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leisure (DOC)


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									                                                              Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

Discuss the ways in which different social groupings have had greater
access and opportunities for leisure as a result of changing social values
and conditions in Britain since 1950. Make particular reference to one sport
case study and one non-sporting leisure practice

Britain has changed considerably over the past fifty years and so has the ways in

which we choose to use our leisure time. Firstly, though, in order to examine how

our recreational opportunities have enhanced we must define the term leisure.

Comparative sociological research into leisure is relatively sparse due to the

difficulties surrounding the term itself. Many sociologists have attempted to explain

what leisure is with varying outcomes. Parker and Dumazedier (1978), for example,

see leisure time as „time free from work‟. Soule, meanwhile, considers leisure to be

„unpaid time‟, but this theory ignores other chores and necessities such as

housework and sleeping, neither of which would be accepted by many as a leisure

activity as we know it today. Brightbill goes one step further by suggesting that

leisure is any activity which is not required for existence and subsistence. He argues

that during leisure time our feelings of obligation should be minimal; this is true

leisure time where we choose exactly what we want to do, be it sitting in front of a

television or running a marathon. There is also such a thing as „enforced leisure‟, a

period of free time imposed upon an individual through illness or employment etc.

Leisure was easily recognisable in the 1800s but industrialisation brought about

confusion. For the first time, employers demanded results as Britain turned into a

consumerist society. Whereas before work and leisure overlapped, work time became

strictly for work. New rules came into the workplace, such as no drinking alcohol

which had previously been commonplace and perfectly acceptable. Common

absenteeism such as Saint Monday was scrapped. As a result, leisure time took on a

                                                              Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

whole new significance. Clarke and Critcher (1985) argued that industrialisation

served to make class differences into social behaviour instead of being contained in

politics and economy. Now people would be categorised by their out-of-work

activities as much as the job they did.

Leisure time decreased in the 1840s as society changed, particularly for the working

class who found themselves working long, unsocialable hours in factories. Not only

did the working classes now have less time to participate in their leisure activities,

laws were passed to restrict their pastimes such as the anti-cock-fighting bill which

prohibits anyone from anyone from keeping any wild, exotic, ferocious, dangerous or

vicious animal for display or for exhibition purposes. The working class, lacking the

funds (and maybe the will) to participate in the upper class leisure pursuits, were

driven back to the pubs for some heavy drinking sessions. Public houses were easily

accessible and a relatively cheap form of entertainment.

But eventually industrialists realised that over-work could be counter-productive and

more free time was introduced. As industrialist Edward Atkinson put it, “When the

operation of the machine tends to relieve the operation of all thought, the man who

tends it risks becoming a machine, well oiled and cared for, but incapable of

independent life”. Working hours were reduced with half Saturdays and Bank

Holidays introduced. Working class wages rose by 50%, meaning that the majority

now had more time and more disposable income to live a life away from the

workplace. Other improvements also occurred including better food standards and

more accessible transport, allowing people to move around to either play or watch

the sport of their choice.

                                                              Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

Leisure really took off in the 1960s as the government started to play a much

greater role as a way of increasing health. Physical Education was written in the

national curriculum and youngsters were encouraged to take up sport at a young

age. Exercise and particularly spending free time with the family was emphasised.

Car ownership increased massively which opened up new doors for most.

However, though disposable income increased across the board, so did the extent of

inequality in the income distribution and this, of course, meant that not everyone

could participate in the same leisure activities. This led to the working classes

changing leisure to suit their own values and interests. Whilst leisure time for the

middle and upper classes may consist of an afternoon on the golf course, leisure for

the working class is more likely to be sitting infront of the television. Speaking about

the TV revolution, Hill said: “TV is one of the most private of leisure forms,

something which has helped to secure the home as a social institution for all the

family.” It is the convenience and accessibility of television which has made it so

popular in Britain‟s culture. Over 90% of the population owned at least one television

by the 1970s.

The leisure of some groups was restricted more than others. Young unmarried

women, for example, found themselves hit particularly hard because of their lack of

money. Money was, and remains, the overriding determining factor of leisure


Reviewing the changes that have occurred in leisure over the last fifty years, Critcher

and Bramham (2004) conclude that the analysis of Clarke and Critcher (1985)

stands the test of time. Changes in the labour market have been such that increasing

productivity and wealth have failed to produce the anticipated increase in leisure

                                                                Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

time, but have resulted in a growing division between those with highly skilled and

paid and pressurised jobs and the casualised and marginalised. Moreover, changes in

family and household structures and patterns of child-bearing and rearing have not,

Critcher and Bramham argue, dislodged the family or household unit as the major

site for leisure.

