Culture and Identity

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Leisure, consumption and identity

Leisure is the time we have that is free from other demands.

Modernist theories focus on work as the major influence on our personal identity.

Since WW2 rapid growth in production of consumer goods leading to mass consumption. The consumption of leisure goods, especially in the mass media has increased.

Postmodern approach suggests that what we do in our leisure time has become a important part of our image of ourselves that we present to others. Leisure industries, e.g. mass media, have become more important sources of our personal identity than the work we do. Leisure becomes a series of lifestyle choices. Leisure has become consumption

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Leisure, consumption and identity

Marxist theorists believe that the increase in consumerism benefits the ruling class in several ways:

  • Mass profits for big business. False needs created through advertising.
  • Mass media creates a class consiousness by manipulating the working class. (the misery of working in a capitalist society is made bearable by leisure)
  • Leisure form of social control (states involved in regulation of leisure through licensing, censorship laws and public spaces monitored by police)
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Leisure, class and identity

Parker 1976 suggests social class influences the type of leisure we choose. For example working class choose leisure activities that provide and escape from manual work (extrinsic rewards) by going down to the pub for a drink. Middle cclass who work in jobs with high levels of intrinsic satisfaction are willing to allow activities associated with work to be part of their leisure time, e.g. golf with busines associates. 

Extrinsic rewards - jobs are not enjoyed, done for the wages we receive.

Intrinsic satisfaction - job gives a sense of personal fulfilment. Money not the prime motivation to work.

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Leisure, class and identity

Postmodernists believe that the boundaries between social class and leisure have become blurred. People are free to pick and choose how their leisure time's spent. 

Important to note that our choices are limited by our income.

Youth culture.

Argued that in the last 50 years the fashion and entertainment industries have been dominated by a 'cult of youth' in which the lifestyle and tastes of young people are celebrated. - linked to increasing amount of disposable income held by young people.

Mass media important in development of youth subcultures - new trends rapidly communicated to young people. Many different youth subcultures since 1950's. Today young people can pick and mix from these and create new combinations of them.

'virtual youth' -internet games consols, chat rooms.

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Leisure, gender and identity


  • Suggest that gender role socialisation has an impact on women's expectations of leisure activities 
  • The lack of affordable childcare stops women from accessing the leisure activities of their choice. 
  • Men expect women to choose homebase activities to do in their leisure time instead of going out - restrict. 
  • Research suggests women have less disposable income than men. Women tend to combine their leisure with other obligations, e.g. looking after children
  • Are also likely to become involved in leisure activities from the sake of their husbands.
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Leisure, gender and identity

Because men may dominate many sporting and social venues women are still restricted on where they spend their leisure time, this is because they may feel uncomfortable on their own in these settings.
A fear of being a victim of crime in the evening may cause reluctance to pursue leisure interests outside the home in the evening.

Difference in leisure activities may also be due to age, social class and marital status. Middle-class - gym and keep fit classes. Single - bars, pubs and nightclubs. 

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Leisure, ethnicity and identity

Expressive forms such as music emerged from the minority ethnic groups, like reggae, hip hop, blues etc. These have all had a significant impact on popular music.

There are many examples of successful black sports stars, musicians and actors in the media, may influence the identity and leisure of minority ethnic groups. However in some sports, e.g. golf and swimming, ethinic minorities are still under-represented.

Post modernists claim that in contemporary culture a hybridity of cultural forms has emerged that celebrates diversity and is used by people of all social backgrounds as a shared symbol and source of identity. Ethinicity will become less and less significant in terms of inequality as everyone gains access to the same symbolic universe.

Unemployment still higher for ethnic minoritity groups, may limit leisure choices.

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The leisure industry: globalisation, leisure and i

Mass consumption technology has been central to the process of globalisation. Electronic banking and instant communication has made it easier for transnational corporations to conduct their business.

Leisure industry; entertainment, tourism and leisure products. Our identity is expressed through our lifestyle choices of the products and services we use in the leisure industry.

New technology has led to changes in the leisure industry, travel is now easier and cheaper due to new technology being developed. We can now travel around the world and live in different countries. Through the media we may be motivated to use the service of the travel industry as we are shown how others live.

John urry 1990 analysied the way tourism has changed in recent years. A key motivation for tourists is to look at things they wouldn't normally see. Urry calls this the 'tourist gaze'. 2 types of gaze: Collective and romantic gaze.

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The leisure industry: globalisation, leisure and i

Collective gaze: When other people are needed to give the atmosphere to a plae that they visit. e.g. club in ibiza needs to be bus to enjoy the experience more.

Romantic gaze: When we want to be alone to see the place we are visiting, e.g. to contemplate the beauty of a mountain. 

Urry In modern tourism built-up tourist resorts would appeal. Emphasis on collective gaze - many other tourists help to create a holiday atmosphere. Benidorm, for example, would appeal with mass produced entertainment consumed by all. Postmodern tourists would shun this type of tourism, they would base their holiday choice on trying to achieve the romantic gaze. 

This illustrates some key postmodern ideas in terms of how the leisure industry shapes identity; Most people can afford an annual holiday and the reason for choosing different holiday experiences is not based on social class, ethnicity or gender. We can all choose from the wide range of holiday options available to us and through this choice we make symbolic statements about who we are and what's important to us.

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Inequalities in leisure: aspects of negative ident

Boundaries between work and leisure have beome blurred as new technology allows us to chek busines emails in our leisure time, many of us work in the leisure industries and some set up businesses as a result of our leisure interests. Much of our leisure time is spent intereting with the mass media, particually tv.

Tv now has hundereds of different channels so the audience has become fragmented, therefore the production of programmes has become fragmented with many independant production companies. The aim of the produces is to attract the largest audience for as cheap as possible, some companies are unwilling to take risks with new programmes therefor 'clone' hit series'. The reliance on advertising and sponcership may also limit the types of programmes that are made as advertisers want their products to be associated with desirable lifestyles that encourage consumption. This may explain why there are so many cooking, diy and gardening programmes.

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Inequalities in leisure: aspects of negative ident

From a postmodernist perspective we can interpret the fragmentation of television channels and texts in an optimistic way. All texts are polysemic and can be interpreted in a range of ways that allow individuals to make sense of their experiences and continually create their own sense of identity. New commodities are continually produced and as consumers we an use these to continually change our identity should we choose to do so.

The postmodern idea that we all have incessant choices in terms of onstructing our identity seems to have some support in some aspets of our culture. However we need to consider those who cannot afford the choices we are all assumed to have. Those who cannot 'buy in' to the lifestyles the may desire may experience some negative feelings about themselves and their society. Critical sociologists suggest we may need to recognised and understand social inequalities such as class, gender, etc, that have profounf effects on our daily lives and the choices that we have

Frankfurt school has a much more pessimistic approach on mass consumption. Adorno conserned that mass consumption would lead to passive working class who could not distinguish between what is worthy and what is not. 

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