I Studied People Who Think Leisure Is a Waste of Time – Here’s What I Found

Yves here. I have to confess to being one of those people who really does not get much pleasure out of “leisure” save I love sleeping and have terrific dreams. Exercise is physical maintenance. It’s another flavor of work. I’ve never been any good at sports (to the degree that trying to engage in them would get me injured), I don’t like games, and can’t relate to the concept of picking up a hobby. But since I have no free time, what to do with it doesn’t come up as an issue.

I also believe that the author is way off base in trying to attribute causality here, that people who have a negative view of leisure are therefore stressed. Feeling you have to or are expected to do what others regard as fun….because convention, because relationship, because family…is draining, not energizing, since you have to pretend to be enjoying if you are not to cause friction and make matters worse.

Finally, the study methodology the author used is highly questionable. People lie on surveys about their preferences all the time. This survey may well have been accidentally sorting for agreeability. Agreeable people are more social and get less bothered about doing thing for the sake of pleasing others, so they’d tend to report themselves as liking to engage in more activities than not agreeable people. A not agreeable person might also discern the purpose of the study (which a little too obviously seems to be “What is wrong with those people who can’t have a good time? You’re supposed to like doing this fun stuff!”) as annoying and presumptuous and would fight with it in their responses. Making me play a game like Tetris as part of a study would piss me off.

Put it another way, I’m not sure a marketing professor should be taking a stab at psychology.

By Selin Malkoc, Associate Professor of Marketing, The Ohio State University. Originally published at The Conversation

When I first took my now-husband to Turkey, I tried to prepare myself for anything that could go wrong – delayed flights, language difficulties, digestion issues.

But I wasn’t ready when, as we walked into a beautiful beach club on the Aegean coast, he grumbled, “What are we going to do?”

“What do you mean?” I said. “Lie down, enjoy the sun and the sea.”

“But what about the things to do – beach volleyball, Frisbees, water sports?”

“There isn’t any of that. We’re just here to relax.”

“There isn’t any of that. We’re just here to relax.”

This was the first time I got a sense of our cultural differences. He’s American and I’m Turkish. He needed to “do stuff.” I wanted to chill. Over the years, he became better at relaxing – more Turkish, if you will.

But I started noticing all the ways the imperative to “do stuff” kept marching along in the U.S.

It morphed and migrated into pithy catchphrases like YOLO – “you only live once” – and “rise and grind.” I saw it in the way people bragged about how busy they were, as if it were a badge of honor. And I noticed it in the rise of “hustle culture,” or the collective urge to get as much done in as little time as possible, while always keeping an eye on the next opportunity.

Underlying all of it is the belief that resting or relaxing is a waste of time.

I wondered: How might these attitudes influence people’s well-being? And are some cultures more likely than others to promote such beliefs?

Ruining All the Fun

In a series of new studies I conducted with fellow marketing professors Gabbie Tonietto, Rebecca Reczek and Mike Norton, we took a stab at finding some answers.

In one study, 141 undergraduate students participated at our behavioral lab at the Ohio State University. They arrived to complete a series of surveys in which we asked them the extent to which they agreed with certain statements – “Time spent on leisure activities is often wasted time,” “Most leisure activities are a way to burn time” – that measured whether they endorsed the idea that leisure is pointless.

During these otherwise monotonous and tedious studies, participants watched four funny and popular YouTube videos that were rated entertaining by a different set of participants. After watching all four videos, participants indicated how much they enjoyed them.

We found that participants who believed leisure to be wasteful didn’t enjoy the videos as much.

In a follow-up study, we asked participants to indicate how much they enjoyed engaging in a variety of leisurely experiences – some active, like exercising, and some passive, like watching TV. Others were social – hanging out with friends – or solitary, such as meditating.

We found that those who viewed leisure as wasteful tended to get less enjoyment out of all of the different types of activities. Furthermore, these people were also more likely to be stressed, anxious and depressed.

An Attitude That’s Tough to Shake

In a different study, we wanted to see the extent to which this was a uniquely American phenomenon. So we recruited participants from France, the U.S. and India – countries chosen for being low, medium and high, respectively, on Hofstede’s industry-indulgence dimension, which captures the extent to which a given culture is work-oriented and values self-reliance.

We asked them to indicate the degree to which they agreed with the idea that leisure is wasteful. Consistent with the prevailing stereotypes, there were far fewer French participants who believed that leisure was wasteful compared to American and, especially, Indian ones.

