Reclaiming Play and Leisure: Toward a Humanistic Psychoanalytic Critique of Adulthood and the Work Ethic

Jeremiah Morelock and Ayesha Hussein


Adulthood is often associated with hard work, in contrast to childhood and later life, which are associated with play and leisure. We argue that the norms that frame adulthood narrowly in hard work hinder eudaimonia. Winnicott deemed the ability to play a criterion of mental health and an essential need of living. Fromm associated authentic relatedness, productive work, creativity, and spontaneity with fulfilment of psychic needs, which when thwarted, manifest in various neuroses. In some workplaces, post-Fordist approaches of management are used to navigate between autonomous functioning and managerial control and facilitate creativity. While this trend is a step forward, the change is too circumscribed, and the emphasis on productivity hinders its benefits. Eudaimonia is best realized when treated as important in itself. Fromm and Winnicott argued for grasping what it means to live fully, rather than stopping our understanding at the absence of illness.

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play, leisure, work ethic, age norms, post-Fordism

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