Leisure could be generally defined as free time. In connection with sociology, leisure is how human beings organise themselves for their free time. Types of leisure include tourism, games, sports, and music among others. Contemporary, leisure has incorporated socio-economic elements; for example, leisure performance for payment. According to Roberts (2006, p. 164), leisure has social stratification. Lifestyles have come to define how different individuals feel about their leisure or free time. The world has moved and is still moving towards capitalism. Formalism as the case of the past is becoming obsolete. As such, social stratification has come to be manifested in the way individuals conduct their leisure. As claimed by Rojek (2013, p. 91), social stratification has become critical in leisure, and, essentially, leisure behaviour has come to be defined by the social class of families.
This paper will focus on how social class has influenced leisure. Different components manifest themselves in the way leisure is influenced by social class. They are social justice, social stratification, quality leisure, the theory of leisure class, the economic theory of leisure, structural strain theory, social inequality, and the conflict theory.
Social stratification is the system in which the society is categorized according to the way people are similar to one another. According to Adam (2009, p. 7), social stratification has divided people based upon their economic and social status. This categorization has determined the levels of leisure that people exhibit. For example, the upper class, and especially the economic powerful people, can afford tourism as their form of leisure, while those in the lower economic strata can only afford visiting free gardens to exercise their free time. This is a form of social class that determines the kinds of leisure to be exercised by different people.
The concept of social justice is a critical component in social class and leisure. The social justice paradigm is one that ensures that there is equality to access to social institution. McLean & Hurd (2007, p.45) write that the world today has organised recreation where good life supposed to be for all the citizens is either exercised with justice or injustice. In undemocratic societies, social institutions are only accessible to the rich, while in democratic societies social justice is exercised where recreational facilities are accessible to all the people. However, even in such societies, differences of social class continue to be a threat of cutting the social fabric enjoyed by those people that are in access to leisure facilities.
Social inequality is entangled in social classes. Different social classes assume different status in the society. This social status defines to a great degree the lifestyles of various people. Social classes have put different discourses amongst people in the world (Rousseau 2007, p. 44). This has given rise to the origin of inequality in the world. Since leisure is a good time in a person’s life to exercise his or her freedom, it is critical to be enhanced in the society. Social classes should not be considered a form of extending social inequalities.
Quality leisure could be diverse to different people. However, the characteristic of quality time is a sense of satisfaction amongst those exercising leisure. Anderson (2013, p. 161) writes that lifestyle does not have much relation to the things a person deals with. The determining factor is rather the kind of social living one leads. Today, lifestyle has become part and parcel of social identification which is exemplified by the kind of social class a person belongs to. It is clear that the people belonged to upper social classes could be categorized as having quality leisure. Descendants of lower classes have different forms of enjoying their free time. Nevertheless, it falls below the threshold of quality leisure.
The theory of leisure class focuses on differentiation between the working class and leisure class. This theory by Thorstein Veblen teaches that the working classes are always trying to emulate those in the leisure classes. Therefore, the working class idolizes the leisure class. The latter is in this theory the upper societal class where the members can access major amenities of life, and their living has reached self-actualization (Veblen 2013, p. 23). The leisure class is always the privileged one, as well as wealthy elites in the society. These people have capabilities to spend their time going out for tourism and other forms of leisure. On the other hand, the working class does not have time to go out; instead, most of their life is spent accumulating enough resources to attain the entertainments of the wealthy elite.
The economic theory of leisure is compared to marginal utility. According to Blackshaw (2013, p.55), this theory claims that workers always have choices of their nature of working, especially the working hours. As for leisure, it is taken as a good in economics. Leisure has not expanded since 1985, and this means that for people in employment, leisure is not inferior. However, as written by Blackshaw (2013, p. 56), any leisure exercised by people comes as a result of inputs of goods and time spent in the market. Leisure has to be worked for, and just as it is with economic goods, access of these requires real efforts. This is critical in the understanding of the influences brought by social class in leisure. An individual of high economic and social class does not need to put a lot of efforts to acquire leisure; rather, it only requires slicing some of his or her economic prowess to attain any desirable leisure or lifestyle. This is different to working class that has to work extra hard to acquire desirable levels of leisure.
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The conflict theory argues that people and social classes in a society portray different materials possessions, and they are always in conflict. Groups in the society always imagine interaction in a destructive way. It means that there is little cooperation between groups, especially in capitalist societies. Kendall (2012, p. 24) puts the conflict theory in a leisure perspective and writes that different groups of people exhibit different capabilities of lifestyle. This is because they have different social and economic abilities, and those in control of economic and social powers are in conflict with those with few or no capabilities. This theory and its applicability have high relation to the differences in social status. The biggest focus of the conflict theory related to human lifestyle is on the political economy. This theory imagines a society where those with political economic powers are in struggle with those without one and vice versa (Ferrante 2007, p. 19). Those with powers belong to the class that can afford quality lifestyle, while powerless people do not have access to quality lifestyle. Therefore, the conflict theory portrays a conflict between different social classes who exhibit different levels of lifestyles.
Karl Marx is one of the philosophers who extensively wrote about the ills of capitalist societies. Though leisure did not form part of his views and discussions, his thoughts about various societal issues had relation to the conduct of societal groups in regard to leisure. Today, only those who have amassed powers and economic prowess can access quality life. Powerful people can be regarded the members of high class. Therefore, only a section of society groups access fundamental issues of livelihood. According to the teachings of Karl Marx, the working class has little time to waste, while the elite that owns economic and social powers has time for leisure. This could be considered a clear differentiation of access to good lifestyles between various social classes.
Leisure and class are intertwined. However, while class is independent, leisure is dependent. Social class begets leisure. Economically strong people falling into upper social classes can afford quality leisure, as compared with descendants of low social classes. The paper has considered various concepts of social class that define the nature of leisure to be exercised by individuals. The influence of class on leisure is supported by the concepts explained in such theories as the theory of leisure class, the economic theory of leisure, and the conflict theory. All of these theories point to a fact that the society is never uniform: while some individuals can access quality amenities of life, others cannot.