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Conceptualization of the "Leisure Practices" in Modern Sociology

Ravochkin Nikita Nikolaevich

Doctor of Philosophy

Professor, Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences, Kuzbass State Technical University named after T.F. Gorbachev; Associate Professor, Department of Pedagogical Technologies, Kuzbass State Agricultural Academy

650000, Russia, Kemerovo region, Kemerovo, Vesennaya str., 28

Other publications by this author

Popov Evgeniy Aleksandrovich

Doctor of Philosophy

Professor, Department of Sociology and Conflictology, Altai State University

656049, Russia, Altai Krai, Barnaul, Lenin str., 61






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Abstract: In this paper, the authors consider in detail the current state of the conceptual dictionary of sociology. The phenomenon of leisure practices is chosen as the object of research. And the subject of the study is the conceptualization of the concept of "leisure practices" in modern sociology. The authors consider in detail the formation of leisure in social and humanitarian scientific knowledge, starting with ancient philosophical ideas. The evolution of leisure practices from ancient forms to modern varieties is traced. Classical and modern works of foreign and domestic authors relevant to the subject are chosen as theoretical bases. It is noted that today leisure practices are considered mainly through the prism of three methodological approaches: symbolic interactionism, structural functionalism and neo-Marxism. The authors argumentatively show that during their development leisure practices occupy an important place in the structure of human activity, since they are one of the most effective ways of personal development, forming its spiritual and physical qualities. Leisure needs are firmly embedded in the value system of all social groups, while the progressive development of world civilization suggests new options and versions of organizing and spending free time. As a special contribution of the topics raised by the authors of this study for the modern sociological discourse, the necessity of continuous research of leisure practices is laid due to their dynamic nature and because of their determinism by contextual realities. The author presents his own concept of leisure practices, taking into account their essential characteristics and allowing to go beyond the one-sided understanding of leisure, for example, such widespread as identical to free time.


leisure practices, individual, spare-time, society, needs, rest, stratification, identity, institute, self-realization

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In recent decades, leisure practices have increasingly come into the focus of researchers belonging to a variety of sciences, while the prevailing part of them is focused on the socio-humanitarian aspects of structuring free time. The stated clarification of the understanding of their study in sociology is required mainly to avoid unnecessary confusion of concepts in the theoretical and methodological aspect, whereas in a practical way leisure should be considered one of the significant grounds for the formation of personality and entire social groups, primarily through the activities of individuals in their free time.

It is characteristic that leisure practices are a dynamic phenomenon that is modified depending on changes in the basic and other foundations of social life, producing more and more new forms of human behavior and ways of self-expression. In one of the most common interpretations, leisure practices can be considered "as a recreational tool that allows, on the one hand, to restore intellectual, cultural and physical potential, on the other to develop the whole set of spiritual and physical qualities of a person, based on its socio-cultural needs" [5, p. 109].

The steady interest and formation of so-called "leisure-oriented" research areas in (inter)disciplinary fields of knowledge due to the penetration of leisure practices into all spheres of society's life activity self-evidently determines the need for systematization of theoretical approaches to their study. The constitution of the pluralism of leisure layers and subspaces in the social fabric is one of the many confirmations of the need to consider leisure in sociology, which is also closely related to many other sciences. For example, a sociological analysis of the everyday life of a single individual or group makes it possible for parallel research in cultural studies or economics, thereby leisure practices act as a kind of "polymorphic indicator" that allows you to diagnose various characteristics of society.

Perhaps, for the greater validity of this research, it is necessary to turn to the field of knowledge that is fundamental and fundamental for all others, namely, philosophy, because it was there that the problems of free time were laid down in Antiquity, and the dialectical contradiction "work leisure" was formulated by Aristotle, a prominent encyclopedist of the classical period of the development of intellectual thought. And although leisure practices existed long before the appearance of ancient Greek philosophical thought, and even without labeling their prevailing part as "primitive", it is in Antiquity that the axiological approach to understanding free time is clearly formed. At the same time, it should be pointed out that it was in the ancient world that the prototype of modern leisure took shape this is a purposeful activity of interest to individuals, which they are engaged in outside the home [18;19].

