Leisure and Tourism

Chris Rojek. The Sage Handbook of Sociology. Editor: Craig Calhoun, Chris Rojek, Bryan Turner. Sage Publication. 2005.

The sociological study of leisure and tourism is a relatively novel sub-discipline in the field. Over a decade and a half ago, Neil Smelser’s (1988) Handbook of Sociology could find no place for a chapter on the subject. Early sociological contributions tended to be either based in ethnographic work or social surveys. Typically they focused only on working class leisure and to conflate this subject with questions of social reform (Rowntree, 1865; Booth, 1902-3; Rowntree, 1901; Lynd and Lynd, 1937). Interestingly, with the exception of Veblen’s (1899) brilliant study, the subject of the leisure forms and practices among the rich was neglected.

It is widely agreed that the period between the 1880s and 1920s consolidated the key features of consumer culture as we understand them today (Cross, 1993; Kammen, 1999). In particular, many of the national commodity and leisure markets established during this period remain intact. The emergence of national sports, like soccer in the UK and baseball in the United States, and the development of revolutionary new domestic, electronic leisure forms like the phonograph and radio, which are compatible with the development of high levels of privatized fantasy content, created significant national audiences based around leisure activity. Yet curiously, the institutional sociology of the day remained relatively silent about this transformation. It was not until the 1940s that sociologists began to address the significance of new types of leisure as society-wide socio-technical systems involving manipulation and control. This occurred in the contribution of mass society theory, which emphasized the manipulation and standardization of the masses (Riesman, 1950; Packard, 1957) and the Frankfurt School (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944). Even then, leisure can hardly be said to have been the focus of theory or research.

The first academically significant attempts to institutionalize the study of the meaning of leisure in people’s lives and the effects of leisure on community occurred outside sociology. In the postwar period, questions of leisure and tourism were initially pursued by departments of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies, of which the department at the University of Illinois, Urbana headed by Allen V. Sapora was one of the most influential. The development of Leisure Studies and, later, Tourist Studies in the academy acted as a catalyst for the sociology of leisure and tourism, rather than the other way around.

Why did institutionalized sociology neglect the subjects of leisure and tourism for so long? There were two main reasons. First, the mainstream functionalist bent of Western postwar sociology followed the lead of the classical tradition and identified work as the central life interest. Durkheim (1933:26) himself proposed that leisure belongs to ‘the less serious side of life.’ In the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth century work was regarded as the cornerstone of personality, the foundation of family life, the basis of community and the core of the central value system that underpinned social order. This emphasis was itself the consequence of many factors. The residue of the doctrine of Christian self-help embodied in the work ethic, which assigned respectability to a paid labourer or recognized the rights for welfare entitlement of a dependant of a paid labourer, was a significant factor. However, the standard connotation between paid labour and respectability was far from being a mere reflection of Christian doctrines of self-help and the work ethic. It also mirrored the fiscal assumptions behind the welfare state which identified continuous paid employment and membership of the nuclear family as preconditions for public entitlement. Welfarism carried with it an unparticularized set of moral judgements concerning ‘respectable leisure’ which assumed the normative status of heterosexual marriage in a nuclear or extended family and the recognition of legal parental responsibilities with respect to children. Of course, provision existed for unemployment and ill-health benefit for those who had not fiscally contributed to state resources. However, the a priori of untested entitlement was a career of fiscal contributions to the state derived from paid labour or legally validated relations of dependency with an individual occupying this status.

In the 1960s and 1970s many of these assumptions were criticized, particularly by feminists, who pointed to entrenched structural inequalities in the labour market in respect of differences in pay and promotion prospects between the sexes. The gay and lesbian movement also questioned the heteronormative bias of welfare state ideology and policies on entitlement. Yet welfare ideology bequeathed a curiously narrow conception of leisure forms and practice in everyday life founded in heteronor-mativity, paid labour and monoculturalism.

