Book Review: An Introduction to Leisure Studies: Principles and Practice by Bramham and Stephen Wagg
Louise Platt / March 16, 2015
By Rita Carmouche
University of Huddersfield.
Publisher Sage, 2014
In An Introduction to Leisure Studies Bramham and Wagg provide a compelling account of contemporary leisure. There already exist introductory textbooks to the field of Leisure Studies but few have been written that explore the complexity of how an individual’s leisure practices change as they chart their way through the life course. Bramham and Wagg adopt an historical sociological perspective to fuse together the individuals’ life span (their journey through the life course) the generational cohorts of which they form a part and the wider economic, political, social and cultural context in which their life course is played out.
The book is divided into ten chapters. The first three chapters are concerned with the field of study, principles and practices, research traditions and to provide an historical dimension to the study of leisure. In each chapter, key social and leisure theories are included and these will enable students to engage with the shifting paradigms within Leisure Studies. Understanding the social construction of time and the debates surrounding free time remains important for students of leisure. Chapter three will be useful for students to contrast time in pre-industrial and post-industrial periods. Chapter three also outlines one of the key frameworks for the book namely to understand different measures of time. Essential to the theme of the book is to understand the idea of the epoch of generational cohorts. This implies that people born and growing up in the same time may share a collective experience of that time period.
The remaining seven chapters follow a logical progression (given the central theme of the book), from the study of youth through to adulthood and old age. The difference from any previous texts is that this book traces a generation, namely the baby boomers (individuals who were teenagers in the 1960s) through to their current status as sixty something’s. The individual’s engagement in work leisure and the family forms part of the analysis. The baby boomers grew up in a time where work opportunities, home ownership and state and occupational pensions allowed individuals a degree of security. Furthermore the 1960s is typified as a period of challenge to traditional forms of authority, changing work patterns and gender relations and a rejection of previous moral and cultural codes. In a detailed account of the period, Bramham and Wagg chart the processes that gave rise to the previous hard working generation of ants (the baby boomers parents), through to how the baby boomers became a generation of grasshoppers, with limited or no commitment to previous traditions and roles. This generational cohort’s experiences of this period are important in shaping their leisure practices and concerns in later life. The baby boomers transition to adulthood is marked by a decline in previous markers of collective identity (changing work patterns, social class identity and community). Social relations are uncertain and transient; they are now a generation of butterflies and leisure lifestyles are formed in consumption and are more individualised. The remaining chapters focus upon changing demographics and the transition to old age.
By using a historical approach to study a generational cohort the authors are able to show the different underlying social process that shape leisure and give rise to different experiences for individuals. For example, the economic social and cultural process that are at work for contemporary youth today, in contrast to the period of the baby boomers. Bramham and Wagg’s book provides an original account of changing leisure practices from industrial society through to what has been termed ‘liquid modernity’.
Although this is not a central criticism of the book, while we can accept that the baby boomer generation share a collective experience of the period, (they grew up at the same time), we cannot assume that this had influenced their leisure patterns in the same way. There is a potential risk of stereotyping. It is also strange that a book purporting to be about Leisure Studies does not include a section on events as leisure. Given the prevalence of events-related degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, this is an omission.
In keeping with exploring the central theme of each chapter, relevant and contemporary case studies and exemplars have been included to allow students to engage with the material. Students will like these as will tutors as they can be used as a focus for discussion. Overall this book does achieve its aims, however this is not an introductory textbook that students will pick up and read through in the one go. This is a thought provoking book that students will return to in later years of their course and it will be used to stimulate ideas for project and dissertation work.
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