A striking emblem of Leisure Studies is the functionalist epistemic, which as I suggested at the beginning of the introduction, understands leisure above all else in relation to social inequality and in terms of class, gender or ethnic struggle, and in more recent accounts, through the idea that these categories are relational and have multiple dimensions. This chapter argues that there is a need to revise this understanding in light of contemporary social and cultural transformations. Drawing the essence of its critique from Rancière’s (2004) classic study The Philosopher and His Poor, it is argued that what this functionalist epistemic represents is less a compelling understanding of social inequality in leisure than a scene of distribution (partage du sensible) – persistently restaged by scholars since Plato – in which marginalized groups (the working class, women, black people, the disabled and so on) are designated, delegitimized, assigned their place, and have their leisure classified and tied down to a function, which inscribes them and their worlds into the dominant order of things. This is the typical scene in Leisure Studies. In other words, this chapter makes the somewhat scandalous assertion that in order to open up a critical space for their own intellectual claims, Leisure Studies scholars ultimately distort the leisure lives of certain social groups. Under the auspices of Leisure Studies, the leisure practices of marginalized social groups are circumscribed by two distinguishing factors: taste, on the one hand, and legislating power, on the other. The upshot is that the judgement of taste is determined by the authority of Leisure Studies. As Zygmunt Bauman explains at the beginning of his highly influential assessment of modern intellectual work: the legislators are those keepers of secrets who make authoritative ideological statements about the world and who have the power to make the ‘procedural rules which assure the attainment of truth, the arrival of moral judgement, and the selection of proper artistic taste. Such procedural rules have a universal validity, as to the products of their application’ (1987: 4-5). Drawing on Bauman’s ideas, it is my view that in the twenty-first century, the authority of the legislators’ (read: Leisure Studies scholars’) understanding of leisure is downgraded in importance, and so is the power of their legislating message, their way of communicating the truth about ‘leisure’. This immediately entails the end of a certain form of analysis of
leisure, namely, that legislating form found in Leisure Studies which claims to offer the ‘truth’ about leisure. The upshot is that Leisure Studies is increasingly undermined by an alternative interpretive mindset, whose authority is more democratic, and located in the different ways in which ‘ordinary’ people have always interpreted and constructed their own leisure worlds. What this tells us is that in order to develop new interpretations of leisure we must embrace leisure’s pluralism – the fact that what ‘leisure’ is is not constrained by having to look a certain way or to be of a certain style. The critique offered in this chapter anticipates my own thesis which argues that there is actually another sequence of scenes, corresponding to twenty-firstcentury life, where there exists a diversity of individuals with ever more equipment for self-enhancement, which demand that we update our conceptual, empirical and normative understandings by embracing leisure in the making and challenging functionalist distributions. To this end, the present chapter argues, drawing on the notion of the ‘end of leisure’, that understanding leisure as Leisure Studies does is no longer useful, has come to an end. It was the great American art critic and philosopher Arthur Coleman Danto, in his compelling interpretation of the seismic shift in modern art in the final decades of the twentieth-century, who first alerted us to the fact of the ‘end of ’ thesis:
We live at a moment when it is clear that art can be made of anything, and where there is no mark through which works of art can be perceptually different from the most ordinary of objects. This is what the example of [Andy Warhol’s] Brillo Box is meant to show. The class of artworks is simply unlimited, as media can be adjoined to media, and art unconstrained by anything save the laws of nature in one direction, and moral laws on the other. When I say that this condition is the end of art, I mean essentially that it is the end of the possibility of any particular internal direction for art to take. It is the end of the possibility of progressive development.