I want to focus on the discussion of escape holidays as a major theme in recent 'unofficial' leisure, and use a number of pieces, including Rojek's 1993 book Ways of Escape, to suggest that this phenomenon is linked to social changes and developments, and that, as usual, it reveals some complex issues, despite its apparent simplicity. Indeed, this is Rojek's technique -- to take a theme and use it to open out discussion on leisure and to question the usual approaches (which are often based on the 'work-leisure' distinction).
What do people want to escape from, for example? Why is escape more important now than it was? It is clear that there is an implicit view that social changes have produced social problems for people. The handout summarises some of the work in this tradition -- Weber, for example, predicted increased rationalisation and bureaucratisation of work and life, and Ritzer has recently revived these themes with his notion of 'McDonaldisation' (on which, see my file). Marxists might describe the changes in terms of increased alienation, as individuals lose control over their lives to powerful corporations and government agencies -- particular variants of this approach stress the increased de-skilling or intensification of work. Foucault's work is used to describe the changes in the type and extent of surveillance in public life -- in the last century especially, whole new mechanisms of surveillance were established to regulate our conduct in minute detail and at all times (such as Bentham's design for prisons called 'Panopticon', or, for that matter, his rationally organised school system called 'Chrestomathia' -- see file).
In this century, we have seen the rise of electronic surveillance, of course, in workplaces, universities, shops, roads and public spaces. These technologies aim (not always successfully) at producing the self-regulating citizen who controls and regulates his or her actions even when there is no actual surveillance. These powerful trends are dehumanising and intrusive, for the critics -- no wonder there is an urge to escape from them from time to time.
Rojek (1993) argues that the traditional areas which offered a chance to escape were thought of as childhood, the adventure (especially as in Simmel's work -- gambling and promiscuity are his examples), dreams or hallucinations, madness, and moments of collective excitement. The last example reminds me of Durkheim's work on what might be called ecstatic religion (from ekstasis, meaning an ability to stand outside one's self). Collective worship was essential to generate this kind of excitement, which was interpreted as a validation of religious feeling, although in reality it was group excitement, the exchange of permissions to behave abnormally, the amplification of abnormal ecstatic behaviour, which explained the feeling. Anyway, all of these areas have been rationalised or regulated as well by now. Childhood has been colonised by pedagogues and child psychiatrists and is now a mere annoying prelude to systematic education by 'hothousing' parents and nursery schools. Foucault blames Freud for regulating the unconscious and its activities like dreams and fantasies or hallucinations (see file). Freud is out to regulate and control these areas, says Foucault, bring them back under the sway of reason -- and he uses therapeutic techniques that themselves derive from authoritarian and regulating techniques like the Catholic confessional. Madness has been medicalised. Adventurous activity and collective activity have been regulated and licensed.
We could think of another example, not in Rojek as such (although hinted at in his chapter on women and the control of their bodies) -- sex, long seen as a source of ecstasy, loss of self, a truly human and liberated zone of activity. Sex has also been regulated and controlled though, by a combination of 'discourses' -- religious prohibitions, sexual hygiene movements, the childhood movement, campaigns against overpopulation, the new sexual ethics of American teenage life. Even that much-quoted parallel that sees ecstasy in semiotic adventures (in Barthes' work , e.g. on Bond) seems limited -- you probably have to be a professor of semiotics to get much of a charge at being joyfully lost in poetry or the semiotic promiscuity of a video game (as in Fiske's example). Some writers and critics still hold out hope for personal liberation in these traditional areas though -- in 'rebellious subjectivity' (Marcuse), or in occasions of deliberate excess (Bataille) -- although Habermas is less optimistic (1984 -- if you're really keen).
Incidentally, this leads to another point about ''cultural capital' in Bourdieu's terms -- you will need to possess rather a lot of this to manage cultural escapes, since cultural encounters can be challenging. You need to develop a selective 'gaze', I suggest below, to blot out the very unromantic aspects of travel like squalor and poverty, danger and disease. One way for our forebears to cope was to rationalise these distractions in terms of racist or neo-Darwinina ideologies which suggest that poor people like, or deserve, or at the very least can live happily with their poverty and disease. These days, I am tempted to say, you probably need that cool indifference and worldlliness that keeps you insulated -- as in our old friends the 'high aesthetic' or the 'deep approach'
For most of us, 'escape' is going to be much more limited a matter -- temporary, partial and easily regulated. I have used the terms 'inversion' rather than a 'break', as a reference back to marxist debates about ideology, or, specifically for us, about youth cultures -- those too offer mere inversions of adult straight values, not thorough breaks with them. If adults insist on short hair, cleanliness and punctuality, it is easy to develop a 'counterculture' that stresses the opposite -- but mere opposition is not a break with the whole system, it is not that creative or determined (and, as we know, the values are easily reversed again at a later stage).