The second main reason for the neglect of leisure and tourism was related to the presumptions behind the notion of ‘the affluent society.’ For example, the influential ‘logic of industrialization’ thesis proposed that the distribution of resources for leisure and tourist activities was fated to expand progressively as science and technology eliminated the human burden of engaging in lifelong paid labour (Kerr et al, 1973). Some commentators predicted the emergence of ‘the leisure society’ in which leisure forms and practices would replace work as the focal point of group identity (Dumazedier, 1967, 1974). Today, this is generally regarded as an optimistic view of social development in the advanced industrial societies. The lily was gilded with the correlative proposition that more affluence and leisure would produce higher levels of social integration and reduce social conflict. Kerr and his associates envisaged the emergence of what they termed the ‘new bohemianism’ in people’s leisure and tourist practices. New levels of creativity and diversity were predicted which would make old models of the 9-to-5 work treadmill redundant. Postindustrial society theory generally supported this perspective (Touraine, 1971; Bell, 1973). It maintained that resources for leisure and tourism would expand as an inevitable consequence of the greater wealth created by science and technology. Similarly, it was assumed that the forms and practices associated with these activities would contribute to social integration and harmony.

With hindsight, it was an excessively melior-ist, over-rational projection of leisure and tourism that took insufficient allowance of religious divisions, cultural and subcultural differences and the capacity of the welfare state to withstand the challenge of neoliberalism. It failed to recognize that social values of leisure are sources for conflict as well as cohesion. In addition, it was ethnocentric, taking little interest in questions of hunger, illiteracy, poverty and morbidity in the Third World. Nor did it raise the question of the sourcing of leisure commodities in the West from Third World labour. Today, we recognize that Nike, Gap, Champion, Wal-Mart and Reebok make extensive use of low cost labour in the developing countries to assemble their products (Klein, 2001; Smart, 2003: 160). But the leisure society view reproduced a stage theory of social development, in which it was assumed that the advanced industrial societies presented the developing world with the face of its own future. Above all, traditional mainstream views of leisure and tourism in the 1960s and 1970s depended upon what now reads as a peculiarly deterministic, under-examined view of technology and welfarism that predicted the expansion of free time and affluence as the inevitable consequence of improvements in science and technology, but paid scant attention to globalization, the distribution of power and the politics and dilemmas of personal freedom and choice.

The Early Institutional Sociology of Leisure

The early sociology of leisure identified three principal functions of leisure: rest and replenishment from toil, reward for physical and mental exertion and enhancement of the bonds between the individual and the community. This was formalized in influential studies by Wilensky (1960) and Parker (1971). They followed the precedent of functionalism in locating leisure values amidst a variety of variables such as class, age, gender, status and work. Of these, overwhelmingly the most important relationship was identified as that between work and leisure. For example, Wilensky (1960) distinguished between ‘spillover’ and ‘compensatory’ work-leisure patterns. In spillover patterns a determining role was attributed to work. Thus, sedentary work practice such as clerical filing or secretarial work was theorized as eliciting passive leisure practices such as watching television or reading magazines. In compensatory patterns leisure practice was theorized as making up for the deprivations of work. Work that demanded low levels of intellectual involvement, such as assembly-line production, was postulated to stimulate leisure forms based in high levels of social involvement, such as pub cultures or hobbies requiring planning, coordination and engagement, such as pigeon racing (Friedmann, 1961). Parker (1971) took over many of Wilensky’s theoretical assumptions in the development of his ‘extension,’ ‘opposition’ and neutrality’ patterns of work-leisure relations.

