Unemployment and Leisure: The Marienthal Legacy

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Francis LOBO, School of Marketing Tourism and Leisure, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia
A sociological classic on unemployment was the study of a small Austrian town, Marienthal (Jahoda, Lazarsfeld and Zeisel, 1972). Written in 1933, the investigation aimed to provide an accurate picture of the psychological situation of an unemployed community. The authors used modern survey methods to study 478 families over a three-month period. A basic thesis emerged. The unemployed experienced lower expectations and activity, a disrupted sense of time, and a steady decline into apathy. Psychologically deprived and financially bankrupt, they tended to be lonely, and isolated, hopeless and passive, yet prone to bursts of violence. The authors of Marienthal had hoped that future researchers would not have the experience they had. History has shattered that optimism. In the 1990s a researcher (Lobo) used investigations to study late career unemployment with particular focus on self, family and lifestyles (Lobo and Parker, 1999). The study found that: self concept and identity of the unemployed was damaged; the unemployed experienced adverse health effects; the impact on the family was profound; being unemployed was very different from having increased leisure time; engaging in serious leisure compensated for loss of paid work; and lifestyles in unemployment seen as active, social, domestic and passive were psychologically beneficial. The impacts of unemployment in Marienthal (1933) and the late carrier study in the 1990s are juxtaposed to demonstrate the universality of job loss.


Jahoda, M. Lazarfeld, P. F. & Ziesal, H. (1972). Marienthal: The sociography of an unemployed community. London: Tavistock.

 Lobo, F. & Parker, S. (1999). Late career unemployment: Impacts on self, family and lifestyles. Williamstown, Victoria: HM Leisure Planning.