Free Time

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Free Time


the part of nonworking time (within a day, week, or year) that is left for a person, group, or society after various necessary expenditures of time. The total time of human activity is divided into work time proper, including additional labor for income, and nonworking time. Nonworking time, in turn, is divided into free time and occupied (nonfree) time.

Free time is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon in modern society. It reflects the fundamental characteristics of a particular society and is used in different, sometimes very contradictory ways. In the developed capitalist countries, the positive trend toward an increase in free time is accompanied by invariably negative trends to occupy leisure time with mass culture, antisocial behavior, such as alcoholism and crime, and other occupations characteristic of the ideals of a consumer-oriented society.

Under conditions of socialism, two basic functions of free time may be distinguished. The first is the restoration of a person’s strength after labor and other necessary activities, and the second is the individual’s physical and intellectual development, including ideological, cultural, and aesthetic aspects. The latter is becoming increasingly more important. With precisely this second function in mind, K. Marx said that time “remains free for pleasures, for leisure, and thus space opens up for free activity and development. Time is space for the development of capabilities” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 26, part 3, p. 264).

As a social and historical category, free time is characterized by amount, structure, and content. The amount depends above all on the length of the work time of a particular society and therefore on the total amount of nonworking time. Socialist society strives to shorten the workday. During the present phase of development, however, the amount of free time is largely determined by the time spent for certain necessary activities during nonworking time, above all for domestic needs and transportation. Therefore, the principal ways to increase the amount of free time involve developing and improving public service and introducing more suitable approaches to urban and industrial planning and population distribution.

The structure of free time may consist of as many as several dozen elements, depending on the aspect under consideration and the purposes of the analysis. In regard to activities affecting personality development, the structural elements of free time make up several very broad categories. These comprise creative activities, including volunteer public activity; education, and self-education; cultural (intellectual) consumption, both individual (reading newspapers, books, and the like) and social (going to films, theaters, museums). One may use free time as well for physical activities and sports, amateur activities, such as hobbies, activities and games with children, social activities, or passive rest. The structure of free time may include antisocial behavior, such as alcohol abuse. Thus, a given amount of free time may be structured in a progressive or less progressive manner. The principal ways to improve the structure of free time under socialist conditions are to increase the amount of free time, provide large-scale leisure facilities, and reach the working people more effectively through ideological and organizational work.

The content of free time includes the concrete actions of a person and their quality in connection with a particular activity. It is important that the content of free time be appropriate to the goals of the building of communism. This matter involves a long social process and depends on future change in the status of the individual in economic, political, and spiritual life, and, in particular, it means involving working people more extensively in creative political activity and social processes and generally developing mass culture.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 25, part 2.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33, p. 117.
Strumilin, S. G. Rabochii den’ i kommunizm. Moscow, 1959.
Prudenskii, G. A. Vremia i trud. Moscow, 1964.
Prudenskii, G. A. Problemy rabochego i vnerabochego vremeni. Moscow, 1972.
Grushin, B. A. Svobodnoe vremia: Aktual’nye problemy. Moscow, 1967.
Gordon, L. A., and E. V. Klopov. Chelovek posle raboty. Moscow, 1972.
Orlov, G. P. Svobodnoe vremia kak sotsiologicheskaia kategoriia. Sverdlovsk, 1973.
Anderson, N. Work and Leisure. London, 1961.
De Grazia, S. Of Time, Work, and Leisure. New York, 1962.
Dumazedier, J. Vers une Civilisation du loisir? Paris, 1967.
Dumazedier, J. Sociologie empirique du loisir. Paris, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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