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Serious Leisure Framework [Leisure
Posted on August 28, 2015 @ 09:52:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I've been trying to crack the nut on what leisure is and now realize that part of the problem is that I lack a vocabulary to usefully talk or think about it.

We might ask ourselves how we would go about breaking down the concept of leisure into different types of leisure? It would seem that the exercise would be fairly arbitrary and mostly useful as a pleasant topic to think about rather than "serious science".

Perhaps. This is sociology not physics. That being said, leisure is an evolving concept in western society that potentially has significant explanatory force in understanding consumer behavior, addictions, mental health, societal trends, and how successful startups originate (i.e., from serious leisure pursuits).

There is a breakdown of the leisure concept by Emeritus Professor Robert Stebbins that he has been working on for a long time now (over 30 years) and which has been very fruitful in his research (note, however, that there does not appear to be consensus in the leisure studies community on the usefulness of this framework). He is in his upper 70's and the pace of his research appears to be accelerating. The concept he is pushing the hardest is the concept of "Serious Leisure" and you can visit his seriousleisure.net website to try to keep up with him.

The most important distinction I want to expose you to today is between serious and casual leisure. When most of us think of leisure we probably think of "casual leisure" activities, free-time that is directed towards pleasurable pursuits. There is another type of leisure, however, that can be called "serious leisure" where we explore our potentials over a longer period of time which involves mastery of more complexity than we tend to encounter in casual leisure. The serious leisure pursuits are not always pleasurable (e.g., practicing guitar to get to the next level) but they do lead to rewards and fulfillment that our work lives may fail to provide. These pursuits are worth pursuing for the rewards and fulfillment they bring and are not pursued primarily for economic gain or from a sense of obligation. The mastery achieved in these pursuits, however, has the potential to result in a career or startup if the actor desires to gain economically from their serious leisure pursuits - which they may not. Time spent in the pursuit of serious leisure can be a cauldron from which new ideas and startups can and have emerged.

It is hard to do justice to the Serious Leisure Perspective (SLP) framework in this blog. All I can do is expose you to the framework vocabulary and see if it resonates with your experience. Fortunately there is a nice graph that I can show you that that gives you specific examples of what the major vocabulary terms encompass or refer to.

Robert Stebbins has also written many books on various aspects of leisure. I have borrowed one of his recent books, the Idea of Leisure: First Principles (2011) from a local library. It is a short book and quite fascinating to read his exploration of the concept.

I'll have more to say on leisure as I continue my semi-serious pursuit of the ideas around leisure. The recursiveness of leisure studies (studying leisure is leisurable) is interesting and one more reason we might all want to occupy ourselves with leisure studies at some point in our life.

Chris Rojac is another author who you might want to explore. He writes very well (e.g., "spray-on sincerity") and in a very erudite manner. You can read some of The Labor of Leisure at the publishers page.

The value of Robert Stebbins work, however, is that he is putting forward a proposal for a theoretical framework for thinking about leisure whereas Chris, like many authors in leisure studies, are content to explore the area and provide critical commentary on various ideas and studies associated with leisure. This is useful and needed but ultimately if the study of leisure is have any impact on the design of leisure products and services it will probably need a theoretical framework such as Robert Stebbins has been cultivating and applying for many years now.

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