What is now conspicuous about this early work is its naïve humanism. The leisure society is depicted as an unequivocal good for mankind. It is held to inevitably enlarge individual freedom, and create the basis for new forms of solidarity. The divisions in access to surplus time, the antagonisms of class, gender, race and status, the thorny question of distributive justice, which later generations of students in leisure studies fastened upon, are absent (Clarke and Critcher, 1985; Deem, 1986; Henderson et al, 1989, 1996). Instead the functionalist sociology of leisure and leisure society theory portrayed leisure forms and practice as enhancing social harmony and integration. Arguably, this climaxed in Cheek and Burch’s (1976: 156) proposition that ‘leisure activities serve as an expression of social solidarity and norms to reaffirm the larger social order.’ Their study tries to apply the Parsonian social systems approach in the sphere of leisure behaviour. Leisure is twinned with the central social problems of social order and growth. Through socialization in primary institutions, the most notable of which are the family, school and community, individuals acquire role models, taste cultures, expressions of commitment and trust relations that equip them for the remainder of the life course. The acquisition of these social assets is theorized in terms of a unifying central value system. It is precisely these propositions that have been attacked by the critical sociology of leisure.

Critical Views of Leisure before the 1970s

Without doubt, the critical sociology of leisure was under-researched and under-theorized in the Western tradition until well into the 1970s. The sub-discipline did possess one bona fide classic, in Thorstein Veblen’s (1899) extraordinary book The Theory of the Leisure Class. This study introduced the concept of conspicuous consumption to describe the spectacular expenditure of wealth in leisure practice as a mark of social status. It related this to a complex theory of the power hierarchy in American society. Veblen submitted that the dominant moneyed leisure class applied leisure forms and practices to symbolize their superior social status. In particular, they organized their leisure activities around conspicuous consumption not only of economic capital, but also cultural capital. Thus, in addition to holding extravagant parties and balls, the leisure class cultivated leisure forms and practices that automatically symbolized voluntary abnegation from paid labour. Among Veblen’s examples are the preindustrial pursuits of heraldry, equipage and learning dead languages like Ancient Latin and Ancient Greek. Veblen’s theory can be read as an early attempt to explain how leisure practice operates in the semiotics of status distinction and the pursuit of power.

Some alternative critical contributions were made by the various studies associated with the Chicago School in the 1920s and 1930s and the British Mass-Observation studies of the late 1930s and 1940s which sought to use methodological techniques from anthropology and ethnology to document ordinary urban-industrial life in the West. In particular, the work of the Lynds (1937) in the United States and Tom Harrison, Humphrey Jennings and Charles Madge in the UK (Calder and Sheridan, 1985) provided data on habitual leisure practice which revealed the depth and vitality of counter-cultural values in ordinary leisure practice. Interestingly, it was, by and large, free of the moralizing tendency that was so evident in the social survey work of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet while this work attracted a good deal of contemporaneous media attention, the research that it generated tended to be too inchoate and too multi-dimensional to constitute the basis for a coherent critical theory of leisure.

It was left to historians and general commentators on Western civilization like Johan Huizinga (1947) and Louis Mumford (1967, 1970) to inject a degree of vitality into theoretical debates on leisure. Huizinga’s model of homo ludens argued that leisure is the basis of culture—a proposition developed in the 1950s by the philosopher Josef Pieper (1952). Mumford also emphasized the importance of play in human evolution and criticized the work ethic as an iron principle of advanced industrial civilization. Mumford submitted that more flexible relationships between work and leisure were possible as a result of automation, science and technology. In particular, his work raised questions of a new position on retirement policy and the identification of institutionalized learning with the period of schooling in the life cycle. But these interventions did not crystallize into a critical position in the sociology of leisure and tourism. For one thing, they emerged from outside the discipline of sociology. In addition, they were attached to wider critical accounts of the evolution of Western culture and civilization in which contemporary leisure and tourist forms did not form the focal point of interest.