But French people who held a negative view of leisure were as likely to be stressed, anxious and depressed as their American and Indian counterparts. So while Americans and Indians might more readily believe that leisure is wasteful, the consequences of holding this belief are universal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a pronounced effect on the way we live, work and socialize. During this period, many people have taken a step back and reevaluated their priorities.

We wondered whether people’s attitudes toward leisure had shifted. Since we had data from both pre- and post-pandemic studies, we were able to compare the two.

To our surprise, we didn’t find any evidence of these beliefs declining after the pandemic.

To us, this revealed how entrenched the belief that leisure is wasteful can be.

Another study affirmed it. In this one, participants read an article that either discussed the efficacy of coffee makers or described leisure in one of three possible ways: wasteful, unproductive or productive. Participants then played the video game Tetris for five minutes and told us how enjoyable it was. We found that those who read an article describing leisure as wasteful and unproductive didn’t enjoy the game as much as those who read about leisure being productive or read about coffee makers.

However, describing leisure as productive didn’t increase enjoyment beyond its baseline levels. So it appears that framing leisure as productive – say, as a good way to manage stress or recharge your batteries – doesn’t increase how much people enjoy leisure.

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  1. Terry Flynn

    Agree with your points Yves except the last one. Having learnt the statistics of limited dependent variables models largely from academic marketing professors, I concluded they were often the best at understanding “real” psychological phenomena and the tricks subjects engage in, together with the biases that might underlie these studies.

    The only psychologists who “get” the underlying models tend to come from the highly specialised branch of mathematical psychology, which used designs like latin squares which due to symmetry made it impossible for partipants to guess the real aim of the study. This is partly why so many applied psychology studies have failed the reproducibility test – researchers vulnerable to crapification. Designs that don’t protect against participant “gaming” and misinterpretation of results due to lack of understanding of the statistical tools being used.

    I trust top marketing and math psych studies. I usually ignore average applied psychology studies. In the UK psychology is the new “media studies A level” being an interesting subject that anyone can get into for their last two years of secondary school. Since most of these people are innumerate they are being conned into taking a subject that’ll give them no job or one which v quickly throws them out once it’s shown they don’t understand how to design a proper experiment.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As the author describes her approach, it sounds as if she simply asked them to score how much they liked various activities. And I am familiar with what in my day was called conjoint analysis, and this does not sound like that or any other sort of forced or reveled preferences method.

      To your point about psychologists, I met one in Oz, and she mentioned that she only used “well validated instruments” in her work, and it was pretty clear that she found damned few of them.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Yep gotcha. Incidentally, there is a “story” behind the naming of conjoint analysis and its successors. The main commercial provider (USA) of CA consultancy found itself in trouble when that method (purely deterministic method is separating total utility into utility associated with its components) was rapidly eclipsed by what the entire non-North American world called discrete choice experiments – probabilistic.

        To preserve their existing client base aforementioned US company called DCEs “choice-based conjoint”. My boss (American) saw through this and one of his lifelong quests was to kill any term including CA. He was honest enough in courses to admit his CA for Qantas circa 1981 was rubbish since he never understood probabilistic decision making til he mixed with math psych people.

        To this day you have DCEs/CBC being synonymous and you must use the latter in North America despite the fact it really makes no sense except in a sense of a company keeping clients and upgrading their client plans. The generic term “stated preference studies” arose in Oz and though it can lack specific info as to WHAT type of SP data (e.g. It includes WTP which I generally dislike) I quite like it as a term.

      2. Juneau

        That is a good point-one flaw in the article is that she doesn’t identify how she diagnosed (and it is a clinical diagnosis and there are validated scales to assess) people’s stress, depression and anxiety. Was it just subjective reporting or did she assess the subjects using a well validated self report clinical symptom scale? Personalities differ so much, thank goodness we have people who don’t like leisure and those who can handle a lot of down time we need all types to keep things running.

    2. Kouros

      Hi Terry,

      Could you point me to some useful resources/references in this respect.

      I am personally interested in behaviors that relate with health and health outcomes. What I always find unsatisfying in all the surveys I work with is that there is no deeper probing. Yeah, people are smoking, drinking, taking drugs, not exercising, not improving their education, what have you, but there is no question on why, and why, and why….!?

      1. Terry Flynn

        Thanks for asking but I gotta be careful…. A lot of references are to my work or lead to me and which may break NC rules.

        Work on people’s trade offs in health generally are in papers that pop up if you google “discrete choice experiments” in health areas. My book (CUP) DOES report IIRC free text stuff on the study of end-of-life care. I just remember being very touched and feeling raw when I read what so many Aussies said about how they want to die in the survey.

