Chasing Leisure: A Hermeneutic of Late Modernity
Svenson, Stephen Robert
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This dissertation addresses shortcomings in the sociological study of leisure through providing a new conceptual approach for understanding human action and meaning making. It reformulates leisure as the leisure imaginary, the sphere in which the individualized person works out problems of identity and community. The leisure imaginary takes the Heidegerrian starting point that our being is a being before death and that it is our fundamental preoccupation with death that gives life its sense of urgency. In late modernity, however, our coping mechanisms for dealing with our fear and anxiety over death have been compromised which has left people disembedded and individualized. It is the thesis of this dissertation that leisure imaginaries have arisen to fill the gap left by institutions like religion and the family that formerly provided ontological security and ontological exigence. The leisure imaginary, then, is a response not only to our being before death but to the conditions of late modernity, the anxieties and preoccupations of our time, our social imaginary or lifeworld. It is argued that the leisure imaginary allows for a stronger interpretive understanding of the late modern conditions that people encounter and their responses to these conditions. The different permutations of the leisure imaginary exemplify different ethically oriented narratives of re-embedding in the pursuit of a meaningful life. In addition, and in contrast to academic treatments of leisure today, this work argues for the value of contemplative or philosophical leisure and the need to preserve, and recreate as needed, a space for this vocation.