Leisure at the End of Modernity

Jürgen Habermas on the Purpose of Leisure

Authored by: Karl Spracklen

Routledge Handbook of Leisure Studies

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415697170
eBook ISBN: 9780203140505
Adobe ISBN: 9781136495595

10.4324/9780203140505.ch13

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Abstract

Although Habermas’ writings range from political science to epistemology and ethics, the fundamental Habermasian concern is to protect the project of modernity and provide a new critical approach to understanding society. For Habermas (1962), the critical work of Adorno and Gramsci can be reconciled with liberal ideas about freedom by recognizing the tension between two irreconcilable rationalities: communicative rationality, which stems from human interaction and the free exchange of ideas (for example, through leisure choices in the private and public spheres); and instrumental rationality, which is a product of capitalism and the emergence of the modern nation-state. Habermas balances historiographical caution about writing metanarratives with a desire to introduce and explain the slow submergence of the lifeworld of civic society, the Enlightenment project, by non-communicative and instrumental rationalities. Just as communicative rationality produces free, communicative action and leisure (Habermas, 1984; 1987), instrumental rationalities constrain the ability of individuals to rationalize and act on anything other than commodified things: so instrumental rationality leads to instrumental action, which leads to commodified leisure and passive consumption. This chapter will explore these ideas and demonstrate how they can be used by leisure theorists and researchers at the end of modernity. I will explore Habermas’ own writings on leisure, and then use examples from contemporary leisure research to demonstrate the efficacy of Habermasian critical theory for Leisure Studies (Spracklen, 2009).

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