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  1. the time free from work and routine domestic responsibilities and available for use in recuperation, relaxation, hobbies, recreation, and cultural and artistic pursuits.
  2. the activities occupying such ‘free time’.
Theorists of leisure (see C. Rojek, Capitalism and Leisure Theory 1985) have generally either stressed the ‘individual freedom’ involved in leisure, compared with work or family responsibilities, or they have emphasized the illusion of this freedom, identifying the constraints on free choice arising from domestic responsibilities (especially on women's leisure) and the way in which leisure is shaped by the constraints arising from consumer culture and capitalist society

Sociological interest in leisure grew in the 1980s. The sociology of leisure first developed out of INDUSTRIAL SOCIOLOGY in the 1950s during the era of‘affluence’ which also spawned theories of POSTINDUSTRIAL SOCIETY. Dubin (1955) even argued that leisure was replacing work as a ‘central life interest’. Subsequent research focused on exploration of the relationship between work and leisure (sec Parker, 1971; Roberts, 1970). This demonstrated the continued centrality of work and a complex pattern of work-leisure relations.

More recently an interest in leisure research has also emerged from two critical theoretical traditions: Marxist structuralism and radical cultural studies. Unlike earlier Marxist and ‘critical’ analysis of leisure, which tended to view leisure in modern society as largely ‘constrained’ by capitalism, these new approaches view leisure as a ‘contested’ sphere, characterized by increasing resistance to its commodification and standardization (see Home et al., 1987; Hall and Jefferson, 1976; Gruneau, 1983). Most recently leisure sociologists have embraced the many new issues raised by POSTMODERNITY AND POSTMODERNISM and by new interest in CONSUMER CULTURE. See also CULTURAL STUDIES, RESISTANCE THROUGH RITUAL.

Leisure, derived from the Latin licere ‘to be allowed’, shares a common root with ‘licence’. It thus contains within itself the dualism of freedom and control, individual agency and constraint, with which modern sociological theorists have been concerned. See also SPORT, PLAY, SOCIABILITY.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the portion of time not devoted to work that is left to the individual after he has performed essential nonproductive duties (going to and from work, sleeping, eating, and other forms of domestic self-service). The activity belonging to leisure may be conventionally divided into several interconnected groups. The first includes study and self-education in the broad sense of the word—that is, various forms of individual and group assimilation of culture, such as attending public performances, visiting museums, reading books and periodicals, listening to the radio, and watching television. Another rapidly developing group of leisure activities consists of amateur and public activity, including amateur studies and interests (hobbies), physical culture and sports, and tourism and excursions. Contact with other people occupies an important place in leisure and may involve lessons and games with children and meetings with friends (at home, in cafes, and at parties). A portion of leisure time is spent in passive rest. Socialist society struggles to exclude from leisure various phenomena of the so-called anticulture, such as alcoholism and antisocial behavior.

Marx considered free time a basic criterion of the wealth of communist society (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 46, part 2, p. 217), because it is a prerequisite for the comprehensive development of the personality. As the workweek becomes shorter and public catering establishments and public amenities develop and improve, leisure time increases. The growth and enrichment of leisure are accompanied by changes in its content, and there is a redistribution of the relative importance of its basic functions. To an ever-increasing degree, the sensible use of leisure restores the energy expended by an individual in productive activity and the performance of essential duties and contributes to his cultural and physical development. In the context of the scientific and technological revolution in socialist society, this restorative function of leisure acquires ever-increasing importance. By ensuring the continuing satisfaction of the physical and cultural needs of each individual, it promotes an increase in productivity at work, easier and more rapid assimilation of new professions, and full participation in the life of society.

In the process of the transition to communist society, greater attention is being devoted to the study and judicious organization of leisure.


Grushin, B. A. Svobodnoe vremia: Aktual’nye problemy. Moscow, 1967.


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