Leisure and unpaid work are exercised differently between the sexes. Many studies

have shown that, even when both partners are working, women still make a

significantly greater contribution to domestic tasks and men appear to have a

greater ability to preserve their leisure time than women. On average, women spend

two hours thirty minutes a day doing housework such as cooking, cleaning and

ironing – one hour thirty minutes more than men. DIY and car maintenance are the

only chores that men spend more time on than women. Overall, men have an extra

half hour of free time each day than women but the way in which they use this time

varies. Men tend to spend more time watching TV and listening to the radio whereas

women spend more time socialising and reading.

There are also differences in leisure opportunities between the classes. Low income

families simply do not have the same opportunities as those with more disposable

money. Jetting off to Australia for two weeks of deep sea diving is accessible to

some, but not the majority. Other pursuits, such as visiting the cinema, are now

affordable for most. There is contemporary evidence of the exclusion of the working

class in sport in the ongoing argument over football ticket prices. Many argue that

rising prices, which now go up to £50 per game, exclude the traditional working-

class football fan, creating a whole new culture on the terraces. Clarke and Critcher

argue that “leisure is a large site of social conflict as it creates and reinforces

differences in class, age, gender and race”. They observe the isolation of the lower

                                                                Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

classes as the upper classes create their own forms of leisure, “purposefully

enforcing rules which alienate the lower classes”. Moreover, the sporting heroes of

today live lavish lifestyles and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the lower

classes to identify themselves with the stars as they once could.

Furthermore, the culture of some sports has progressed in a way which excludes the

lower classes. A member of the working class, for example, may not feel comfortable

about going to play or watch a polo game, traditionally an upper class pursuit. It

could be argued that the upper classes emphasise their status in polo with the

clothes they wear and the language they use, thus deliberately excluding others from

the hobby. However, with increased standards of living for the majority and

increased wages, class boundaries are no longer as obvious as they once were and it

has been suggested that we are all middle class in 2006.

There is also evidence to suggest that working class participation sport is lower than

middle class and upper classes, partly due to longer working hours. Many find

themselves too tired to play sport after a day of labouring. The working class are

also still more likely to smoke and drink which will inevitably have a negative effect

on sport participation.

Age, too, plays an important role in leisure. It is often assumed that the elderly have

lots of leisure time due to the fact that they are usually out of education and out of

work. However, everyday chores become harder with age and this alone restricts

time available for true leisure. That said, as health increases and people live longer,

physical activity amongst the retired is on the up. Many are members of gyms and

local authorities have tried to promote participation with schemes such as free

swimming for the over sixties. In „Sport Leisure and Culture in Twentieth Century

                                                                Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

Britain‟ Jeffrey Hill argues that the elderly were once deliberately portrayed by the

media as incapable of living a decent lifestyle as they were a burden on the welfare

system. This prejudice has now ceased, encouraging the older generations to go out

and enjoy their latter years.

Youngsters today have a good choice of leisure activities, ranging from outdoor

pursuit holidays in school to numerous cinemas, but this wasn‟t always the case.

Previously youths hadn‟t been thought of as a separate group, indeed the word

„teenager‟ didn‟t emerge until the 1940s. It was now appreciated that youngsters

had their own set of interests and, more importantly, they now had far more money

to spend. Businesses quickly picked up on these fatter allowances as teenagers

found themselves in decent jobs. A cultural phenomena occurred, further fuelled by

new emerging artists such as Elvis and other cultures such as drugs and sexual

behaviour. Today much emphasis is put on getting children into sport from a young

age as we become more and more aware of the value of living a healthy lifestyle.

There are thousands of sports clubs across the country available to youngsters, yet

the majority of their time is still used on computer games and in front of the


Race and ethnicity played a big role in leisure in the 1960s as more immigrants came

into the country. Different races, for example, had their own separate cinemas.

