Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 83–94 | Cite as

Neoliberal Education for Work Versus Liberal Education for Leisure

  • Kevin GaryEmail author


My concern in this essay is not so much with the invisible work or hidden labor produced by neoliberalism, but rather with what Joseph Pieper describes as an emerging culture of “total work” (Pieper, p. 43). More than the sheer (and increasing) number of hours of work, Pieper diagnoses a transformation in the way we view work. Work (or the necessary tasks of production and consumption) has become the exclusive point of reference for how we see and define ourselves. We are, Pieper feared, increasingly incapable of seeing beyond the working self. The human being (or homo sapien) has become the human worker (or homo faber). Historically, the ideal of leisure offered a counter vision (and its practices a counterbalance) to this tendency. Michael Oakeshott notes that while human beings must attend to the necessities for survival, they are most especially distinguished (from other animals) by their capacity for leisure—by an ability to pursue questions, conversations, and explorations that transcend the realm of production and consumption (Oakeshott 1989). To overlook and exclude leisurely pursuits is to diminish our humanity.


Leisure Anxiety Virtue Contemplation Spirituality 


  1. Association of American Colleges and Universities. 2007. What is a 21st century liberal education? Available at:
  2. Bauman, Z. 2000. Liquid modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. 1990. The logic of practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dostoevsky, F. 1992. The brothers karamazov. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  5. Douglass, F. 1845. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass: An American slave. Project Gutenberg EBOOK. Available at:
  6. Gary, K. 2006. Leisure, freedom, and liberal education. Educational Theory 56(2): 121–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Greene, M. 1995. Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publisher.Google Scholar
  8. Hadot, P. 2005. There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Journal of Speculative Philosophy 19(3): 229–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Heschel, A. 1951. The sabbath. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  10. Heschel, A. 1977. Man is not alone. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  11. Holmer, P. 1968. Kierkegaard and philosophy. In New themes in christian philosophy, ed. R. McInerny. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kierkegaard, S. 1981. The concept of anxiety: A simple psychologically orienting deliberation on the dogmatic issue of hereditary sin. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  13. MacIntyre, A. 1981. After virtue. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  14. Oakeshott, M. 1989. The voice of liberal learning. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  15. Oakeshott, M. 1991. Rationalism in politics and other essays. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  16. Pieper, J. 1998. Leisure: The basis of culture. South Bend, IN: Saint Augustine’s Press.Google Scholar
  17. Scruton, R. 2009. Why Beauty Matters.
  18. Smith, J.A. 2009. Desiring the kingdom: Worship, worldview, and cultural formation, 39–72. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.Google Scholar
  19. Sullivan, L. 1896. The Tall office building artistically considered. Lippincott's Magazine, March, 403–409.Google Scholar
  20. Taylor, C. 2007. The Secular Age. Harvard, MA: Belknap.Google Scholar
  21. Thoreau, H. 1985. Walden or life in the woods. New York: Avenel Books.Google Scholar
  22. Wallace, D. 1996. Shipping Out: On the nearly lethal comforts of a luxury cruise. Harpers Magazine, January.Google Scholar
  23. Woolf, V. 1989. A Room of One’s Own. New York, NY: Harcourt Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Valparaiso UniversityValparaisoUSA

Personalised recommendations