Stebbins, R. (2000) 'The Extraprofessional Life: Leisure, Retirement and Unemployment', in Current Sociology, 48(1): 1 -- 18.
[This is an interesting piece in that it extends the classic work of Parker on the relations between work and leisure, and also offers some useful definitions of matters such as serious leisure and flow. There is a lot of empirical research cited, often American or Canadian, but clearly much more needs to be done].
Professionals have been seen as sharing a 'distinctive set of shared values, attitudes and expectations' which makes their work particularly appealing and challenging. Not all actual professionals would describe their work in this way, and sometimes the interest wanes. [At this stage, a whole lot of critical work on the professional is evoked, that which claims that bureaucratisation is threatening professional autonomy, for example. Stebbins does not cite this material directly, nor does he seem to think that the term 'professional' is not a fixed attribute but something which is negotiable]. Instead, Stebbins prefers 'a common-sense dictionary definition of profession' [not as systematic as Parsons's classic ideal type] -- a vocation, requiring knowledge and training and so on.
Stebbins (3) cites Csikszentmihalyi (1990) and argues that the experience of the professional often displays the central characteristics of 'flow':
'1. Sense of competence in executing the activity;
2. Requirement of concentration;
3. Activity has clear goals;
4. Activity allows immediate feedback;
5. Sense of deep, focused involvement in the activity;
6. Sense of control in completing the activities; a
7. Loss of self consciousness during the activity;
8. Sense of time is truncated during the activity'
These characteristics are rewarding and valued and leads some people to see work as indistinguishable from leisure. This is the positive side of those who are 'workaholics'. As a result, professionals use their free time in leisure activities that produce similar pleasures or that involve meeting other professionals. In particular, professionals tend to engage in more serious leisure and less casual leisure: 'Serious leisure is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist or volunteer activity sufficiently substantial and interesting in nature for the participant to find a career there in the acquisition and expression of the combination of its special skills, knowledge and experience (Stebbins, 1992: 3).' (4). Casual leisure is everything else [a rather unsatisfactory residual category as Stebbins himself recognised].
It is possible to further subdivide the activities. Thus 'hobbyists have been grouped in five categories: collectors, makers and tinkers, activity participants... players of sports and games... and the liberal arts hobbies' (5). Volunteering takes place in no less than 17 areas of everyday life, such as 'health... education... human relationships... recreation... religion... civic affairs... politics' (5) .
Serious leisure is leisure rather than work because it conforms to Kaplan's classic definitions:
'1. An antithesis to "work" as an economic function;
2. A pleasant expectation and recollection;
3. A minimum of involuntary social - role obligations;
4. A psychological perception of freedom;
5. Having a close relation to values of the culture;
6. Ranging from inconsequence and insignificance to weightiness and importance;
7. Often, but not necessarily, an activity characterised by the element of play' (5)
Parker is cited as support for the view that professionals have an extension pattern of leisure. This can be direct, as in the 'busman's holiday', or indirect. Here, leisure activities can be distinctively different from work although offering the same pleasures. Role-playing fantasy games as a leisure activity for students would be an example (6).
There is scope to demonstrate how tastes are connected with social class as in Bourdieu [after a brief discussion, Stebbins cites some American studies that apparently support Bourdieu's views -- 7]. The nature of the profession itself might be a variable, however -- dentists work alone and have fewer friends in the profession than university professors (7). The values of work can also affect the pleasures of leisure -- aesthetic or technical pleasures, for example, will be stressed by the aesthetic and technical professionals respectively. Sex is likely to be a variable as well [Stebbins offers a very brief discussion of the notion of unpaid domestic labour as a constraint, page 8. Parker actually does rather better]. 'Personality' may also be a factor [Stebbins's examples show how different types of professionals find satisfaction in different types of leisure --'engineers find great satisfaction in such hobbies as wood carving and home repairs' -- this doesn't look very different from the points made about the nature of the profession above].
It is also possible that leisure may have an effect on work although this is unresearched [good idea though].
Unemployment offers different possibilities. It may be affecting professionals more now than ever before. There is some evidence that suggests that where professionals are on employed they have different coping strategies, involving a 'turn to serious leisure (9). Working-class unemployed are more likely to be overwhelmed, depressed and unable to pursue leisure [a study by Kay, 1990 is cited here]. The same professional spirit that's produces commitment to work might be responsible here, as might be more general orientations, including 'fundamental personality traits and personal circumstances' (9). The studies cited seen to show how employer support is often minimal, and family and other connections more important [a picture of employers as rather ruthless and unpleasant emerges here -- surely not!]. Unemployed professionals seek work in various ways according to their age. They usually reject retraining and tend to rely on their own perseverance. They are often blamed personally as well for lacking appropriate skills. Clearly, leisure opportunities are affected by reduced earnings and 'daily, even hourly, [domestic] stress' (12). Those who have committed themselves to their vocation are particularly liable to suffer stress from unemployment. Thus 'only some [unemployed ] professionals manage... to continue with... leisure or take it up anew' (13).
Retirement offers different possibilities. Some professionals can carry on working into advanced old age. Assuming a reasonable level of health and income, leisure activities can include post-retirement employment [in the same field]. Apart from the need to earn money, there seems to be a continuing commitment and source of pleasure. However, 'the vast majority of men... had no interest in working more', partly because they had been or risked being stereotyped (15). Other options include persisting with the leisure undertaken while younger, allowing for increasing frailty. Career volunteering seems particularly valued, at least in the USA and Canada, although again 'ageism can dampen enthusiasm for volunteering' (15). Social class also seems to be a variable, particularly education. One American study showed that finding voluntary work interesting was the major factor, which supports the view that it is a form of leisure. There are gender variables in terms of the kind of volunteering undertaken.
Many retired professionals pursue liberal arts hobbies, especially acquiring 'knowledge for its own sake' , in 'arts, sports, cuisines, languages, cultures, histories, sciences, philosophies or literary traditions' (16). Studies of retirement communities in the USA confirm this finding, and show how watching television documentaries, for example, permit a form of participation in discussing politics. Adult learning programmes are also popular, especially for those with university degrees. Many enroll but do not seek credentials. Stebbins mentions Elder Hostel or the University of the Third Age.
Overall, there does seem to be an extension pattern. This can lead to an alternative 'central life interest'. Even busy working professionals prefer serious to casual leisure, and serious leisure appeals more to the unemployed and retired. Other unresearched possibilities are competitions for time between work and leisure. The ability to engage in serious leisure shows the real benefits of a professional occupation, to go along with power, and income. Professional work itself offers possibilities of satisfying leisure learn from others.
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