        If I’m forced to generalise, I’d say people smoke drink etc because the long term future is so heavily discounted (crap) that it’s worth their while.

        1. Conrad Schumacher

          I thank that’s a grim but all to accurate conclusion.

          People generally aren’t stupid and if they can see that their old age is likely to be pretty miserable they’re likely to act accordingly. I guess it ties in with the Deaths of Despair thing as well.

        2. Kouros

          Thank you very much Terry, much appreciated. That is my conclusion too, but no public health official would accept something like this from their analysts, and no parliament would accept a chief health officer report with such conclusions, hence, the questions are not even asked…

  2. topcat

    When talking about a world of much reduced growth, consumption and energy usage the philosopher John Gray said that what he most feared was living in a “low stimulation” environment. This is I think key to this debate about leisure. If you are a hamster-wheel type of person then you probably need the mental stimulation – formula 1 pilots and cliff divers crave the endorphin-hit and so they do crazy stuff to have fun.
    If you are brought up in an environment where the hamster-wheel is the norm, then presumably you never actually have time to wean yourself off the drug. I wonder haw many non-leisure people are really just adicted to mental stimulation and don’t know it?

  3. GramSci

    I think that old farmboy Thorstein Veblen had the more insightful take on leisure: it’s a form of invidious distinction. Some say there is fun in friendly competition among peers, as in who had the most exotic (and expensive) vacation. But that competition can get stressful, so I suspect the fun for fun people is mostly found in displaying leisure to the help. I don’t think Tetris qualifies.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you read our “About” page. The purpose of this site is to promote critical thinking. Studies and articles that have flaws can be very useful grist for our readership. Look at Terry Flynn’s comment as proof.

  4. efschumacher

    The article lacks a definition of what constitutes leisure and what does not. Moreover some activities can be described as both leisure and not leisure depending on context. I’m learning to play guitar: it’s a lot of work and a big learning curve. I’m retired and I don’t need it to be remunerative. Is my guitar learning and playing leisure or not leisure? If I take up busking and get an income out of my newly acquired skill, does it become ‘not leisure’? A7 year old child is taking piano lessons in addition to a stiff course in (premature) academic study: is that leisure or not leisure?

    However when I’m choosing a vacation, it always involves activities like hiking or visiting and learning about historical sites. I can’t abide sitting on a beach: it makes me question the meaninglessness of life.

    On the whole I think GramSci’s Thorstein Veblen take is good. And that the above study is bogus without a lot more careful definition. Strange too that the author takes an idle question about self/spouse’s attitudes to The Good Life and turns it into a paid, academic, decidedly non-leisure event. She too is hopelessly conflicted.

    I also suspect that What We Get Paid For is an even more invidious study – Television ‘pundits’ I’m looking at you especially – and that the root of the entire leisure/work conundrum has been ably investigated by David Graeber in his Bullshit Jobs.

    1. nvt

      I agree with you that the study is too loose on how it defines leisure. I think what might be more helpful to look at different classes of leisure and how enjoyment of specific leisure activities hinges on their complementarity to non-leisure in providing something ‘missing’, be it the joy of skill mastery, brain/physical stimulation (and the resulting endorphins), or companionship with like-minded individuals.

      Example: While I sometimes play games like Tetris or Minsweeper, they don’t increase my happiness, relieve stress, or provide meaningful interactions. On the other hand, I really enjoy difficult puzzles because they provide me with mental challenges, a-ha moments, and the chance to collaborate with other people who have similar interests but different competencies. My best definition of these puzzles and their benefits can be found in this Ted Talk about the MIT Mystery Hunt. Not an activity for most people and indeed some commenters to the video complained that the participants should spend their time being more productive by inventing hoverboards. But Rosenthal describes how these puzzles enable him to look closer at the world and find wonder in everyday objects and challenges. Is that leisure? It certainly isn’t Tetris but both are lumped together in the NC post and its research.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I agree with you that leisure is ill-defined in the study, and perhaps it cannot be well quantified like this. I’m reminded of the Victorian cult of domesticity in which housework was redefined as “leisure”.

      Most people derive pleasure and relaxation from certain activities but not others. Tetris??? Gear Dog…I stopped playing Maelstrom years ago, not because it wasn’t fun (it’s a blast, literally), but because it’s too stressful. Five minutes of blowing up asteroids and my heart rate and blood pressure spiked.