There are lots of examples we could choose to illustrate this debate, but I have chosen tourism and travel. I hope you will use what you know of these areas from those courses to 'test' the arguments here.
Travel and tourism shows the deeper links with normal life, or the difficulties of escape, if you like. The first travellers, the aristocracy on the 'grand tours' of Europe in the 18th century onwards had no intention of leaving their normal values behind, it could be argued. Indeed, travel confirmed and supported their overall value systems, argue Rojek, in two directions: contrasts with some countries supported the social Darwinism and racism of the day, as we have suggested, while visits to the seats of classical civilisations lent support to the myth that British culture was a direct descendant of those classic traditions (a powerful idea embedded in educational policy too, of course). These ideas might be 'broadened' by travel but confirmed, not challenged.
As an aside, Rojek mentions the growth of archaeology as confirming the 'authenticity' of those visits. I suggest (along with others like Clifford (1988)) that ethnography as a discipline did the same job for the authorities in a later period -- it was closely tied to the military, administrative and ideological requirements of imperialistic powers and helped confirm the more liberal, benevolent 'common sense' views of the relations between theirs and others' cultures.
A later phase of travel and tourism emphasises authenticity too, as we know from the early work on the tourists' motives. We have a different social group and different social agendas in this 'quest for authenticity'. The quest matches all sorts of anxieties about industrialisation and the threat to culture, and privilege based on culture, that it implies. Travel offered the chance to find 'authentic' cultures, and indeed, to be 'authentic' oneself -- a visit would confirm yourself as a sensitive person with 'proper' values and proper cultural skills, able to understand and empathise with others immediately, without all the artificiality of social arrangements (or indeed, social scientific methods). Only true gentlefolk could do this, just as only true gentlefolk today can directly intuit the works of past writer or poets as a matter of sensibility, without any nasty techniques or methods. So - going travelling and being moved by the encounter was a way of confirming a standard class identity, to put it rather bluntly. Similar points arise for encounters between 'individuals' and 'Nature' -- in travels in wildernesses. Both are bourgeois concepts, says Rojek, and travel confirms the strength of both.
Of course, it is increasingly difficult to deliver such encounters -- authenticity has disappeared with globalisation, so that Papua New Guineans drive Honda 50cc mopeds, and one encounters large Mercedes lorries loaded with CocaCola on remote African dirt roads. Tourism has spoiled the encounter (Rojek argues that the division between travel and tourism is also largely a matter of class distinction), 'authenticity' is as corrupt a marketing device as 'green'. As a result, the quest for authenticity has power these days mostly as a matter of nostalgia -- this term, in postmodernist thought, stresses the sentimental and political attachments to a bygone era and to the concepts that described it.
Just to put in the boot still further, I have myself always been suspicious about the quest for authenticity (or the 'romantic gaze' as Urry (1990) calls it) -- my fellow expats in Malawi wanted the place to stay 'authentic' and enjoyed 'authentic' scenery, but took the usual precautions against infection or illness as they travelled (unlike the people they so admired). The romantic gaze is a very selective one, usually offering telephoto shots of the landscape, or close-ups of the fauna and flora --but very few mid-shots with people in them (especially ill people, starving people, exploited people).
I have added the concept of a 'moral holiday' to this discussion, based on the work of Becker who coined the term to describe the occasional foray into deviance undertaken by everybody, including respectable youths. It is a temporary suspension of morality and responsibility, often undertaken away from the home turf. Victims are often foreign people too, you might want to argue, as British youths carouse in Mediterranean resorts. The exciting idea of 'abroad' as a place of license is clearly involved here -- but, of course, one soon returns, 're-created'. The idea might also explain the recreational use of illegal drugs as a form of 'escape', dealt with in a recent survey by Parker et al (1998). Incidentally, Parker et al also trace the 'normalisation' of drug use to the characteristics of modernity and 'risk society'
I think our video tape of one such holiday (Tony Robinson's episode of Great Journeys) also shows the problems of leaving behind the guilt and the normal values even for a day or two. Robinson enjoys the attentions of young women on the beach, but muses to camera about their motives and his own, and the situation which drives them to do what they do; he loves scuba diving but worries about the damage done to the reefs; he enjoys a carnival but suffers fatigue and the realisation that much of it has become commercialised. As Rojek argues nicely, this is a paradox of modernity: in order to control or regulate ourselves to fit the modern order we have to become very self-conscious and analytical, constantly monitoring our 'passions'. As a result it becomes difficult to enjoy anything any more --we frantically search for pleasure and release but can never find it, since we can never leave ourselves at home (as he puts it). We came across this idea before, I think, in the notion of the constantly dissatisfied consumer.