In our opinion, the appeal to Antiquity allows not only to expand the rich set of functions performed by leisure practices, but also from ancient times to recognize the self-sufficient and self-valuable nature of free time, which gives us every reason to believe leisure as the most important variable of social life. As Plato believed, leisure and the arts are the two cornerstones of an ideal state. The leisure of free ancient individuals demonstrated their belonging to at least some powerful groups, because, unlike unfree slaves, he also gave them true pleasure, joy and happiness [13]. The status attributed to leisure during Antiquity creates a whole leisure culture, concentrated mainly around intellectual pursuits. In this regard, the diversity of the socalled higher and cultivating intellectual leisure forms literary, mathematical, musical, sports, creative - is indicative, while everyday concerns are "small" and should be entrusted to others and from which it is necessary to distance oneself as much as possible, since such activities do not contribute to the self-improvement of a free person [23]. Probably, since the times of Ancient Greece and Rome, we have been receiving leisure as an applied philosophy of life, obviously facing the future and designed to design and implement constructive changes taking into account the existing value system.

The analysis of Aristotle's ideas gives us the opportunity to declare such a significant essential feature of leisure activity as meaningfulness. In contrast to the wasted time often observed in modern realities, Stagirite was convinced that leisure fully allows the human spirit to be realized in practice, and to do it in its higher spheres. Therefore, leisure is a completely targeted attitude, which, as it seems to us, is in unique, individually conscious, complex relationships with any kind of activity, capable of setting their logic and even determining the quality of its flow.

The value component of leisure, laid down by ancient thinkers, is also drawn in the fact that, being realized in an activity form, it is both a source of inspiration and a tool that gives meaning to activity and systematizes it. In particular, according to Aristotle, "leisure, obviously, already contains pleasure, happiness, and bliss in itself, and all this falls to the lot of not busy people, but people who use leisure" [18, p. 135]. If we take into account that in the Aristotelian understanding of leisure, a prominent place is given to the categories of endurance, courage, justice and a number of others, then the phenomenon in question appears to us in the form of a complex space in which a person striving for high pleasures must carefully approach the choice of certain practices. The study of ancient approaches allows us to draw an unambiguous conclusion: in order to enjoy leisure, it is necessary to study, because otherwise its high forms will be inaccessible to the individual, which means that he will in no way find the desired maxims of bliss, pleasure and happiness.

In the Middle Ages, leisure practices were imbued with the spirit of faith and were mainly associated with religious pictures of the world. However, as religion weakens as a regulator of social life, the existing diversity of leisure forms is also complemented by the transformation of leisure spaces. In the era of Modern Times in Europe, and even taking into account the rapidly unfolding processes of urbanization, the emergence of revolutionary cultural ideals and naturally entering into antagonistic relations with the old everyday traditions was associated with the emergence of new social groups against the background of the capitalization of social relations and modernization.

The emergence of sociological science and the first works devoted to the understanding of free time gives us the opportunity to formulate several important methodological observations. Firstly, according to T. Veblen, the unprecedented importance of leisure for the individual and society as a whole, depending on the forms of realization, is one of the most important criteria for the class stratification of society. Secondly, taking into account individual and collective preferences, leisure is a reliable means of structuring free time. There is no doubt that the function of leisure associated with the ordering of time plays an essential role for society, as a result of which its enduring importance is a diagnostic factor of any social institution. Finally, the comprehension of the analytical constructions of M. Weber and E. Durkheim, according to which, through leisure practices, people strive to restore strength and energy, transfer attention from real problems, develop imagination, rationalize their lives, but in no way crossing the boundaries between free time and laziness, gives us grounds to compare the level of leisure development with the stability of the institutional architectonics of a particular society. In this regard, sociology reacts to issues related to the desire to know the mechanisms and draw trends of social reproduction, which becomes possible only through thoughtful analysis of leisure practices as local processes and phenomena inextricably linked to the needs of individuals and specific social groups [2;7;13].