      My two physical outlets are yoga and what I call “walking” but which most people would call “fast”. Neither of these are really “work” to my mind. I go for a walk and suddenly my mind roams completely free. (For this reason I prefer to take walks where I can avoid cars as much as possible.)

      efschumacher, you wrote about your music. I’m a professional musician; sometimes I’ll spend a day or an evening composing music. Sometimes I’m working on something for a client, and that’s definitely “work”. Sometimes, though, I’m creating a piece of my own volition and from my own enthusiasm. I’m doing exactly the same motions as when I’m working for a client — moving a mouse, clicking, and hearing resulting sounds, making changes based on what I hear, etc. To a cat, it would appear (maddeningly) as though I was doing the same thing — the English expression for this is “busman’s holiday”. But to me, one of these is definitely “work” and the other is “pleasure”.

      And what about reading? If I’m reading something for a class, well, I don’t really consider that leisure. OTOH, what if I’m just reading for fun? Yves must spend several hours a day reading — but does she consider ALL of that time to be “work”? I would find that hard to believe. To me, not even the subject matter is important here; my “pleasure” reading is mostly heavy historical writing, usually books over 500 pages. Many people would find Ian Toll to be ghastly reading — me, I read that on the beach. (For me, a beach is heaven, for a few days at least.)

      I don’t think there’s any question that Americans attach negative connotations to “leisure”. Phrases like “Protestant work ethic”, “industrious”, and “idle hands are the devil’s playground” illuminate the prejudices in this culture toward free time. Indeed, this prejudice against leisure is built in to our political lexicon, and you can see reflections of it in the political debates and dialogs throughout history, when politicians called for more leisure time for working people…but only just a little! Can’t have working people with TOO MUCH time on their hands, now…it might be that having true leisure is big luxury separating working people from the capitalist class.

      1. JohnnySacks

        Glad the article was more than what I inferred based upon the headline. I assumed the gist was a hit job on us working class slobs having too much free time to waste on non income producing activities.

        It doesn’t really account for the extremely subjective definition of ‘leisure’ – we all do different activities for relaxation, satisfaction, etc. Are chores leisure? If not, then how to classify our vegetable garden? Our massive DIY home renovations appall friends and members of my family but bring us satisfaction. Equally satisfying is sitting around reading.

        Is this survey part of some market research? Figuring out how and what advertising to bombard us with to monetize ‘fun things to do’? Which in the end provide minimal if not disappointing satisfaction compared to the time and financial investment. Personally, we’d sooner have our fingernails pulled than go on a Carnival Cruise, Orlando attractions, casinos.

    3. Big River Bandido

      I forgot one other point in my long ramble. Rest and replenishment of the creative resources is absolutely imperative for everyone, regardless of their “work”. At a certain point, you work so long and so hard that you burn up all your creative energy. In order to continue, that energy must be replaced. We do that by “resting” — by doing things to replenish and revive our creative energies. For people engaged in creative pursuits, this is about recognizing when we’ve exhausted our resources and how to replenish them.

      No doubt the earliest “creative” people discovered these patterns. The notion of the Sabbath — a purposeful day of rest built into the calendar — was probably done to force people to rest, so that they could bounce back and continue again. This tendency to guilt-trip ourselves, to equate “leisure ” with “laziness” — is probably just built-in to human nature, which is why the early philosophers recognized religious sanction for rest was needed. Humans need “permission”, in a sense, to be lazy now and then.

      1. Samuel Conner

        > Rest and replenishment of the creative resources is absolutely imperative for everyone,

        I wonder to what extent dreaming contributes to ‘rest and replenishment.’ It’s evidently a really important process for brain health.

        I’ve read (can’t recall where) that some people who have learned to dream lucidly use their dream time to think about problems that they want to solve in their waking life. I can well believe that this could work; have on occasion gone to sleep wondering about a problem and at waking discovered that I had a solution. Intentional focus during dream time presumably would be even more effective.

        Perhaps one could, alternatively, lucidly dream preferred leisure activities to promote rest and replenishment.

    4. jrs

      Leisure is anything that doesn’t help one economically. If you get paid for it it’s not leisure. If you take classes in order to increase your pay it’s not leisure. If it involves researching investments it’s not leisure. If it’s fixing up a house or car for sale or to save money on paying someone else it’s not leisure. Really when I think about it that’s how I see it. We believe in economic man even when we don’t really, right?

  5. lyman alpha blob

    Don’t have much of an opinion about a rather loose sociological study done by marketers, but I do know that the burning desire by some to be doing something productive all the time is why our planet is currently on fire.

