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Leisure: The Basis Of Culture

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  783 ratings  ·  81 reviews
One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Joseph Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial than it was when it first appeared fifty years ago.

Pieper shows that Greeks understood and valued leisure, as did the medieval Europeans. He points out that religion can be born only in leisure—a leisure that a
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 15th 1998 by St. Augustines Press (first published 1948)
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"Pieper's message to us is plain. The American democracy is not blissfully immune to the Western blight; we have in fact done our part in generating the totalitarian epidemic. The idolatry of the machine, the worship of mindless know-how, the infantile cult of youth and the common man--all this points to our peculiar leadership in the drift toward the slave society. "--from the 1952 NYT Book Review

A lovely, contrarian work of philosophy. Pieper watches how Socrates' prerequisite for philosophy
Kirk Lowery
This book is actually two monographs. The first, from which the book's title is taken, laments the distinction made in modern (circa 1947 post-war Germany) between work that is "useful" and philosophy which is "useless". Pieper argues that the distinction is false: philosophizing (the subject of the next essay) is an essential part of human nature. Leisure is not snowboarding in the Rockies or yachting in the Caribbean. It is taking the time to contemplate Things As They Are. So what is philosop ...more
M.G. Bianco
What an astounding little book, my first introduction to Josef Pieper, other than him being footnoted in other books I've read. The book, if you aren't familiar with it, is essentially two essays made up of a series of lectures and papers Pieper wrote. The first, "Leisure: The Basis of Culture" and the second, "The Philosophical Act" are both excellent and worthy reads. The two were written near to one another in time, so their themes play right into one another.

This is an important book to read
David Withun
This book, which actually consists of two essays, is very short; I read the entire thing in only three sittings and probably could have read it in less time if I had not gone back and re-read several portions of it. It is, at the same time, one of the best books I have ever read and one of the greatest defenses of and introductions to philosophizing that I have yet come across. Pieper offers a wealth of insight into the subjects he takes up, focusing especially on the necessity of authentic leis ...more
Bob Nichols
The book is an excellent description of a modern-day Platonic perspective. The book has two essays (and an introduction by T.S. Eliot). In the first essay, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture,” Pieper distinguishes between the common man and the man of leisure. The former is the one who works, who does the menial things, who focuses on the practical to satisfy human need. The latter is free of all of this, and this is the meaning of “leisure.” But it is not a piddling leisure. Leisure allows man to d ...more
dense, loquacious, pragmatic

The Good: contains some real gems; socially relevant theme
The Bad : dense philosophical writing;

Pieper's book, Leisure:The Basis of Culture is about work and play, labor and leisure, the ultimate point/counter-point of our lives. The initial attraction of the book is based on the assumption that the concept of leisure can be discussed lucidly and without the erudite language that typically accompanies philosophical writings. This is a misconception, as the work cou
Robert Tessmer
This book was a pleasant surprise. It is actually two lectures and I enjoyed both. It also included an introduction by T. S. Eliot.

The web link provides the following review:

One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial, today than it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago. This edition also includes his work "The Philosophica
This "book" is essentially 2 essays. The first is set to define "leisure" and differentiate it from idleness as well as to separate utilitarian and "useless" (philosophy) intellectual work. These are fascinating ideas that are well fleshed out in ways that I've never heard talked about previously.

The 2nd essay answers questions of "what is philosophy?" and "what is philosophizing?" as well as discussing the value of each. Briefly, Pieper talks about philosophizing as being in a state of wonder,
David Schuster
I began my personal philosophical outlook obsessed with efficiency. I felt we owed it to God as stewards of his creation to make maximal use out of the increases in entropy we cause His universe. This book has helped me to reconsider the value in doing something that seems to have no value. Cool.

But it's not just passing time. Ultimately, leisure is defined as knowing one's place in creation and loving it. If McDonald's slogan resonates with you at a deep philosophical level, you have found leis
At 74 pages including forward, this is pound for pound one of the most important books I have ever read. Pieper writes of the end that can come from a culture that values any action however evil over passivity (hint: Pieper was German and he wrote this in 1947). And he goes on to say that leisure properly understood is what makes a culture and our modern denial of leisure through an all work economy, the proletarization of all work and the erosion of a living wage, are problems with the culture. ...more
David Russell Mosley
Previously Read:
2013 (11-16 September)
Craig Barner
The background of "Leisure: The Basis on Culture" is almost as interesting as the book itself. It was published two years after World War II by Josef Pieper, a German philosopher. Germany had worked itself--and most of Europe, as well as a good portion of the rest of the globe--to death under a tyrannical regime. This book represents Germany and most of western society rejecting the mindless slavery of work for a true understanding of prosperity.

Pieper's strongest insight is that leisure is an a
Nov 19, 2009 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Willa, Cindy (see friends)
This book was occasionally hard to "get into" during an exceptionally busy fall, but once I did, it was the philosophical antidote to my busyness. Pieper explains what leisure is (a sort of creative silence, fully alive) and what it isn't (acedia, which denies the full nature of man, or entertainment, which we may resort to in a state of acedia). It is not so much lack of work as an approach to work that takes man's transcendent nature into consideration.