The formation of industrial, and then post-industrial models of society contributed to the fact that in the last century cardinal ontological changes were taking place, including concerning the format of leisure practices. As it has already become clear, Western sociological theory offered many descriptions of leisure practices. It is curious that the "Recreational Movement" that emerged in the 1900s in the USA understood leisure as a contextually independent phenomenon, but at the same time it sought to consider various types of activity "outside the home" in correlation with variables as significant for individuals as "freedom of choice" and "satisfaction". In general, it would be fair to note that American sociological associations sought to comprehend leisure in an empirical way, which has a completely pragmatic orientation, since it will allow various actors to solve specific tasks in a substantive way. In many ways, the rapid unfolding of sociological leisure research is associated with the development of cities and the emergence of guarantees in the field of labor activity, which, for example, are the introduction of an 8-hour working day and vacations, which increased the available amount of free time of working individuals [9].

The increase in the volume of research devoted to the study of leisure practices directly contributes to the institutionalization of leisure sociology as a separate branch of sociological science. This is not surprising, because it was from the second half of the twentieth century that numerous scenarios of post-industrial transit were launched, where leisure was given an important role both in social development and in attributive terms, which, in particular, can be seen in consumerist and post-labor models of society, as well as in the "leisure society": "Modern society within the framework of these The concepts were considered as a society in which labor is deprived of its former predominant importance, as a result of which the reduction of working time leads to an increase in the role of leisure, which, in turn, occupies the place that labor previously occupied. That is why leisure becomes the main basis of a person's identity and the most important vital interest" [21, p. 3]. At the same time, it should be noted that the "leisure society" is only one of the predictive models of the future appearance of the world, so this concept is only a scenario version, but not a fait accompli.

D. Gabor believed that the inevitable practical embodiment of a leisure society instead of the other two, in our opinion, pessimistic scenarios (nuclear war or overpopulation) is much more dangerous, because mentally in the contextual conditions of the post-war world, humanity is simply not ready for its large-scale deployment. At the same time, in the Western world, this version of post-industrial society was supposed to be embodied literally within the lifetime of one generation, but a significant inhibition is associated with transaction costs incurred by the functioning of other social institutions [28].

In turn, opponents of the dominant role of leisure among other institutions of public life directly pointed to the obvious utopian nature of the implementation of this scenario. American sociologists J. Kelly and T. Kando believed that the supporters of the "leisure society" underestimate, or even completely neglect, social and political conflicts, environmental problems, the reduction in the production of goods and the development of the real sector of the economy and its structural shifts. In turn, S. De Grazia emphasized that the illusory nature of the "leisure society" is associated with the fact that permanent residence in leisure practices may be characteristic of a very small number of the world's population. At the same time, he pointed out that leisure allows a person to improve his intellectual or moral abilities, which are vital so that people can serve society [27; 29; 30].

It turns out that the increased attention of sociologists to leisure research was dictated by socio-cultural changes. The development of popular culture is another obvious driver of the formation of leisure sociology, which also makes it possible to discover the interrelationships of leisure practices with other social institutions. Attention is drawn to the French tradition, in which J. Dumazedieu proposed a very interesting sociological interpretation of leisure as an area of "the production of new social values due to its free, unselfish, hedonistic and personal nature" [9, p. 157]. Leisure is also conditioned by the needs of the individual in the individualization of his own activity, which finally makes it possible to establish his closest connection with the activity approach. At the same time, any activity of an individual proceeds at its own discretion, which allows us to interpret leisure as one of the options for social time. But at the same time, another thing is curious this is the understanding of leisure as some residual time in the total budget of an individual's time, depending, of course, on his priorities [9]. Although it would not be superfluous to cite multiple cases when the axiological modes of personality are so vulgarized that the traditional priorities of family and work become so insignificant that certain individuals prefer to build around themselves the so-called "leisure reality", the content of which in no way defies common sense explanations.