The Frankfurt Tradition

A sociological counter-balance was provided between the 1930s and 1960s by the Frankfurt School tradition of sociology and philosophy. This neo-Marxist tradition argued that in ‘one dimensional society,’ leisure is subject to manipulation and control (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944; Marcuse, 1964; Adorno, 1998). Although the question of leisure was examined only en passant in this approach, Frankfurt School theorists were antagonistic to the concepts of individual freedom and choice under capitalism. Because leisure is conventionally regarded as the embodiment of these qualities, it was intrinsically held to be a suspect category. For example, Adorno (1998: 173-5) referred dismissively to what he called pseudo-activity, that is, free-time activities that lionize the values of freedom, choice and diversity. He maintained that in the context of capitalist consumer culture, these activities provide distraction and the illusion of autonomy. ‘People,’ he wrote (1998: 173), ‘prefer to let themselves be distracted by spurious, illusory activities, by institutionalized vicarious satisfactions rather than to face the realization of just how much the possibilities for change are blocked today. The pseudo-activities are fictions and parodies of the productivity society on the one hand incessantly demands and on the other hand confines and in fact does not really desire in individuals at all.’ For the Frankfurt School, consumer culture inevitably produces mass conformity in leisure choice and practice. The culture industry, which regulates the various forms of mass entertainment and media information exchange, requires domination over individual choice and practice. So individual choices in leisure practice are ultimately programmatic in that they either follow the dictate of the culture industry or are eventually co-opted by the same means.

This critical analysis of leisure brought with it difficulties of its own. While it contributed to a more politicized reading of leisure and tourism, it provided a position on freedom and choice that many took to be over-reductive. The pronounced importance given to the culture industry amounted to a new essentialism in which leisure choice was attributed ultimately to class-controlled institutions. The Frankfurt School position on leisure provided no solace for activists committed to the progressive change of leisure and tourism. Indeed, Adornos (1992) response to activism was to call for a sympathetic but ultimately dismissive version of ‘resignation.’ He regarded the demands of the 1960s counter-culture to be extravagant and unrealistic because the economic, political and cultural preconditions for the transformation of capitalism were not yet extant.

The Solidification of Critical Perspectives

The solidification of the sociology of leisure as a sub-discipline occurred in the mid-1980s. Four positions have emerged as central: the cultural studies approach, feminism, post-work theory and the over-work thesis:

Cultural Studies

The expansion of interest in leisure and tourism is partly an expression of ‘the cultural turn’ in sociology that began in the late 1970s. In the UK the main catalyst was the emergence of cultural studies, notably through the work of Stuart Hall at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Hall (1970) actually published a paper on leisure as early as 1970; however, its focus was not on the institution or ordering of leisure practice in modern urban-industrial society but on the relationship between leisure and mass communication. This reflected the early importance assigned by Birmingham to the media in the representation of social order. This interest crystallized in what is, arguably, the most significant book published by researchers in the Centre, namely Policing the Crisis (Hall et al, 1978). Alongside the role of the media in the regulation of everyday life, Birmingham researchers attributed equivalent influence to the state. Drawing on the work of Gramsci and Althusser, the Centre outlined a position on the state that placed it at the centre of culture and leisure. Any concession that the state granted to the public expansion of culture and leisure through, for example, increased state funding, was theorized as part of a complex ‘war of manoeuvre’ designed to maintain hegemony.

This was a notably different approach to leisure than anything produced by the early sociology of leisure. Most importantly, it placed power and politics at the heart of analysis. Leisure practice is alluded to in most of the significant publications that emerged from the Centre in the 1970s and 1980s, notably in respect of the use of rituals, media representation in free time and the influence of race in determining access and participation (Hall and Jefferson, 1975; Hall et al., 1980; CCCS, 1982). However, the Birmingham approach to leisure is realized most powerfully in Clarke and Critcher’s (1985) influential book on class, culture and leisure. Both had been students in the Birmingham Centre and both collaborated with Hall. Their study harnessed the central theoretical preoccupations of Birmingham and applied them to leisure. The cultural studies position is delineated as a clear alternative to functionalist approaches. Leisure is analysed as both an axis of control and forum of resistance. The study provides a detailed historical account of class and leisure and demonstrates how class and gender shape leisure access and participation. Consumer choice is theorized as conditioned by the logic of capitalist accumulation. While leisure is recognized to offer the means of challenging hegemony, the capacity of capitalism to co-opt forms of resistance is duly noted. The authors argue for the revitalization of socialism by using leisure practice as one means of reconnecting the private to the public.

