The Social Relationship Between Work And Leisure


The modern contemporary urban human culture revolves around the concept of leisure and work. Leisure and work have been part of human history since time immemorial. All elements of human history since the beginning of time have either been influenced by or caused a resultant influence on human leisure. As such, it is ‘impossible to separate work and leisure within the ancient and modern human society’

The Social Relationship Between Work And Leisure

It is quite evident how much leisure is a part of the modern human culture. Everything humans do is more often than not directed towards attaining comfort. With comfort comes relaxation, revitalization, recuperation, entertainment and hence the concept of leisure. Leisure, as simple as it may seem to most people, is a very intricate part of human existence. The basic definition of leisure used for academic purposes coins the philosophy and psychology behind leisure. Leisure is effectively defined as the freedom from work and duty (“The Definition Of Leisure”).

This definition circles the concept of leisure around work and duty, or rather, freedom from the same. The only parameter that can effectively separate work and the concept of being free from work are time. This is because, in essence, humans are always undertaking an activity. Leisure in its entirety is a concept of activity and action, but unlike work or duty, the dominant “when” inquisitive is responsible for the definition or determination of an activity as either leisure or the opposite. A perfect example of a modern day human leisure activity is filmed as a form of entertainment. It would be highly inappropriate for a university student such as myself to watch a film while an assignment is pending. Such would be a violation of the basic human concepts of leisure. It is quite clear through this example that the main difference between work and leisure is the concept of responsibility. While leisure is an attempt to free oneself from the demands of work, work focuses on activities that are fundamental to human survival, more so economical activities. In essence, one should only indulge in leisure in the event of the absence of work and duty.

In order, however, to understand why this balance and relationship between work and leisure is important, one needs to fully understand the origins of leisure parallel to human history and the subsequent implications of the same.

The Hunter-Gatherer Periods of Human History.

This is the earliest form of human history. Historical records of the same date 12000 years back. Human culture in its entirety during this time was at its most unorganized and uncivilized. The concept of human culture was still very flexible and developing the state. The small human societies that were present at this time lacked hierarchy or leadership (, 2017). Males were predominantly hunters and protectors while females were predominantly gatherers and caregivers. The concept of leisure at this time was not clearly defined since the concept of work was also not defined. The human social intellect during this time was far too young to effectively grasp and define both concepts. There was no concept of rest or relaxation. Everything was done out of instinct and for survival. There were no privileges set for men of women or things either of the sexes or their children should enjoy since the collective responsibilities for such social spectrums of differentiation were not fully defined. This is one of the historical evidence of the interdependence of work and leisure.

The First Agrarian Revolution.

During the hunter-gatherer period, there were several complications that the human populace faced; attacks from wild animals, drought, famine and climate change. There was a need for the development of more stable systems to enhance and sustain human existence. This necessity facilitated the discovery of agriculture. This discovery came with the settlement and with settlement came new needs with regards to the new-found way of life (, 2017).These needs for survival within the newly discovered settlement concept created the very first concept of work. Humans at that time built shelters (worked) so that they could have a warmer, safer and more pleasing place to place to spend their nights (leisure). They made clothes out of animal skins (worked) in order to keep warm during cold weather conditions, or even attract mates of the opposite sex (leisure) through clothing.

With the needs came a necessity and responsibility to work. If successfully executed, the results of such work-related tasks meant leisure. This socio-economic human existence phenomenon is still part and parcel of the human population.

The Ancient World.

These times resulted from better settlements as compared to others. These better settlements thrived while the others became obsolete. They either fizzled out of existence or were absorbed into the better settlements. These settlements were larger than the contemporary settlements of the Agrarian Revolution. They had better systems as compared to the same. This was the birth of the concept of civilization (, 2017).

Such developments needed order. The ancient societies created systems that would control the increasing human population. The hierarchy was conceptualized because of this need. Different people were required to do different things for the ultimate survival of the civilized settlements. For the civilized settlements to bloom, there needed to be rules (the elite, nobles) and the ones ruled (peasants, laborers, slaves).

This form of social manipulation resulted in an evolution of the concept of leisure. The upper echelon (rulers) in the civilized settlements during this time reserved the privilege of leisure to themselves. They ate the best food produced by the peasants, slept in the houses built by the slaves and overall enjoyed (leisure on) the labor (work) of others (, 2017).This marked the beginning of the concept of culture among humanity.