Reflecting on the situation presented above, we believe that such shifts in the hierarchy of values are explained by the predominance of emotions necessary for the subject in the implementation of leisure practices, rather than in routine activities. On this occasion, the founder of the game concept J. Huizinga argues that the value of leisure is due to autonomy from other spheres of life, as well as the macro-textual framework, which unwittingly assigns a secondary, essentially auxiliary, role to the sphere in question, among other practices that seem to be more significant for humanity [24]. Leisure also received its fundamental study in the concept of R.A. Stebbins, who emphasized that active or passive leisure includes short-term happiness, brings pleasure, allows you to relax, contributes to the optimization of socialization [20, pp. 61-64]. According to the scientist, serious leisure, in addition to pleasure and recreation, can contribute to the formation of new skills, meets the goals of personal self-realization, self-enrichment. In addition, the importance of leisure practices for the individual is associated with the acquisition of identity: "The fewer opportunities for self-expression daily life gives, the more leisure is designed to perform this function. Important, especially for young people, is the ability of leisure to support social integration and control" [9, p. 159].

The construction of a person's own identity is one of the most important structural elements in symbolic interactionism. In particular, I. Hoffman attached great importance to the performance of everyday life, for which individuals use a variety of props that somehow change their image. Every person goes on stage and strives to collect, and then broadcast to others the same, as they say today, the "best" version of himself. However, it should always be remembered that absolutely any individual hides or distorts his image, deliberately not bringing to the subjects in contact with him the data that, according to the author of his ideal model, they simply should not know about him. S. Shaw noted the mental nature of leisure, and its genesis is seen by him in intersubjective interactions. Leisure, in his opinion, is a function of an individual's skills to symbolically transform the interpretation of these connections with others. Therefore, the extracted meanings can always be modified and normalized, but only in cases when they are legitimized by other participants of interactions [4;22;31].

From the standpoint of sociology, leisure is also considered in a structural and functional approach. As is well known, "in structural functionalism, institutions act as parts of the social structure. But in addition to the actual functional component, they attach great importance to the status-role system <...> the institute acts as a means of satisfying needs through the fulfillment of the set of functions inherent in it for the book survival of societies. T. Parsons' institutions appear as part of a cultural subsystem and normative standards of behavior and represent universal normative models that define permitted and prohibited behaviors of people in all the variety of social interactions" [16, p. 23]. In the logic of representatives of this sociological trend, the leisure institute performs a number of functions in society that ensure the integrity of the social system, allowing overcoming numerous contradictions.

E. Gross expressed the opinion that leisure, as well as work, are not only two spheres of activity of individuals, but also act as mechanisms for preserving, maintaining and broadcasting cultural patterns, and also contribute to socialization through the assimilation of socially approved norms and rules of behavior by a person. S. Parker's concept of leisure deserves attention. He believes that the integrity of the system and its solidarization through leisure practices is ensured from the position that should be considered not from the position of the amount of time spent on it, a la compensation of time resources devoted to work, but exclusively take into account the quality of leisure activities, which have mainly a creative orientation [22].

The third sociological concept of modernity studying leisure practices is the neo-Marxist one. Recall that in Marx's works, leisure was understood as "free time, which is both leisure and time for higher activities, of course, turns the one who possesses it into another subject, and as this other subject he then enters into the direct process of production" [11, p. 221]. The German thinker highly appreciated the role of free time in individual and general social terms, by analogy with ancient philosophers, believing that it is primarily necessary for intellectual development, as well as interpersonal communication and the performance of certain social functions.

Without departing from the "workleisure" dichotomy, neo-Marxists believe that capitalism determines the nature of both structural elements. Kritcher comes to the following conclusion: "Under the guise of the need to preserve public order, the state imposes on individuals the necessary ways of spending leisure time, which gradually becomes subordinate to the state and the capitalist system supported by it, losing elements of freedom and choice, becoming like paid work" [22, p. 451]. Also, these sociologists do not forget about one of the key Marxist categories, which is "class". We agree with Clark and Kritcher that the uneven distribution of resources is a dispositional prerequisite for unequal leisure activities by representatives of different social groups. Thus, the possession of financial resources and education of a middle-level manager and a second-year student will be a sufficient reason for the fact that the content of their leisure practices will be radically different, unless, of course, the first of them wants to remember his student years, and the second will not be an accidental guest at a high-level event [26]. In addition, their emotional aftertaste will also be significantly different. The theorists of the Frankfurt School paid special attention to the mass culture we have already noted. At the same time, in relation to leisure, they also include in their research optics the development of the technical sphere involved in the creation and improvement of mass communication media. Thanks to these two tools, the distribution of political ideas used by power actors to reproduce the necessary social order takes place in society. Choice is a manipulatively created illusion, since individuals choose only from what is offered by those who are engaged in creating cultural symbols. Thus, the values and meanings embedded in the leisure industry serve the interests of large economic agents, which subsequently opens up wide opportunities for population control and familiarization with the ever-increasing consumption of mass culture products [15;17].