Although most of the cultural studies work in Birmingham was confined to the British case, many of the central ideas have been successfully transplanted and developed elsewhere. In the United States the work of Larry Grossberg (1997) has expanded the notion of resistance in relation to rock music and other forms of American popular culture. In Australia, often with the inflection of ideas from Foucault and Bourdieu, CCCS ideas have been exploited and developed in the analysis of soap opera, audiences and taste cultures in leisure practice (Ang, 1985,1996; Bennett et al, 1999).


Feminist contributions argue that women’s ‘free’ time and participation in leisure culture is positioned by patriarchy. Studies in the UK by Deem (1986) and Green et al. (1990) and in North America by Henderson et al. (1989,1996) and Hochschild (1997) maintain that gender is constructed around a sexual, economic and social division of labour in which women are primarily located as domestic labourers, emotional managers and low-paid workers. Gender construction operationalizes an internal and external system of regulation. Internally, the importance of physical appearance in female identity presupposes a lack of equal entitlement to leisure compared with men. The focus upon questions of embodiment in female identity, together with the structural constraints upon females in the labour market, direct women to develop dependency relationships upon men or the welfare state. Externally, women’s participation in leisure is generally impeded by a lack of money and time compared with males in the same class formation. Symbolically, women are interpellated in a relation of dependence to male culture, which assigns pronounced importance to female sexuality and restrains women’s access to public leisure space. Feminist arguments therefore destabilize traditional functionalist notions of choice, freedom and spontaneity as universal characteristics of leisure practice.

Recent developments in the feminist position draw on aspects of postcolonialism to question not merely the validity of patriarchy, but all forms of identity thinking. Identity thinking is criticized for operating through untenable binary oppositions such as male/female, mind/body, culture/nature and work/leisure. The pervasive character of male hegemony continues to be stressed, but this is explored in relation to hybrid relations involving class, race, nation and collateral dimensions of power (Aitchison et al, 2000; Fullagar, 2002).

Post-Work Theory

Utilizing many aspects of the Frankfurt School critique of instrumental reason, post-work theory submits that the productive forces of advanced industrial society permit the drastic reduction of work time and the corresponding increase in leisure time. Work is no longer regarded as the central life interest. According to Gorz (1982), most workers relate to paid labour as the means to finance leisure activities rather than the means to forge self worth. Citing the dehumanizing effects of the managerial technoculture, Aronowitz and Di Fazio (1994: 349-58) call for the establishment of an adequate income for all; the regulation of capital to allocate more resources to leisure; and the introduction of fiscal and moral incentives to use leisure time to enlarge social capital. They envisage a grass-roots transformation in the body politic in which organized labour and social movements will play a leading role.

Without meaning to, Aronowitz and Cutler (1998) support Putnam’s (2000) proposition that leisure can operate as a significant means of enhancing social capital. Citing Di Fazio’s (1985) research on unemployment among longshoremen in Brooklyn, they reject the premise of the work ethic that unemployment produces dysfunctionality in individuals and disintegration in the community. The unemployed longshoremen did not turn to drink or violence. On the contrary, many collaborated more in child-rearing and voluntary unpaid labour in the community.

The post-work position challenges orthodox conceptions of identity formation and community integration which have traditionally emphasized the fundamental importance of paid labour. Echoing the work of Gorz (1982, 1983), this approach maintains that individuals in advanced capitalist society are no longer psychologically bound to work as the source of the central meaning in life. Rather, most people now relate to paid labour as the means to finance leisure activity and travel. On this account, the casualization of labour cannot be understood merely as a structural transformation in the nature of work. In addition, it arises from conscious lifestyle choices made by individuals to diversify and enrich their experience. It is this same desire for diversity and enrichment that will shift society to recognize the post-work mode by eventually instituting a minimum wage and the assignment of prestige to non-work values, especially those directed at enhancing social capital.