    Once again, I’ll just leave this here – In Praise of Idleness

    1. KLG

      Excellent! Beginning college just a few years after the death of Bertrand Russell, who was born when Grant was president and died during Nixon’s first term, he was a big (and positive) influence with the various reprints of his work coming out. Including the 3-volume autobiography. Following Russell, Wendell Berry has often pointed out that the world is a very large place, with space for much productive leisure that is not destructive or maladaptive, when you are on foot. Not so much at 35,000 feet or at 80 mph on I-95 on your way to Boca Raton or hanging out on your birthday with your peeps in your compound on Martha’s Vineyard.

      As for marketers doing psychology, they are not unlike molecular biologists and medicinal chemists working for Pfizer. Very talented, with their (public) outcomes often a foregone conclusion.

    2. Nce

      If you have work that you find satisfying and challenging, “leisure” or time away from work isn’t such a big deal. I’ve always had garbage jobs, so some of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had are when I’m away from people and their demands. So, there is a class aspect to leisure, too.

      1. Whatdoiknow

        You are experiencing what a psychological I can’t spell his name defines as “flow” which is basically his definition of happiness, immersion in an activity that concentrates all your faculties, don’t confuse it with leisure which the opposite of what most define as work.

    3. Rainlover

      Thank you Lyman. Well worth reading repeatedly.
      Russell’s dissection of leisure for the upper class coupled with overwork/unemployment for the lower classes is spot on. He names it as Slave State morality. Very interesting.

  6. Wukchumni

    I guess it really depends on your mode of leisure. Playing a video game over and over again is slow torture not much different than going to the beach and hanging out all day, as far as i’m concerned.

    Typically I ascend about half a mile in altitude on a dayhike, and its hardly leisurely being a neo-Sisyphus sans boulder, although my body fills in for the boulder nicely in that I have to give back all that hard earned gain on the way down, and I feel energized in a way no other ‘leisure’ activity could suffice, stimulated by everything I observe along the way, not to mention that my dimensions are often radically different coming & going, so your perspective is always changing.

    I hike quite a bit with an ex-pat French couple who’ve lived in Visalia over a decade, and there’s something about their culture-perhaps the lack of emphasis on money being everything, or maybe just the unfettered joy of life and being part of it, which for them means being outside enthusiasts.

    We’re doing a 13 mile walk this Sunday, probably 10 hours on and off-trail with absolutely no communication aside from what we’ll be discussing among ourselves en route. To me, that is real leisure in our times-disconnecting oneself from the information age.

    1. Soredemos

      The cliche is that the French “work to live”, while Americans “live to work”. Almost invariably this is given in the context of a gloating American trying to demonstrate their cultural superiority (it crops up at one point in The West Wing in exactly this form).

      I have never understood how it could be interpreted as anything other than a massive American self-own. “We live for the sake of working” is an almost impossibly dystopian statement.

      1. efschumacher

        Or Douglas Adams:

        “Humans think they are smarter than dolphins, because dolphins play all day. Dolphins think they are smarter than humans for *exactly the same reason*.”

  7. Glossolalia

    The takeaway for me was the crapification of what passes for a study worth funding in academia these days.

  8. The Historian

    I can remember going to parent teacher conferences and hearing the teacher talk about what angels my children were, how they were so nice and polite and always did whatever the teacher asked. My husband and I used to just shake our heads and wonder if the teacher was talking about someone else’s kids or if she was just on crack. But I realized that my kids were smart enough to figure out from day one what got them praise and other goodies in the classroom so they modified their behavior. I think that happens in many of these psychological studies. Even as hard as the psychologist tries to be neutral, he/she still gives off signals as to what is expected and the participants acquiesce. So I take them with a grain of salt.

    I too question what the author means by leisure. But what I’ve found in my life is that my need for sitting on the beach is in direct correlation to the stresses in my life. The higher my stress levels, the more I hated my job, the more I needed sitting on the beach! I don’t think the author took any of that into account. Besides some of my best thinking was done while I was just sitting on the beach! Call that leisure if you like – I call it my creative time.

