Who uses it: Sociologists and historians of the post-industrial West
What it means: A society in which people spend more time at leisure than working.
How you can use it: To describe any retirement community.
The online retailer CafePress just issued a press release describing my cousin Sheila Cameron as an example of the new leisure society, because she works from home and has been able to turn her interests into a business. (If you don't feel like following those links, and don't remember who my cousin Sheila is, she's the founder of FreeKatie.net.)
It's extremely cool that CafePress thinks Sheila's worth applauding and/or imitating -- I could have told them that, years ago -- but I wouldn't want anyone to think that Sheila's not working hard. She doesn't receive pop culture passively; she's jumping all over it, processing it and making mental connections and figuring out what people are paying attention to. She's been doing it for so long that she may not even see it as work -- but it's a true talent, and I'd even go so far as to call it a genius.
I wonder whether the term "leisure society" is becoming outdated, as more and more people are working from home and working online. People like me, and many of my friends, don't go to an office -- but we're working all the time. I get e-mails from clients every day of the week, at all hours of day and night; one of my clients regularly sends me e-mails date-stamped before 6:00 a.m. Because my job is communicating, every bit of popular culture I absorb -- books, movies, magazines, music, TV -- helps me position my clients' work in a way that stands out from all the other information their readers or listeners receive. I couldn't explain how I do it, but I know that it's as important for me to read Entertainment Weekly as it is for me to watch C-SPAN.
Is that a leisure society? I don't know. I know that I slept all day yesterday, trying to catch up with myself after two weeks on the road and a few too many projects. Daily naps... now, that would be a leisure society. Maybe I should draft a new petition.
In the meantime, go check out Sheila's latest works of genius here.