The Over-Work Thesis

The diametric opposite of the post-work thesis is Juliet Schor’s (1991) book on ‘the over-worked American.’ Schor argues that while strong ideological attachments remain to leisure as an esteemed life value, the trend is towards simultaneous multiple paid employment. Through a variety of social and economic arrangements, such as combining part-time and full-time labour contracts and participation in the invisible or ‘black’ economy, workers spend more time in accumulating disposable income. The psychological irony behind the phenomenon of overwork is that workers are motivated to extend participation in paid labour activities in order to increase access to consumer culture. However, the result of working longer is a deficit in time so that workers have less opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Contemporary leisure experience must be understood in terms of the ‘harried leisure class’ or ‘time famine’ (Linder, 1970; Hochschild, 1997). This condition is associated with a variety of psychosomatic anxieties. Schor lists stress, coronary disease, strokes, strain in the management of intimate relations, the production of latch-key children and the deterioration of community solidarity.

Historians of leisure have not been so effusive about the medical, psychological and social effects of over-work, but they confirm the general proposition that modern men and women have exhibited a strong tendency to trade off more leisure for the accumulation of higher economic value through greater participation in relations of paid employment. Hunnicutt (1988) argues that this is evident in the collective bargaining processes of organized labour. Until the 1920s, a prominent goal of organized labour was to increase paid holiday time. Since this period, most unions have down-played this role in favour of right-to-work objectives. The latter have taken the form of extending employment opportunities for the unemployed but also sanctioning the right to overtime work for the employed.

The over-work thesis proposes high levels of integration between individuals and consumer culture and widespread perceptions of time famine as hallmarks of the modern condition. Interestingly, quantitative analysis of time use in the West, suggests that both propositions are faulty (Gershuny, 1978,2000; Robinson and Godbey, 1999). Research in the United States estimates that since 1965 Americans have gained an extra hour’s free time per day. Interestingly, while Americans imagine that they have only 18 hours of free time per week, analysis of time diary data suggests that they actually have more than twice that amount (Robinson and Godbey, 1999). Pace, the overwork thesis, these findings imply that the perception of a generalized time famine owes more to the mechanics of how life is represented.

Gershuny’s (2000) work provides a variant of postindustrial society theory. He argues that as labour becomes more highly skilled and adds higher value through the labour process, it achieves higher rewards. By increasing the hourly rate of reward, skilled workers have leverage to decrease the hours of paid work and boost spending on the leisure sector, thus increasing the numbers employed therein. These hypotheses are extrapolated from time-budget data and may be criticized for paying insufficient attention to the condition of low-skilled workers, the unemployed and women workers. None the less, they provide a counterpoint to the over-work thesis by suggesting that skilled workers have been more successful in increasing the rate of economic reward for their labour and decreasing work-time.

A unifying feature of all of these positions is the recognition that leisure choice and practice are political. Sometimes they exaggerate the potential of leisure for building consensus. I think this applies to the contribution of Clarke and Critcher (1985) and Aronowitz and Cutler (1998). Against them, it is necessary to stress that leisure is a source of dissent as well as consensus and to insist that the role of leisure in crystallizing conflict and precipitating social change must be acknowledged. However, recognizing that leisure is political is a considerable gain over the functionalist positions that dominated the sub-discipline until the late 1970s.

