The Use Of Free Time

THE MOST SUPERFICIAL and constantly reiterated platitude of leftist sociologists during recent years is that leisure has become a major factor in advanced capitalist society. This platitude is the basis of countless debates for or against the importance of a reformist rise in the standard of living, or of workers’ participation in the prevailing values of the society into which they are becoming increasingly integrated. What is counterrevolutionary about all this verbiage is that it equates free time with passive consumption, as if the only use of free time was the opportunity to become an increasingly full-time spectator of the established absurdities. The illusions manifested in a particularly ponderous symposium of these sociologists were soundly refuted in two articles in Socialisme ou Barbarie #27. In the first, Pierre Canjuers wrote: “While modern capitalism constantly develops new needs in order to increase consumption, people’s dissatisfaction remains the same as ever. Their lives no longer have any meaning beyond a rush to consume, and this consumption is used to justify the increasingly radical frustration of any creative activity or genuine human initiative — to the point that people no longer even see this lack of meaning as important.” In the second article, Jean Delvaux noted that the issue of consumption has not superseded the qualitative distinction between the poor and the wealthy (four out of five wage workers still have to constantly struggle to make ends meet). More significantly, he pointed out that there is no reason to worry about whether or not the proletariat participates in the prevailing social or cultural values, because “there no longer are any such values.” And he added the essential point that the present culture, “increasingly separated from society and from people’s lives (painters painting for other painters, novelists writing novels read only by other novelists about the impossibility of writing a novel) — this culture, insofar as it has any originality, is no longer anything but a constant self-denunciation: a denunciation of the society and a rage against culture itself.”

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