Leisure Studies in America and the quandary of the “experience economy”

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Justin Harmon, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: This study set out to explore the origins of leisure studies in the United States largely from the perspectives of eighteen veteran scholars in the field. Leisure studies, much like other fields of inquiry, is one that was born from parent disciplines in a somewhat haphazard manner when considered retrospectively. It is generally assumed that fields of study come into being to serve some specific problem or issue and do so in a multior interdisciplinary fashion. Because of the multiple, intertwining roots in parent disciplines, including anthropology, geography, history, political science, and sociology, coupled with the marriage of those schools of thought, issues of identity and purpose for fields of study remain in flux and contentious. Our primary purpose in undertaking this research was to better understand the original intents of a field that studied leisure. We sought to add clarity to an otherwise tumultuous and ambiguous understanding of the purpose of leisure studies from an historical context resulting in a stronger foundation for the future of the study of leisure. This is a strictly North American investigation. As each author and participant’s education and professional experience in leisure studies has taken place in the United States, we thought it best to keep our focus close to home. Secondly, we understand that much history exists in regard to the study of leisure; parent disciplines like sociology and anthropology had been studying the phenomena for decades before the field of leisure studies came into being. This is an investigation into origins and original intents, and from that starting point we hope to add some substance to the current state of the field and its items of inquiry, service, and education. To dismiss the history of the field or to evaluate it too critically would be a disservice to the future of the field and not allow for the potential to make greater impacts in the present and in the future. By showcasing how the idealized, values-laden visions of the classic texts served as guidelines for action in the field for early leisure scholars, we establish that the American field’s current drift towards the experience industry model not only adds to the issues of fragmentation in the field, but moves further away from its goals as a service industry intended to affect issues of civil, social, and environmental justice, to one that emphasizes bottom lines and ephemeral experiences. This paper serves as a “red flag” waving to those either aloof, apathetic, or encouraging of the sea change of the field in the United States.

Additional Information

International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure. doi: 10.1007/s41978-019-00041-3
Language: English
Date: 2019
Leisure, Origins, Experience economy, History, Leisure studies

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