The Sociology of Tourism

If the sociology of leisure struggled to cohere as a recognized field in the discipline, it took even longer for tourism to become established. Adrian Franklin (2003: 29) has commented on the irony that the massive expansion of tourism in the West during the 1950s and 1960s was met with relative indifference in the disciplines of sociology, geography and business studies that now champion the subject. Dean MacCannell’s (1976) path-breaking work on tourist experience provided an exception to the rule. It deployed an interesting mix of methods and arguments from the traditions of social semiotics and symbolic interactionism to highlight the significance of the boundaries between tourist sights and everyday life in the organization of tourism. Conversely, it replicated the traditional associations of tourism with escape and the quest for authenticity. This mirrored central themes in the critical sociology of the day having to do with the bureaucracy, standardization and alienation of urban-industrial life. The division between authentic and inauthentic experience and its connotation with tourist and routine urban-industrial existence was reproduced in the functionalist analysis of Krippendorf (1984) and Cohen’s (1988, 1995) social psychology of tourist types. However, it was quickly recognized to be unsatisfactory. The casting of tourism as a quest for authenticity glossed over the routine character of much tourist experience; it promoted a false conceptual dichotomy between authentic and inauthentic experience; and it failed to conceptualize the meaning of tourist flow in relation to central questions of modernity.

John Urry’s (1990) influential study The Tourist Gaze endeavoured to overhaul this state of affairs. Instead of focusing on the character of tourist experience, he concentrates upon the representation and sign-world of tourist sights. His study identifies tourism with the attempt to visually embrace and record different and unusual landscapes, objects and urban milieux. It was obviously influenced by the cultural turn in sociology, especially in respect of the significance of visual culture, surveillance and hyper-reality in ordering everyday life. However, it is an oddly restrained book, which does not fully engage with the challenges that the debate on modernity and postmodernity present to a sociological and geographical understanding of tourism (Harvey, 1989; Crang, 1999; Franklin, 2003). For example, it tends to present tourism uncritically as a personal and social benefit. The environmental consequences of mass tourism, the development of the sex work sector in tourist destinations and the manipulation of the tourist sign economy are recognized but not adequately investigated. The significance of tourism in providing subjectively meaningful orientation in the lives of tourists tends to be rejected in favour of an emphasis upon the surface or superficial aspects of tourist experience. Finally, while the significance assigned to embodiment in tourist experience is welcome, it presents an over-pronounced emphasis upon the visual and under-develops the importance of sensuality in tourist exchange.

Ethnographic and historical studies of the relationship between the beach, heritage sites and nature and tourism have proliferated in the sociology of tourism (MacDonald, 1997; Edensor, 1998; Desmond, 1999; Lencek and Bosker, 1999; O’Reilly, 2000). This work echoes the theme of the Other, sketched out in postcolonialism. It raises the question of hybrid, cosmopolitan and ‘transnational’ forms of identity which destabilize the dichotomy between tourist and native. It explores how tourist identity is coded and themed and the dilemmas that it poses for natives.’ These are often directly expressed in the incursion of tourist physical space into native settings. But there are also complex layers of cross-cultural positioning in tourist flows which involve positioning the tourist as the Other. Western tourists have been defined as anything from ambassadors of friendship to symbols of imperialist domination. The questions of how tourist space and how tourists are themselves coded and themed illustrates the importance of examining tourism as a system of representation. This approach lends itself to a variety of discursive methods of analysis which are likely to prove fruitful in further research.