It has long been my hypothesis that witho
I love reading Josef Pieper ... his writings stir up a desire for the joy of truth. Leisure the Basis of Culture actually contains two of Pieper's essays, Leisure the Basis of Culture and The Philosophical Act. In both essays, Pieper calls us out of the strain and tension and perpetual activity of the world of work, challenging the idea that man is most useful and most valuable when he is working. He challenges the idea that man must mistrust everything that was acquired without great trouble an ...more
This is one of those little gems that you could read every year and always get something new out of it. Pieper take a bit to get into, but if you invest the time, this particular look at leisure (not what you think) and what it really is as it relates to culture is quite fascinating.

I found that after reading this (along with John Senior's 'Restoration of Christian Culture') I have a decidedly fuller grasp on what exactly culture means to me, and how to go about capturing it within my own life
In part one of the book, Pieper has compelling arguments for leisure versus what he calls the total world of work. There are parallels with Zen--and the book on Zen that I am also reading right now--in that he defines leisure as the absence of effort. That is to say, when one "tries" to relax, to have fun, to be spontaneous, one finds that those things consequently become work. The flaw is in the trying, in the effort. Likewise, if one does such things as a means to an end they have also been tr ...more
Peiper's style is deceptively simple - there is real background and substance to his thought, and it is clear that his, at times poetic, rhetoric does not mask a banal or superficial argumentation. The phenomenon of "leisure" is given a terrific analysis via its presence throughout the history of philosophy (esp. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, etc.). Pieper never tires of showing how "leisure" compares and contrast to other phenomena such as work, play, boredom, celebration, slothfulness, anxi ...more
David Haines
This book includes two essays written by the well-known German philosopher, Josef Pieper, titled, Leisure: the Basis of Culture, and The Philosophical Act. This is one of the most interesting books that I've read in a while. In the first essay, Pieper not only interacts with the trends in society at the time that he wrote it (1947), but his thoughts also explain where much of our current problems in contemporary society come from. In the second article Pieper explains what it means to philosophi ...more
James Andersen
It really is incredible what small little books can do. This book is a jewel of a highly re-readable value. The book is broken up into 2 Parts, the first part deals more so with man and his relation with work and leisure. The author sees leisure as something more than "passive relaxing" but rather as activities that are done for their own sake. This then leads into the act of Philosophizing, which Part II talks about, and what it is, why it is necessary, and how to live it out.

The author looks
Ideas of Pieper's age, much like our own, give a "work for work's sake" mentality for people everywhere, and gave him the inspiration to write this book. We work, and we rest so that we can have more energy to do work. In several sections, Pieper disagrees with this mentality and states that we do work so that we can have leisure and that work isn't the only way to gain knowledge, bursts of "easy" inspiration and knowledge are just as useful. This hit me to the core of the writer I want to becom ...more
Marc Hays
Thankful for a sick day so that I was able to read this book cover to cover nonstop. If you wonder what this book is about, one way to put it is that it is about the entire cosmos and our place in it as people. It is about work and rest; liberty and servitude; philosophy and poetry; God and man; Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. It is a foundational read for humanity.
"The innermost meaning of this over-emphasis on effort appears to be this: that man mistrusts everything that is without effort; that in good conscience he can own only what he himself has reached through painful effort; that he refuses to let himself be given anything."

According to Pieper, activities that have value in themselves (liberal arts) as opposed to activities that are merely a means to an end (servile arts or work) are increasingly seen as useless. Pieper argues that this follows from
Jan 31, 2014 Axolotl marked it as to-read
I added it to my "want" list,
it looks so interesting & "nice",
then found it immediately a used bookstore
I'd only been in twice.

The convenience of it seemed almost dreamlike,
a mystery for the ages,
I didn't think I'd find this tome
in a shop for ages.

--I was really quite impressed.
Will read it soon,
deep down
I've a feeling it'll
leave me quite depressed.
David Ranney
Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity; it is not the same thing as quiet, or even as an inner quiet. It is rather like the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness.
What is Leisure? This book tells us, and it shows us how in today's world of "total work" the great mass of society have it wrong. Leisure is not laziness. In The book; which consists of two essays; Josef Pieper shows us how the Ancient Greeks and Medieval Europeans understood leisure far better than modern man. This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to know what authentic leisure is and who also wants to know how to live a truly human life. WARNING: This is NOT a casual read, and it wil ...more
David Eden
Pieper makes the distinction that leisure is not the same as idleness, and explains how important leisure is to a meaningful life. Pieper is not advocating slacking, just a balanced approach to life consistent with the profound nature of what it is to be human. I like how he refers to the modern culture of "Total Work", where people are reduced to machines (this is true of both communism and misguided excesses within a market economy). I haven't been able to verify this, but I suspect Pieper was ...more
Aug 19, 2015 Rebeca added it
In 1948, an obscure German philosopher penned a magnificent manifesto for the value of leisure as a way of reclaiming our human dignity amid a workaholic culture.
Molly Dunbar
Still something I feel I should go back and reread with great regularity. Of course, introduced to me by Dean Gould, I have loved it desperately since.
A must read! There is so much to take in that I highly suggest reading in a group setting. This book begs to be talked about!
Josef Pieper examines the traditional concept of leisure and how it gave rise to the achievements of Western civilization. He contrasts it to our modern idea of leisure and the low value we place on it. Traditionally, leisure was something people aspired to have because it was the time they had in which to do the things most important to them; one worked in order to have leisure. Today, leisure is mostly thought of as time to recuperate so as to prepare one to work some more; one has leisure in ...more
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Josef Pieper was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.

Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of c
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“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.” 19 likes
“Of course the world of work begins to become - threatens to become - our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.” 12 likes
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