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The Basis of Culture

4.3 (36 ratings)
11 mins

Brief summary

'Leisure' by Josef Pieper examines the importance and meaning of leisure in modern society. Pieper argues that true leisure is essential for human flourishing and offers insights into how we can cultivate this valuable but often neglected aspect of our lives.

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    Leisure
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    The post-war world drastically altered society’s understanding of leisure.

    When was the last time you were truly at leisure? For many professionals, the notion of spending time with a non-work activity you love has all but disappeared.

    While we might count a casual meeting with clients over lunch or a holiday in which you check your emails hourly as leisurely, the original meaning of leisure was different.

    Leisure and work were once simply two different ways to spend time. For ancient Greeks, taking time to broaden your intellectual horizons was a true example of a leisure activity. The ancient Greek word for leisure is “skole.” Modern English transformed that word into meaning a place of learning, or “school.”

    Ancient Greeks too held clear ideas on the relationship between work and leisure, reflected in the saying, “We are un-leisurely in order to have leisure.”

    In sum, work was something to be done to make time for the good things in life. In fact, the only word the ancient Greeks used for daily work was “a-scolia,” essentially the negative form of the word for leisure. Work was the opposite of leisure, and leisure was the center of life and society.

    By the twentieth century, things had changed drastically with the concept of “total work.” Now life revolved around hard work with little time for leisure.

    In the years following the two world wars, this “total work” concept gave strength to individuals and families as they rebuilt homes, cities and lives. Consider sociologist Max Weber’s famous turn-of-phrase describing the findings of his 1934 study on capitalism: “One does not work to live. One lives to work.”

    In the next blinks, we’ll dive deeper into the contrast between ancient and modern ideas of work and leisure, starting with differing takes on the nature of intellect.

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    What is Leisure about?

    Leisure (1952) takes you back in time to learn how leisure played a central role in society, creating a space for both divine worship and intellectual contemplation. These blinks reveal the oppressive paradigm of total work that emerged in the post-war world and present a case for bringing leisure back into our lives.

    Leisure Review

    Leisure (1952) by Josef Pieper explores the concept of leisure as an essential part of a fulfilled life. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With profound philosophical insights, it challenges our modern understanding of work and leisure, forcing us to reevaluate our priorities.
    • By emphasising the importance of contemplation and reflection in leisure, it offers a refreshing perspective on finding true meaning and happiness.
    • Through thought-provoking arguments and engaging examples, it makes the exploration of leisure a compelling and intellectually stimulating journey.

    Best quote from Leisure

    The Greeks would not have understood our maxims of work for works sake at all.

    —Josef Pieper
    example alt text

    Who should read Leisure?

    • Anyone interested in the philosophical aspects of a good work-life balance
    • Students interested in post-war society
    • People curious about the history of leisure, intellectual pursuit and labor

    About the Author

    Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was a German philosopher who studied the works of Aquinas and Plato. He was also a professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster.

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    Leisure FAQs 

    What is the main message of Leisure?

    The main message of Leisure is that true leisure is an essential and often overlooked aspect of a fulfilling life.

    How long does it take to read Leisure?

    The reading time for Leisure varies based on individual reading speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in a matter of minutes.

    Is Leisure a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Leisure is a thought-provoking book that sheds light on the value of taking time for genuine leisure. It offers insights and perspectives that are worth exploring.

    Who is the author of Leisure?

    Josef Pieper is the author of Leisure.

    What to read after Leisure?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Leisure, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Time of the Magicians by Wolfram Eilenberger
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
    • Breaking the Cycle by George N. Collins with Andrew Adleman
    • The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
    • The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl R. Popper
    • The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee
    • The Stoic Mindset by Mark Tuitert
    • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Coach Builder by Donald Miller
    • Difficult Conversations Don't Have to Be Difficult by Jon Gordon & Amy P. Kelly