At the level of theory, the most significant work investigates the relationship of tourism to modernity and postmodernity (Gottdiener, 1997; Franklin, 2003). This work draws on globalization theory and multiculturalism to explore travel and difference as the crucial motifs of contemporary urban-industrial identity. Urry (1999) has contributed to this debate with his argument that traditional static concepts of society as a hermetic, sealed identity should be replaced with the concept of flow which highlights movement, porosity and hybridity. At the crux of this work is the proposition that globalization has collapsed modernist divisions of emplacement. It is no longer meaningful to operate with the dichotomy between ‘home’ and ‘abroad.’ The work of Ritzer (1992, 1995, 2004a, 2004b) and Gottdiener (1997, 2000) in the sociology of consumption illustrates how new ways of theming urban-industrial space erode the boundaries that separate tourism from everyday life. The emergence of Mediterranean or Caribbean villages in urban-industrial Western shopping malls, the development of heritage sites in deindustrialized landscapes and the proliferation of various forms of multicultural cuisine in Western city centres and suburbs, contribute to the de-differentiation of space. Traditional modernist distinctions between home and abroad, and the attendant anxieties and stereotypes attached to them, which the first and second generation package tour operators of the postwar tourist boom exploited to manage foreign holidays for Westerners, have lost ground. The main challenge facing them has come from new forms of tourism in which consciousness of global interdependence and the division of power between the core and the periphery is pronounced. The extraordinary expansion of the Internet in the past decade has significantly contributed to this process. It has vastly increased the flow of information about other countries, ethnicities, religions and cultures and made virtual forms of travel a habitual feature of life for anyone with access to a computer.

Prospects for the Sociology of Leisure and Tourism

The past 25 years have witnessed the gradual ascent of leisure and tourism as recognized fields in sociology. This has not replaced modules and research groupings organized around the family, education, gender, inequality, health and illness, race, social policy and work on undergraduate courses. But these staples of the core curriculum are now pursued in a context in which the questions of leisure and tourism are widely acknowledged meta-themes in contemporary social life. There are three main reasons for this.

First, demographic changes, especially the ageing of populations in the West, have generated new sociological interest in the place of leisure and tourism in the organization of lifestyle and the composition of society (Gershuny, 1978). Compared with 25 years ago, tourism and leisure are already more prominent features at every stage of the lifestyle. As average life expectancy increases in the West, people are likely not merely to live longer but a significant number will generate enough disposable income to travel more and experience longer periods of retirement for leisure. The place of leisure and tourism in identity and identity politics is likely to grow.

Secondly, the rise of the sociology of consumption has magnified interest in the role of leisure and tourism in configuring identity and practice (Ewen, 1976; Featherstone, 1991; Ritzer, 1992,2004a). The development of themed shopping environments, which deploy markers of travel as standard design features, has made motifs of leisure and tourism pronounced features of most Western city consumer centres.

Thirdly, the phenomenal expansion of interest in globalization has created new interest in questions of population flow, the physical and symbolic importance of leisure and travel and the relationship between tourism, leisure and multiculturalism. Indeed, Urry (1999) questions the validity of the traditional concept of society in the midst of new global flows of finance, tourists and information. Perhaps this underestimates the continued importance of nation-states and nationalism as foci of solidarity. Certainly, it applies more to conditions in the advanced Western powers than in the developing countries. None the less, globalization has undoubtedly increased popular consciousness of heterodox forms of cultural, political and physical emplacement and embodiment.

Leisure and tourism are particularly rich subjects for sociological inquiry because they continuously pose questions of individual freedom. Parker (1981) defined leisure as possessing the characteristics of freedom, choice, flexibility and spontaneity. This definition expressed a perspective of atomistic individualism, in which the characteristics of leisure are analysed from the standpoint of the individual. Since then, the trend in the sociology of leisure and tourism has been to root analysis in the concept of the situated actor. Sociologists differ about what aspects of the situated nature of action are most important. As we have seen in the foregoing discussion, industrialism, class, gender and race have all been presented as key structural influences. Perhaps one way of dealing with the question of situation is to recognize the embodied, emplaced character of human action. By treating all humans as already embodied and emplaced, a perspective on the situated nature of action can be developed which is more inclusive than structuralist interpretations. Be that as it may, because leisure and tourism are ideologically constructed as the times and spaces in which individuals possess most freedom and choice, they have enormous sociological potential for revealing how ideology operates to position subjects and how subjects challenge and resist regimes of power. The relationship of leisure and tourism to Western ideology promises to yield some of the most interesting gains in future research.