In this chapter, I want to stake out my claim that Leisure Studies (in common with sociology and cultural studies) has made a serious mistake in withdrawing from engagement with the magic kingdom of enchantment. That development which accelerated with the onset of modernity is generally understood as ‘the disenchantment of the world’, which was coined by Friedrich von Schiller when he bemoaned the fall of the gods of Greek antiquity in his classic eighteenthcentury poem The Gods of Greece (McCarraher, 2015: 86). The perception was in no uncertain terms popularized through the sociology of Max Weber, which is fundamental to arguments put forward in this chapter. As is well known, in the essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which was written in 1904, Weber famously argued that the emergence of modern capitalism is accompanied by an inescapable process of rationalization that leads disenchantment. As Heller explains, as it is used by Weber, the expression ‘disenchantment of the world’ refers to many related yet not entirely related phenomena – for example, on the one hand, ‘the loss of myth, the end of philosophy, deficit of meaning, loss of beauty or colour – yet also the abandonment of fanaticism, madness, and legitimation through charisma’. But it ‘means first and foremost that the dominating spheres of modern life do not provide life with meaning. As far as the dominating spheres (science, politics, the economy) are concerned, life has no meaning’ (1999: 37-38). The fate of modernity is the subordination of all spheres of life to the overarching authority of rationalization. What this thesis ignores is that people have always been drawn to enchantment. The argument developed in the next two chapters is that the interregnum that precipitated the shift from solid modernity to liquid modernity offers intimations of new kinds of re-enchantment (Bauman, 1992b), or what Heller (1999) calls ‘romantic enlightenment’, since the world is at long last transformed into a plurality of worlds. In these worlds a different kind of imagination takes centre stage and old restraints diminish and new contingencies prosper. The view developed in Part III of this book is that it is especially in value-spheres (Weber, 2008) and heterotopias (Foucault, 1984a) of leisure that we are most likely to find sources of enchantment. My aim in making this argument is to recover this idea in order to reinvigorate the study of leisure. In so doing my starting point is
that the conventional reading of Weber is unrepresentative, or at least one-sided. As Heller points out, the picture Weber’s thesis paints is bleak, but it is not ‘entirely dark’. As my understanding of Weber is not the usual one, the chapter must first of all give due attention to the conventional reading. This is important since there is a large group of notable thinkers who are inclined to agree that disenchantment coincided with the emergence of consumerism and that this was to have serious implications, not only for leisure, but for human freedom more generally. If there is one theme that unites these thinkers it is the view that rationalization and concomitantly capitalism are at the furthest remove from either enchantment or the Enlightenment view that science and rational progress are freeing for humankind. As we will see below, there is a long history of pessimism about capitalism and especially the implications burgeoning consumerism has for human freedom. Indeed, it is hardly news in Leisure Studies that most people these days tend to see and do leisure in consumerist ways. There is much that I agree with in this virtually unanimous verdict. That said, there is no sure-fire proof that such an intuition is altogether accurate. It is not so much my view that the conventional reading is wrong, such that it gives the impression that Weber argued that with the substitution of the pre-modern social arrangement by modernity enchantment disappears completely from the world. In fact it was his view that enchantment doesn’t so much disappear, but is in effect withdrawn from public life and inserted into ‘the obscure realm of mystical life or the fraternal feelings of direct relationships among individuals’ (Weber, 2008: 51) – whereas throughout most of history it was seen as having a bearing on all aspects of life. If we are prepared to accept this alternative reading of Weber, then an alternative understanding of enchantment under modern conditions also becomes possible. So in what follows I proceed by five parts. First, I unpack Weber’s disenchantment thesis. A discussion of the major perspectives on the relationship between rationalization and burgeoning consumerism that developed in the slipstream of this conventional reading of Weber is then offered along with some insights of their relevance for understanding leisure. This discussion, which focuses primarily, although not exclusively, on the Frankfurt School, prefaces a thoroughgoing discussion of Bauman’s (1990) argument that in liquid modernity the ‘marketmediated mode of life’ – the penetration of market mechanisms, norms and values into every aspect of human existence – has replaced things like autonomy, authenticity, the engendering of personality and other kinds of meaning-rendering activity, and even ideology, as the primary definer of social identity and difference. Within Bauman’s vision the drift is clear enough. Individuals shedding the social class identities to which they were subjugated in solid modernity are drawn towards freedom, but in a liquid modernity this can also lure them to a life of consuming, another kind of subjugation – this time through seduction rather than repression (Bauman, 1992b) – which has all the hallmarks of a medical disorder in the form of a ‘consumer syndrome’ (Bauman, in Rojek, 2004).