Finally, Rojek builds on Urry's work to discuss the notion of 'post-tourism'. As with other 'posts', the idea is that the whole enterprise of tourism as travel, as a quest, as a release, as an escape has now been abandoned (by the punters -- it should also be abandoned by the theorists). Tourism and travel is nothing special, compared with normal life -- the experiences it delivers have become routine additions to the normal state of affairs in modernity. There are no core values left to break out of or invert or confirm. Modern life features a radical tolerance (or indifference), de-differentiation, fragmentation and relativism right at the heart of our every day life (well, I suspect that Rojek has in mind life in London here?). There is a liberating side to this, although it will annoy defenders of the uniqueness of tourism -- we can all relax and feel at home when we travel, abandon 'serious' quests, relax and take what we get as the experience, no matter how staged it might be. The ironic enjoyment of tourism precisely as a staged event is a major factor in the enjoyment of the Disney theme park too, for me at least (see my account).
Leaving nostalgia behind helps us focus on new forms of tourist experience -- whether we approve of them or not. De-differentiation breaks the barriers between high and low culture, between 'respectable' and carnal pleasures, and it celebrates 'depthlessness', surface, and spectacle. There is the joy in the cheerful naffness of holiday camps, in the jumble of fleeting impressions in theme parks or package holidays (we get used to this, says Rojek, from watching the mad disconnected flows of TV programmes), in meaningless entertainment and in the 'low' pleasures of voyeurism and detachment. Rojek writes of 'black spots' and 'death tours', and increasing interests in 'sites of disorder' or 'backstage' areas. Who would have thought, he asks, that a century or so after it was constructed, a cemetery would be the major tourist attraction in Paris? I also like the concept of the 'disease tourist' (in the film Fight Club), where people visit victim support groups as voyeurs, or the notion of a 'cognitive tourist', which I first encountered at the Open University to describe people who carried on taking OU courses long after they had actually graduated.
Then there is tourism without travel, a theme developed well in Rojek and Urry (1997), but rehearsed in the 1993 book too. Cultures themselves travel, it is argued, and people need do so no longer. One can find considerable exoticism, difference and ethnic variety in London or Birmingham (I know that IS travel for some Plymothians!!), or simply by turning on the TV. We knew about this at the turn of the century, when intellectuals discovered the joys of metropolitan Paris, and used the term 'flaneurie' to describe the movement in and out of different social worlds as one ambled gently through the arcades and quarters.
Of course, this term reminds me of an important discussion about gender, as did a discussion I had recently with some thoughtful students (Karlie, Pru and Candice). I have already hinted that the flaneur is probably a middle-class person, able to relish and manage the variety of sites he sees. And that's the point -- it will be a 'he', since it is very doubtful whether women could ever drift around cities, visit 'sites of disorder' or whatever on their own, without attracting unwelcome opportunities for interaction (!). Karlie, Pru and Candice came with my (male) colleague and I to Paris on a field trip recently. Ian and I could walk around fairly inconspicuously, seeing without being seen, relying on our non-descript appearance and schoolboy French in emergencies -- but our female students attracted attention wherever they went and faced a barrage of dubious enquiries (or even attempts to sell them things). Neither class nor gender can easily be escaped!
Finally we come to the media, whose role has been hinted at throughout. Rojek uses the postmodern term 'hyperreality' to describe the sensations here, as media images saturate our lives. Those images become fused with reality itself -- we cannot forget them. No matter how hard we try to recapture that authentic encounter, we cannot stand in simple awe in front of the Taj Mahal at dawn without thinking of the newspaper photograph of Princess Diana doing exactly the same thing. Hyperreality is better than reality, of course -- the documentary on the Taj explained its history, offered historical shots of the building, took the shots on a beautiful day with few tourists, offered comparisons with other monuments and so on -- far more meaning was crammed in than could ever be derived from a single physical encounter. The documentary on the Taj ends and is followed by a game show --such is the experience of modernity, says Rojek, where everything is flat and banal. No wonder our travel and tourism experiences are too -- although we rarely admit it to ourselves and 'talk up' the visit instead.
Clifford J (1988) The Predicament of Culture: twentieth century literature,
ethnography and art, London: Harvard University Press