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Introduction to the Serious Leisure Perspective

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As this book will show the SLP has flowered bountifully since 1973, and with this efflorescence, has made it increasingly difficult for all but the most dedicated of scholars to grasp the present complex theoretic construction in all its detail. For this reason alone a user-friendly synthesis is badly needed, one based on the many concepts and propositions comprising the Perspective and including a close, up-to-date look at the research bearing on them. There have been four stock takings (Stebbins 1992, 2001a; 2007/2015; Elkington and Stebbins 2014), none of which however, has attempted to organize the entire framework while noting all available relevant empirical work and sometimes the absence thereof. This is not therefore a mere update of the four stock takings. For a proper synthesis accomplishes what they were never designed to do; namely, integrate the Perspective along conceptual and contextual lines with attention to level of empirical support and validation of each concept. And, unlike the earlier updates, this synthesis is based in part on certain critiques of aspects of the SLP, which have sometimes inspired further conceptual clarification and on occasion even led to new concepts. The Index contains reference to these passages, which are found throughout. The main goal in all this is to offer a present-day version of the SLP such that people interested in an aspect of it can find that aspect with minimal effort and learn about its empirical basis at the same time. Hopefully this will obviate for most people the necessity of scouring the SLP literature to gain an understanding of a particular concept or type of activity beyond reading what is set out in this book.

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  1. 1.

    The remainder of this section is paraphrased and elaborated from Stebbins, R.A. Serious Leisure: A Perspective for Our Time (Transaction/Routledge, 2007/2015, pp. 1–3).

  2. 2.

    Not everyone agrees with my position on the alternative title of leisure experience perspective (e.g., Veal 2016, 2017).

  3. 3.

    “Available” means sources to which the author has access that are written in languages he reads, which are mainly English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. I have no access to many of the anthologies containing one or more chapters bearing on the SLP, nor do I have access to the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean journals and anthologies that occasionally publish SLP-related communications. The same must be said for the scholarly publications written in the eastern European languages.

  4. 4.

    Concatenation is, at once, a longitudinal research process and the resulting set of field studies that are linked together, as it were, in a chain, leading to cumulative, often formal, grounded theory. Studies near the beginning of the chain are wholly or dominantly exploratory in scope. Each study, or link, in the chain examines or at times re-examines a related group, activity, or social process or aspect of a broader category of groups or social processes (Stebbins 2001b).

  5. 5.

    Dellwing (2016) holds that Erving Goffman (1959) pioneered this kind of data collection in modern times, without however, giving it a name or even commenting on its exploratory nature. Still, Charles Baudelaire’s flaneur of nineteenth century Paris gathered his data much the same way, as did sociologist Georg Simmel and phenomenologist Alfred Schutz, among others. Dellwing calls this kind of data collection the “flaneur approach.”

  6. 6.

    I am not treating as imported social science concepts of long-standing, concepts that are now part of our received wisdom. Only more recent ideas will be regarded as imported and shaped to fit in the SLP.

  7. 7.

    I have in the past (Stebbins 2013a, b) been perhaps too bold about this claim, suggesting that the SLP is now a formal grounded theory. For some leisure studies scholars have expressed doubts (e.g., Veal 2016, 2017; Gallant 2017, p. 448). Meanwhile, Glaser and Strauss never crisply defined substantive and formal grounded theory, and they remained vague about when the second emerged from the first. Still, the Bibliography in contains as of 2020 over 2500 references to theoretical and empirical works, where each work listed centers, either substantially or wholly, on the SLP or one of its three forms. Perhaps the most defensible claim is that parts of the SLP have reached the status of formal ground theory, whereas other parts are not there yet, if they ever get there.


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Correspondence to Robert A. Stebbins .

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Stebbins, R.A. (2020). Introduction to the Serious Leisure Perspective. In: The Serious Leisure Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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