itself, that all people are born free and that all people are equal. The fact that the tenets of their philosophy have been so difficult to achieve in real life suggests that the Old World had a better handle on the reality of human nature than the Enlightenment Age. Paine could not get the Founding Fathers in America to reject slavery, and for all his talk of freedom and naturalism Rousseau was unable to show that the rights of man were anything more than a novel attempt to justify his own actions in life. To this day there is no fundamental premise upon which the rights of man exist outside of the Old World framework. Thus, leisure cannot be said to be a right anymore than any other so-called “right,” which is typically just an excuse for asserting one’s will.
The fact is—and any cursory examination of human history can bear this out—that leisure is a privilege. Leisure is also in the eye of the beholder and for some it is going to be different than it is for others. Human beings have the capacity to find time for leisure in snatches—it is not necessarily something one must plan out like a two week vacation. Anyone who has been on a vacation knows the common feeling that they always need a vacation after a vacation because it really is not that relaxing considering all the work that goes into planning it, getting to the destination, taking care of everything, and…
Codina, N., & Pestana, J. V. (2019). Time Matters Differently in Leisure Experience for Men and Women: Leisure Dedication and Time Perspective. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(14), 2513.
The Economist. (2014). Why The Rich Now Have Less Leisure Time Than The Poor. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/why-the-rich-now-have-less-leisure-time-than-the-poor-2014-4
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