Would the Idea of Structuring Society Around Leisure Instead of Work Ever Be an Option in American Society?
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977. For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
In the 1890s, cities grew as more Americans took urban industrial work. As one of the leading industrial powers of the period, the United States had a variety of enterprises, including the manufacture of iron, steel, crude oil, and textiles. This trend marked a shift from a more agrarian way of life to that of labor for wages. Immigrants would generally arrive in the cities and take up factory work there to make a living. Working-class and immigrant families often needed to have many family members, including women and children, work in factories to survive. The working conditions in factories were often harsh. Hours were long, typically ten to twelve hours a day. Working conditions were frequently unsafe and led to deadly accidents. Tasks tended to be divided for efficiency's sake which led to repetitive and monotonous work for employees. Workers fought their often demeaning work conditions by uniting together into collective groups and unions. The American Federation of Labor (AFL), for example, was created in 1886 for skilled craftsmen under the leadership of Samuel Gompers. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), formed in 1905, also included unskilled workers in its ranks. In this period of labor unrest, many members in these groups were politically radical, supporting anarchism, communism, and socialism as tools of change. Groups such as these would organize strikes and boycotts in order to get management to acquiesce to their demands. In their early years, however, these labor groups were rarely successful, as the capitalists often resorted to government support to enforce their policies on laborers. The Pullman Strike was one such instance where the government squelched a railway workers' strike by attaching mail cars to all the trains and then invoking the law that made it illegal to impede the movement of mail. Instances such as this caused many to see the excesses of American business and the need for reform. In what was known as the Progressive Era, roughly from 1900 to World War I, reformers sought to improve the lot of the underprivileged of America by rectifying perceived wrongs. President Theodore Roosevelt supported regulation of big business and sometimes supported workers' rights against the interests of industry. During Woodrow Wilson's presidency, Progressive principles were furthered when statutes were passed for an eight-hour workday for railroad workers, workers' compensation, and regulation of child labor.
Work is taking over the lives of many of us in today’s fast-paced, global environment, and if we do not guard ourselves against work–life imbalance, there could be increasing work–family conflicts and stress resulting from long hours and workload escalation. Vacations are getting shorter and are often clubbed with work, or even worse, many do not have the time for a vacation. Quality family time is getting invaded by the omnipresence of media and the internet. It has been well established that most adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and 75–90% of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints (Bailyn L, Harrington M., 2004). Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. People who experience stress typically go through different stages and degrees of suffering and along the way they pass on their stress to their direct environment, their families, co-workers and friends. Research in the field of work and family has well established the spillover and crossover effects of stress affecting co-workers, spouses, children, and the community at large. Decrease in work–life balance has been linked to higher unwanted turnover, lower physical and psychological well-being, lower productivity, greater stress-related ailments, and the like. The Waste is immeasurable (Lewis J. Lone mothers, 1997). Myth of an ideal employee perpetuated by the society creates intense time pressure, or what some refer to as a time famine, which can lead to stress and job dissatisfaction, possibly creating work–family conflict. The male model of work prescribes an ideal employee who is male, full-time, and continuously at work from the end of the education, fully committed to the organization, and without any responsibilities outside of work. This model is no longer valid and has become outdated. In addition, we can also observe a change in attitudes toward what constitutes a successful career, especially among the newer generations. The current generation started to question old assumptions about how work is done, how to show commitment, where and when to work, and how to advance in the company. Along with having a highly paid job, they strive for a more “complete” life that includes both a successful professional and a personal life. Organizations that monopolize the time of employees challenge the ability of employees to perform well in other important roles within the family and the community.
On the whole, of the three terms, recreation is at once the most understandable and significant for many people. It is easily recognizable as an area of personal activity and social responsibility, and its values are readily apparent for all age groups and special populations as well. For these reasons, it is given primary emphasis in other chapters, particularly in terms of program sponsorship and professional identity. The themes that have just been introduced are explored more fully throughout this text, as the historical development of recreation and play and the evolution of the present-day leisure-service system are described. Throughout, issues related to the social implications of recreation and leisure and to the role of recreation and park professionals are fully discussed, along with the challenges that face practitioners in this field in the twenty-first century.
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