The Greek and Roman Concept of Leisure

Expansion of the ancient civilization settlements resulted in rapid growth and dominance of certain societies. Perfect examples of such rapid expansions are the Greek and Roman empires.The modern human civilization and culture borrow heavily from the Greeks and Romans, more so the Greeks. These two ancient cultures provided the skeleton structure for the modern day social and economic human environment, work, and leisure not-withstanding.Play and leisure during these times had very many origins. Music and associated musical instruments were associated with religious activities, rituals and observations, drawings, paintings and another form of art were used as an avenue to record the daily events of human life, jewelry was used as symbols of social status or affiliations to cults, groups or sects (Anon, 2017).The origins of sports, however, can be traced to warfare. For example, an activity like archery no longer became useful in its original form (for hunting or warfare), it was succeeded by better methods of these practices. It became a form of sport for individuals to prove physical prowess and strategy (Anon, 2017).

Such activities often came as a result of a need, or responsibility, in this case, the social responsibilities of the army to protect its territory in case of war (work). For this reason, this concept of leisure could only be possible through the sophistication and enhancement of warfare (work).such concepts became increasingly popular among the Greeks. This led to the creation of the Olympics, gladiator fighting and other forms of the sport during the existence of such emperors and societies.It is also important to note that during the existence of such societies, especially the Romans, there was a need to effectively differentiate between work and non-work. The balance was created, enabling elements of the human culture to be effectively defined and appreciated, leading to self-appreciation and happiness among these cultures. The rulers of such cultures realized that the only way to consolidate support for their regimes was to keep their subjects happy. This was achieved through leisure. Arenas were built for the sole purpose of recreational activities and provided an avenue for the rulers to show their powers and effectively bond and consolidate support among their subjects. This is perfectly exhibited by the Colosseum activities of the Romans (Anon, 2017).

The Industrial Revolution.

The surge in scientific discoveries between 1760 and 1840 resulted in whole new concepts of work, and subsequently, leisure. Societies were more organised, the concepts of the bank, economics and scientific developments meant that people did their things differently. Creation of the factory and machines translated to the inductance of intellect in the definition of work, rather than the classic brown. There was the full definition of work time and free time (, 2017). This marked the birth of the modern-day leisure concepts. As more sophisticated methods of work were being discovered, so were more sophisticated methods and avenues of leisure. Contemporary sports such as rugby and soccer became highly popular during this period. The gambling, music and even film industry became part and parcel of leisure during this period. Great discoveries in medicine and contraceptives also made exposure and indulgence of sexual activity part of leisure during this time.

It is important to note that this period marked the first major homogenisation of leisure and work. Although their contemporary definitions remained clearly defined and separate, their interactions could not be kept parallel as before (Anon, 2017). People exploited on the human need for leisure. Brothels, gambling agencies, commercialization of sports entities plus the film and music industry all resulted in individuals capitalizing on leisure activities. Work and leisure became as intertwined as ever. Leisure became a form of work.

The Present-Day Concepts of Work and Leisure.

In the present day, work and leisure have become almost identical. One exists because of the other, one exists for the other. The modern society has engraved the concept of work and leisure within its inhabitants. People are often encouraged to work hard and the predicted result of work is a success. Success enables them to “play hard”. In essence playing hard encompasses lavish and expensive pleasures that only money can buy (leisure). Therefore, people work hard, in order to enjoy the exploits of fine living that only money can buy, at least, as far as urban pop culture is concerned (, 2017).

It is also important to note that the modern leisure-related activities have become highly monetized. The entertainment industry has grown over the years to become one of the key financial and economic players of the world. Entertainers have become millionaires. Leisure has gone beyond pleasing the human conscience, it is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Many people are diverting from academics in pursuit of the leisure industry all in the hopes of ‘living their dream’.The concept of leisure is so much rooted in the modern culture that people shun activities that do not necessarily enhance or embrace the balance between the two related activities. Crime and other aspects of human life that tend to diverge from this concept are often frowned upon and sometimes punished. This clearly shows how much the modern human populace, both the upper and lower echelon value work and leisure.


Although subjective, it is quite clear through the contents of this paper that work and leisure are inseparable. It is next to impossible to have leisure without work. Throughout history evolution of work came from, or resulted in evolutions in leisure. As such, it is ‘impossible to separate work and leisure within the ancient and modern human society’.

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