For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

by Pieper, Josef (1952)


[Summary from Google Books] "One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial, today than it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago. This special new edition now also includes his little work The Philosophical Act. Leisure is an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world. Pieper shows that the Greeks and medieval Europeans, understood the great value and importance of leisure. He also points out that religion can be born only in leisure ndash; a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. Pieper maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture ndash; and ourselves.

Key Passage

“the world of ‘work’ and the ‘worker’ is a poor, impoverished world be it ever so rich in material good; for on an exclusively utilitarian basis, on the basis that is, of the world ‘work’, genuine wealth, wealth which implies overflowing into superfluidities, into unnecessaries, is just not possible… on the other  hand, divine worship, of its very  nature, creates a sphere of real wealth and superfluity, even in the midst of the direst material want – because sacrifice is the living heart of worship. And what does sacrifice mean? If means a voluntary offering freely given…. It sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns. Such wastefulness is true wealth; the wealth of festival time.” p. 62 ()


Wealth, Superfluidity, Leisure



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