In the domestic discourse, studies of leisure practices were conducted, for example, by G.A. Prudensky, but taking into account the predominance of the ideological component in the Soviet period of the development of social science, their functionality was seen exclusively in restoring strength for labor feats necessary for the construction of communism [14]. It should be recognized that to date, Russian sociology has not yet developed its own conceptual programs and conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of leisure practices have not been formed. This is largely due to the fact that leisure was often included in the context of larger-scale projects related, for example, to the comprehension of lifestyle [3]. Russia is not isolated from the rest of the world and the influence of megatrends and multidimensional processes that complicate the descriptions of an already ambiguous and difficult to predict social reality. Yes, as in many (macro) regions, numerous changes have taken place in Russian society, which constituted a number of contradictions. However, it is impossible not to note the increase in the value of leisure practices in national conditions. Perhaps, the study of an individual's everyday life opens up broad analytical possibilities for solving pressing problems, and sociological leisure studies would give an answer in terms of understanding the general well-being of fellow citizens. In the economy, the trajectories of movement towards impressions, creativity and emotions are already clearly outlined, and the management of the successful experience of the capital and megacities will, as we believe, offer some cognitive grounds for improving the well-being of the country's population.

Let's focus on some definitions of leisure offered by domestic authors. E. I. Drobinskaya believes that leisure "literally means the opportunity to do something, i.e. it is an activity through which a person restores the ability to work and self-improvement" [6, pp. 7-8]. Leisure can also be considered as "a multidimensional social phenomenon, as a concept of formation, saving, popularization and consumption of moral values, generally recognized ethical norms, knowledge, as well as various symbols and meanings" [8, p. 12], as the exercise of unoccupied time by a person in accordance with established traditions and practices. However, in the domestic humanitarian scientific knowledge, one of the most common interpretations of "leisure" is the following: a part of an individual's non-working time, which remains after deducting from the total time budget the various costs necessary for a person to reproduce vital functions and meet physiological needs [12, p. 96].

The organization of leisure activities is a purposeful process of modeling conditions for "a motivated choice of a person's subject activity and as a perceptual and communicative process (perception and communication) determined by her needs and interests and contributing to the assimilation, preservation, production and dissemination of spiritual and material values in the field of leisure" [1, p. 3]. The ability to spend leisure time It is a multi-level personality quality, which is reflected in the ability to constructively, fruitfully use their free time, enjoy the selected activities, constantly raise the level of spiritual needs, create new cultural values. The ability to constructively use their free time in this way turns into a system-forming quality of personality [8, p. 13].

Understanding leisure practices as directed processes indicates that their purpose is to attract and incorporate an individual to very specific cultural norms and patterns through active recreation, entertainment, communication or some kind of creative activity. There is no doubt that any leisure acts as a correlate of individually or collectively modeled felicitous life. The forms and content of cultural and leisure activities are formed within the framework of cultural representations of specific social groups, and even taking into account individual, age and other needs and interests [12, pp. 96-97]. It is self-evident that such projective ideas about the realization of the necessary culture-creating potential appropriately require a thoughtful research approach, which would also allow us to go beyond an unnecessarily one-sided understanding.