  9. Keith Newman

    This is a topic I find very interesting. 20 years ago I was responsible for a study on working time for a private sector union in Canada. We were trying to figure out why some workers chose to work considerable amounts of overtime and if there was a way to reduce it. The lead researcher was a sociologist and author who had considerable experience interviewing workers about their lives. We also worked with a statistical consultant, and there was myself as senior staff person who knew how to navigate through the politics of the organization. The sociologist interviewed about 110 workers and from those insights we devised a questionnaire answered by 3000 workers in pulp and paper mills.
    I give this detail because, as Yves notes above, studies can be biased, or useless, in many ways. Ours reflected the interests, concerns and daily life of the workers whose opinions we wanted to study. It still had lacunas but was pretty good overall for our purposes.
    I don’t remember all the details any more but the main conclusion was that people working considerable overtime said they did it for the same reason as those that did almost none: they wanted to support their families. The no overtime group by spending time with their wife, children and neighbours, the heavy overtimers by providing for the family financially.
    My conclusion: people have different motivations and interests and it is not easy to determine what they are and how they act on them. This is true regarding leisure and most other things as well.

  10. The Rev Kev

    It says that in one study, 141 undergraduate students participated at their behavioral lab at the Ohio State University. Having them fill out surveys is one thing that may or may not be useful as they are, after all, WEIRD students. But it might have been an interesting study to kill any wifi signal during and after those surveys were filled out so that none of those students could use their mobiles as in at all. After videotaping them surreptitiously for an hour or so while having a no-talking rule where they are, examine how they seemed to cope without being able to use their mobiles and then try to correlate it with their answers from the survey. Might turn up something interesting-


  11. Keith Newman

    I agree that there is no proper definition of leisure by the author. So while the article raises an interesting issue it fails to explain it in a useful way.
    As an example here is my experience of leisure. I am retired and have more than one category of leisure. The relaxing category is when I sit by the river behind my house and watch the ducks and clouds and sailboats float by while I sip on a tea in the morning or an alcoholic beverage in the afternoon. I live in a community of 12 housing units so a neighbour might happen by and we chat about this and that – the weather, the ducks, furniture, cars, and so forth…
    I also enjoy doing political activism which has involved studying and understanding in great detail various issues and subsequently meeting political big shots. It can be very time consuming and stressful. Nonetheless I see it as leisure – my social activism leisure.
    So what is leisure? Maybe that is the most important issue.

  12. Questa Nota

    Leisurely cooking, expanded to include growing, shopping, preparing and the payoff of eating.

  13. JohnnyGL

    Lots of good points made in the comments, but wanted to add one glaring oversight.

    I think one of the primary reasons for elite propagandizing of “hustle culture” is also an exercise in blame-shifting from elites who’ve created a rotten society and want to get themselves off the hook for doing so.

    If your life isn’t as nice as you think it should be….hustle culture has an explanation for that: It’s YOUR fault.

    You didn’t work hard enough, or get creative enough to succeed and got out-hustled by others who went the extra mile.

    It’s totally NOT the fault of elites who consolidated control of the country, gobbled up all the assets, and in so doing, actively shrank the available opportunities for the majority of people to live a decent life.

    1. LAS

      Excellent point, JohnnyGL. Glad you added it.
      The anxious person who aspires to be blameless must justify their use of every second.

    2. WhatdoIknow

      This blame game makes no sense.
      The elite is not telling you how to live your life, its your envy that poisons your everyday wellbeing.
      Its possible to have your modest needs easily satisfied in this country and have a lot of leisure time if you wish so. Actually people on government dole have the most free time than anyone.
      You are not poor because you dont have much but because you want more.
      Chose a different lifestyle.

      1. Cat Burglar

        If you can’t show that groups political and social support policies that structure our society, you can’t assign responsibility for those policies — you just have to accept the way things are.

        While you are right about envy being a poison, any readings in the history of public relations, advertising, and propaganda will show you that inculcation of conformist desires with the goal of profiting off it is exactly what they are doing, and they know it. It may not be a direct command from our elites in imperative form — after all, they usually get the hired help to do it for them — but in effect it is the next best thing. You don’t need the Gulag or chemtrails to get mass obedience and conformity — we already have it.

        Try raising a kid, keeping a roof over your head, paying basic utilities, and looking for work on US social assistance — you don’t have any free time. (your use of the phrase “government dole” suggests you are not from the states, so perhaps it is different where you are). Transport when you don’t own a car is a huge issue where elite interests automobilized the infrastructure but blocked significant public transit investment — the historical record is very clear on that (e.g., in the post-WW2 era in the San Francisco area the existing rail transit system was bought up and trashed by GM deliberately). So responsibility for free time being taken from most people to profit elites can be shown to have occurred, and not only in that case — there is no basis for being an agnostic on that subject except just plain not knowing.

