How Leisure has become a Global Business. Is there an Alternative Future?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Kenneth ROBERTS, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Since 1989 capitalism – specifically the Anglo-American model of shareholder capitalism – has become global. Responses to the banking crisis of 2008-09 have intensified an ongoing squeeze on government spending on leisure as a public service. Governments all over the world are currently seeking to cap or at least restrain growthin their own spending in the face of rising demands for health care and pensions. Leisure spending is always vulnerable except when the spending can be treated as abusiness proposition, usually to be repaid by increased inward tourist numbers or media revenues. The voluntary leisure sector has been resilient despite claims and fears that people are becoming internet couches and going alone whenever they go out. However, like the cinema, the voluntary leisure sector has never recovered from the participation crash that accompanied the birth of the age of television. Throughout the subsequent years the growth of leisure spending by private consumers, especially the better-off, has continued remorselessly. This has enabled commerce to carve niches initially, then to become a major provider of leisure services which were once overwhelmingly voluntary or public services – broadcasting and sport, for example. This is how leisure has become aglobal business. The academic study of leisure began in the early- and mid-20th century when commerce was treated as the enemy of good leisure. Theories about a future ‘society of leisure’ that the sub-discipline produced envisaged a continuing growth of leisure time, not rampant consumerspending. Many leisure scholars have quit for more hospitable pastures. The sub-discipline has fragmented into specialisms, mainly sport which has tended to migrate into health faculties, and tourism and hospitality whichhave migrated into business studies. This paper asks whether there is an alternative future for the sociology of leisure and its scholars.