Though different races will always have different leisure interests, they are far more

integrated today, though to suggest that racism in British sport is dead would be


It is clear that the leisure we choose is directly affected by our social position,

consciously or subconsciously. Some pastimes, though, have been more accessible

                                                              Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

than others. The cinema has been a favourite leisure activity in Britain for a century

and has gone some way to holding the country together. In 2004 26% of the UK

population attended the cinema more than once a month, 68% of who are 7-34

years old. When moving images first became a reality in the early 1900s, cinema

screens were used to give news updates to the people. Technology has since

progressed and this is no longer necessary, but millions still flock to the big screens

for the latest films. Cinema is one the most accepting of leisure pursuits, attracting

people from all social backgrounds regardless of class, age, race or gender. We no

longer have separate cinemas dependent on race, everyone sits together and it is

now a legal stipulation that all public buildings must have easy access for the


In 1960 there was a relaxation of censorship laws which, Hill notes, “brought an end

to the representation of class and gender on screen". This probably would‟ve seen an

increase in the industry had it not been for the massive increase of TV ownership.

This, some sociologists argue, helped to restore the home as the social institution of

the family and one which all could participate in. “This is an example of how leisure

can act as an agent for change in individuals lives” (Hill). Cinema audiences have

since increased again and globalization means we can now watch films from around

the world, the rise of „Bollywood‟ the prime example.

Britain is very much shaped around leisure and sport in particular. The sport of your

choice is likely to be influenced by your social standing. In his book “Cricket” (1989)

Williams recognises how cricket was linked with the class system: “Through the

twentieth century cricket has been inseparably intertwined with the class system and

its history does much to make clear the changing nuances of social relationships

within Britain”. It was first a game for the peasants but gradually became an upper

                                                              Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

class recreation as an abundance of time and money were required to play. Rugby

and football were easier to fit into a working week compared with cricket which can

last three days. Cricket was also seen as a way of binding the British Empire


Despite tough opposition, cricket became commercialised and professional and,

though it is still thought of as a middle class, gentleman‟s game to an extent, it is

now more open and we have seen a number of black English cricketers. The summer

victory over Australia put cricket back into the limelight and the whole country

appeared to acquire a strong sense of patriotism overnight from all sorts of

backgrounds. One of the most refreshing sights was the range of age amongst the

supporters. With many county games taking place midweek and over three or four

days, usually only the retired and the unemployed have the luxury of attending

matches. Sponsorship deals and television deals have transformed the sport to

produce new, exciting spectacles for the modern day. The Twenty-Twenty matches

are played in less than three hours, from 5:30pm to 8:15pm, and aim to pull in the


Cricket has become more accessible to a wider range of people as society becomes

ever more accepting. There is now a recognised cricket league for the blind and the

physically disabled as well as women‟s leagues across the country. The idea of

women in the sport was initially frowned upon by some, including English cricketing

legend WG. Grace, who “did much to transform Victorian cricket into a full scale

spectator entertainment” (Standiford, 1994). Grace claimed that women weren‟t

constitutionally adapted to the sport.

                                                             Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

In conclusion, how we spend our leisure time is greatly affected by our lifestyles and

values. Money is the biggest influence on leisure opportunities, but there is plenty of

evidence to suggest that the choice is increasing and as people obtain greater

disposable income and more time off work.


Word Count: 2512


Brightbill, C.K. (1960) The Challenge of Leisure. Englewood-Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall

Clarke, J. & Critcher, C. (1985) The Devil Makes Work. London, Macmillan

Hill, J. (2002) Sport, Leisure and Culture in the Twentieth Century. Basingstoke, Palgrave

Horne, J., Tomlinson A. and Whannel G. (1999) Understanding Sport. An introduction to the
Sociological and Cultural Analysis of Sport. London, Routledge

Kando,T. (1980) Leisure and Popular Culture in Transition. St Louis, C.V. Mosby

Parker, S. (1983) Leisure and Work. London, George Allen & Unwin

Sandiford, K (1994) Cricket and the Victorian. Aldershot, Scolar Press

Stockdale, J. (1985) What is Leisure? An Empirical Analysis of the Concept of Leisure
and the Role of Leisure in People‟s Lives. London, The Sports Council & ESRC

Williams, J (1989) Cricket, Sport in Britain – A Social History, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press.

Williams, J (2001) Cricket and Race. London, Berg Publishers


Sociology of Sport

                                                            Sean Wozencroft (LE112)

Work, Leisure and Well-being (British Journal of Guidance & Counselling : Vol. 33,
No. 1, Febtuary 2005) : John Haworth & Suzan Lewis






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