        Friends of mine lived on the streets of Portland and New York City and enjoyed it when they were young. They did have plenty of free time, but some things took a lot of time — like, where do you wash your mohawk when you do not have access to a bathroom? Finding a place can take all day. Violence was a constant threat, and they had no safe space to relax in. (Again, perhaps you are from a European country with lower levels of public violence than the states.) So yes, they had some control over their time, but simple things took up a lot of that time.

        I did live modestly for most of my life so I could climb mountains. When rent in Seattle on a studio was only 25% of a paycheck from a job at 1.5 or 2 times the minimum wage, you could spend all summer in the mountains, not work full time, and some years even get medical insurance. There was even enough time left over to give the finger to people that would suggest this was somehow not the right way to live (usually based on a vague appeal to some vague idea from religion, psychology, or suburban life). But I do not see how anyone could do that under the current costs of living imposed by economic rent service — and I doubt it was ever an option for anyone with a family.

        If you want more of what the market will not provide, you are not being envious, you are exercising moral autonomy.

      2. hunkerdown

        But the whole purpose of that narrative was to enforce elite cosmology and place the original sin on the mass where elites, PMCs, bourgeoisie, and other parasites believe it belongs.

        It isn’t possible for everyone to do that, though, so it’s not an option worth considering as a systemic solution.

      3. Keith Newman

        Certainly to some degree excessive consumption is self- imposed but as others have noted we live in a sea of propaganda to consume. It requires very conscious and deliberate effort and discipline not to consume much. For a person without children it is relatively easy not to go that route. I did it for a dozen years, working odd jobs then taking months off work. Then I had children…

    3. eg

      As Mosler would say they sent 100 dogs to dig up 93 bones, and then slag off whichever ones come back without any bones.

  14. WhatdoIknow

    One day my 90 year old Sicilian grandfather said to me; listen son, you have learned how to live when you can spend a useless afternoon doing nothing and not getting bored.
    I am still working on it, or maybe not?

  15. Will Shetterly

    Is there good evidence that people often lie on surveys? My guess is people want to promote what they believe, so they tend to be accurate.

    1. Terry Flynn

      People lie all the time. More and more surveys have to be piggy backed onto big samples like YouGov. They get either cash or points that are redeemable for real goods (cinema tickets etc) for completing surveys. There is very little incentive for answering honestly.

      My “screening question” is always deliberately obscure – asking which of the following big events you encountered last year or somesuch (how I got people who actually voted in the BREXIT referendum). If you ask “did you vote” most say yes otherwise they get screened out and get 10p instead of potentially 3 quid. So they all say they they did.

      Most surveys IMNSHO are terrible at getting a realistic sample. Plus I ran discrete choice experiments. If you don’t remember how to trade off and lie in 12 dimensions I’ll spot and report you. You’ll get your points voided. Happens far more often than you’d think.

      1. Terry Flyn


        People want to promote what they believe

        And those people who want to promote that QE2 is a lizard and the world is flat? Personally I’m not keen on having them in my survey. My 20 years of experience, 12+ with large panels, suggest you have a slightly optimistic view of mankind.

        A good survey is INCENTIVE COMPATIBLE (term coined by Richard Carson, best environmental economist on planet who testified in Exxon Valdez case for the prosecution) – it should maximise the incentive to answer honestly and rationally. Most surveys I’ve answered as a test subject fail this ignominiously. And having worked at CenSoC, the best team in the world in eliciting public preferences, who found same thing, I don’t think I’m talking rubbish here. (Check references to prove I’m not lying about OUR expertise). Carson was the chief environmental guy in the group.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I lie on surveys nearly all the time. I find a lot of surveys offensive or intrusive and I seek to sabotage them in my tiny way if I get annoyed enough to waste my time on one.

        1. Raymond Sim

          I took one of those personality inventory test, a full-power pro version. I thought many of the questions were really only answerable from a state of unconscous bias. I came away with the sense that the test was not very artfully designed.

          The test evaluation guidelines said my scores indicated it was likely I was being deceptive.

  16. Cat Burglar

    Gonna have to get behind the paywall to really dig into this.

    But is “leisure” what is really being studied here? In the study abstract there is a distinction made between terminally motivated activity (aka play, or, in my view, life and freedom) done as an end in-itself, and instrumental leisure, done as a means to an end. So the author is talking about action here, not just sitting around. “To be ludic is not to be quaaludic,” as Bob Black put it in The Abolition Of Work.

