The Meaning of Liquid Leisure

Authored by: Johan Bouwer , Marco van Leeuwen

Routledge Handbook of Leisure Studies

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

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


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In recent years, scholars in the field of Leisure Studies have claimed that their discipline is in a state of crisis. One explanation for this is that the orthodox leisure science paradigm, based as it is on outdated sociological insights, fails to accommodate the theoretical and methodological necessities that the study of leisure in the so-called ‘postmodern’ era demands. In addition, and significantly, the question has also arisen about the extent to which leisure activities are not merely economically valid entities, but also meaningful and value based. Several scholars have proposed ways out of the impasse that Leisure Studies supposedly is in. Fred Coalter, for instance, pointed out more than a decade ago that both British and North American scholars of leisure largely ignore issues of individual meaning (Coalter, 1997: 255). Another notable leisure scholar, Karla Henderson, recently suggested that we should embrace pluralism within Leisure Studies, arguing for continuous change, while at the same time articulating a collective identity within the Leisure Studies field (Henderson, 2010: 397). A third scholar, Tony Blackshaw – whose work is the primary focus of this chapter – addresses the crisis by attempting to integrate Coalter’s and Henderson’s positions into a coherent position of his own. Taking Zygmunt Bauman’s analysis of modernity as a jumping-off point, he generates a vast array of relevant philosophical and socio-cultural claims and ideas from his base metaphor ‘liquid leisure’. Relevantly for the current discussion, he investigates how leisure can be used to design an authentic, artful existence – where such an existence would focus on infusing meaning into our lives in ways that befit the variety and ambiguity of human experience.

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