In general, unprecedented transformations of the leisure sphere and the formation of a new socio-cultural situation have already dictated the need to create some typologization in the study of leisure practices in national and regional empirical contexts. Taking into account the three most authoritative sociological approaches in foreign discourse, the so-called "new" history of leisure is being formed right now, within which researchers are moving away from descriptions of entertainment practices that are remote from our time and the creation of narratives about free time in certain historical epochs. A.S. Khodnev shows that modern leisure researchers strive to link the features of consumption in connection with the consequences of the unfolding of new economies, behavioral characteristics of groups and classes, the formation of identity all that sociologists seek to understand the essence of leisure practices and conduct their theoretical and empirical approaches in the logic of convergence [25].

In general, the acceleration of the socio-economic development of society with the accompanying changes have updated the problems of free time in a new way. In fact, the change of ideological attitudes against the background of the transformations that took place contributed to the institutionalization of free time. One can rely on the theoretical constructs of pragmatism and in the spirit of the present era, declare that modern man is permanently in a state of making a choice, and much more complex than the rapidly archaizing binary oppositions. It is reasonable to believe that the restructuring of social foundations and the constitution of a fundamentally new environment are interconnected with the transformations of the existence of a modern person, who from now on can hardly count on passive participation in intersubjective interactions and identify previous behavioral patterns as a condition for achieving success in life. The search for other options for responding to current proposals determines the use of an individual's free time in no other way than "smart", harmonizing absolutely all areas of his activity. Leisure practices designed in such a logic significantly make the desired "opportunities for successful solution of tasks of self-realization, self-determination, the formation of responsiveness to social problems, the ability to gain new social experience" more realistic for an individual [10, p. 69].

The development of leisure practices and the leisure sphere itself are closely intertwined with the level of needs of the population and the complexity of the life of a particular society. The changes in the meanings of human existence that have taken place in recent decades have affected dynamic socio-cultural variables, primarily history, freedom, and labor. That is why leisure itself acts as a separate tool influencing the reformatting of habitual social ties, setting and resolving all new layers of various kinds of problems.

Everyday experience through its interactions with the rapidly changing socio-cultural environment before our eyes instrumentally allows the researcher to see the approved intentions of individuals. Leisure activity, as already mentioned, is a complex mechanism, the launch of which allows you to diagnose a whole range of problems associated with numerous attempts to acquire an individual and entire groups of their own identity. It is the progressive introduction to new activities in specific groups and under certain restrictions that contributes to highlighting completely different forms of self-realization.

An illustrative example is the pluralism of the available options for organizing leisure practices in cities and rural settlements. The widest possible representation in urbanized territories, and even constantly replenished with new forms, leads to the emergence of new needs and emotions from their satisfaction, while rural residents are content with a relatively unchangeable set of available services that hardly correspond to those representations of interesting free time created by modern media. In this understanding, one important detail is seen, which leads to legitimate questions: "And do leisure practices of the second type correspond to such essential features as self-development and creativity, do they carry positive emotions and how can this be related to freedom of choice?".

Once again, the strong determinative impact of contextual realities on leisure practices is confirmed, which permanently change their content and structure not only on a planetary scale, but also on a local scale, in this case, urban or rural. Accordingly, in the coordinates of urban space, leisure is one of the intensively developing areas, which, to a greater extent than in other localities, differentiates the population, for example, by activity or status due to the maximum representation of possible options for structuring individuals of their free time.

In conclusion, we note that today it is necessary to follow a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon under consideration, the essence of which, in our opinion, can be most fully reflected in the following concept: "Leisure practices" are activities carried out in free time and in some sociocultural environment by an individual or groups that are not related to the main activity, aimed at self-development and increasing creative potential and contributing to a more accurate understanding of people's own identity.

Leisure is the most important aspect of the life of a modern person. Currently, interest in this area is associated with those ontological shifts in society and the substantial wealth of leisure practices themselves. Leisure needs are firmly embedded in the value system of all social groups, while the progressive development of world civilization involves new options and versions of organizing and spending free time. Today, it is legitimate to talk about the leisure industry, within which, perhaps, each individual, depending on their needs, their own capabilities and expecta-tions, can find formal and informal ways to introduce certain practices. In this regard, the identity that allows you to find leisure as such is indicative. Sociocultural differentiation as one of the functions of leisure practices makes it possible to clarify the status of each individual.