    Because I spent much of my life subordinating income production time to time spent climbing mountains, the work/play distinction always seemed kind of problematic. The physical idea of work (energy expended on a task) was not the economic idea of “work” (paid activity, usually wage work, almost always undertaken on what Black calls an “or else basis”) — by every measure mountaineering was harder work than “work.” (There is a similar deliberately fostered confusion between physical efficiency and economic “efficiency,” I think.) The controlling distinction between the two was really freedom/coercion.

  17. Anthony Stegman

    I think it is very refreshing to periodically sit around and do nothing…or what I call it putzing around. I don’t need to “accomplish” anything. Just enjoy being. Unfortunately, the daily chores and responsibilities of life limit my putzing around time, but i sure do enjoy it.

  18. Antagonist Muscles

    I’m such a party pooper that my opinion is likely unpopular here. Still, most of us likely can no longer gather together for nightlife. Do people really love partying so much that they are willing to take on the risk of a super-spreader event? I sure don’t miss the partying.

    Partying as a leisure time activity is (for me) thoroughly unenjoyable. Unfortunately, I did not realize how completely uncool and unhip I am until just a couple years ago. I regret all those times my “friends” coerced me to go to some bar or nightclub. I can’t dance. I can’t sing. I avoid alcohol, and I don’t have money to spend on it. Second hand smoke from cigarettes will hit me like kryptonite. The music is amplified to 11, and I can’t think. I have no idea how to dress properly. I can’t understand why anybody even cares about my clothes. I’m not superficial enough to understand why anybody cares about attractive women (or men for that matter). And considering the whole club is dark (with intermittent flashes of light), how am I supposed to ogle at supposedly attractive women? The worst part: my appearance attracts overly aggressive men looking for a fight. I have never engaged in a single act of violence, but you probably don’t want to start stuff with me.

    And don’t get me started on dating as a leisure activity. Ok, enough ranting. I’ll show myself to the nightclub door.

  19. Susan the other

    Here’s a definition: I don’t think “leisure” is a mindless, effortless state of mind and body. I think it is a deep mental organization; a deep security knowing you have people who support you – you have a government that stands by you, you have good health and the opportunity to continue to have good health. Leisure is nutritious food. Good vodka. Lots of interesting stuff to read on the internet. Leisure is fickle, sometimes it is taking the morning to sweep out the laundry closet and mop the floor. Organize boxes of stuff you forgot you had. Leisure is the luxury of forgetting about all those boxes for years at at time. It’s not worrying about being evicted or having your utilities shut off when your unemployment runs out and there are no jobs. Leisure is one thing really – it is security. Wanna play tennis? Be my guest.

  20. ckimball

    The author’s examples of leisure speak of programed leisure which can be distracting. It does not call upon the abilities of self entertainment which can call forth a person’s innate creativity and does not encourage the development distinctions that can appreciate all kinds of beauty which is not programed by someone else.

    This article has a way of insisting on aggravating me and boring the hell out of me at the same time. I thought “this is what people are studying?’ It’s like prison for the mind.

    leisure is not ambitious
    leisure does not have a goal other than itself
    meditation is not a form of leisure as a cIassification

    Yves is right. It really pushed my buttons. It made me think of my family and
    their friends and the way they entertained for each other like with lengthy dinners. The specifics which they remembered years later. “Oh that pork roast…never had another like it” My father and ‘uncle’ telling each other jokes all evening until
    they laughed so hard they were on the floor with tears. The beloved record player played , they danced to all sorts of music but my childhood favorite was
    “dance with the dolly with a hole stockin while her knees keep a nockin” and they danced with me. They enjoyed all kinds of music; popular, classical, jazz, show tunes. I watched my mother with a friend, wine glasses to the side, with great deliberation,construct a house out of matches until it fell down.
    We caught crawdads rafting around in the creek. My mother put them in a tossed salad. I remember its deliciousness still. They cried over my mother’s parents’ one sided opera recordings. Listen carefully they said there aren’t many more plays.They went to plays, the ballet, opera and sometime they brought me. They considered themselves middle class and did
    not aspire any further

    I could go on and on. Maybe I did. I want to, but I don’t have the leisure.
    Now, I steal the time for leisure. NC is a big part of my leisure. But at those times, leisure, was embedded in our lives. It was before. the commodification of everything and before we became ‘consumers’.

  21. Bob White

    This reminded me of a line in the movie “Office Space”, after Peter gets hypnotized to relax…
    “I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be”

    That is leisure…

  22. Acacia

    BTW, doesn’t Aristotle argue that leisure is the condition of possibly for participation in politics?

    1. hunkerdown

      Exactly the reason its equal distribution ought to be enforced as a fundamental right and existential interest.

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