For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Free Time

by Adorno, Theodor (2001)

Key Passage

If we suppose with Marx that in bourgeois society labour power has become a commodity in which labour is consequently reified, then the expression ‘hobby’ amounts to a paradox: that human condition which sees itself as the opposite of reification, the oasis of unmediated life within a completely mediated total system, has itself been reified just like the rigid distinction between labour and free time. The latter is a continuation of the forms of profit-oriented social life. Just as the term ‘show business’ is today taken utterly seriously, the irony in the expression ‘leisure industry’ has now been quite forgotten. It is widely known but no less true therefore that specific leisure activities like tourism and camping revolve around and are organised for the sake of profit. At the same time the difference between work and free time has been branded as a norm in the minds of people, at both the conscious and the unconscious level. Because, in accordance with the predominant work ethic, time free of work should be utilized for the recreation of expended labour power, then work-less time, precisely because it is a mere appendage of work, is severed from the latter with puritanical zeal. And here we come across a behavioural norm of the bourgeois character. On the one hand one should pay attention at work and not be distracted or lark about; wage labour is predicated on this assumption and its laws have been internalized. On the other hand free time must not resemble work in any way whatsoever, in order, presumably, that one can work all the more effectively afterwards. Hence the inanity of many leisure activities.  (p.190)


Adorno, Leisure, Freedom, Hobbies


Adorno Citations, Leisure

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