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The Serious Leisure Perspective: Forty Years Later

R.A. Stebbins

If theories could have birthday parties, the serious leisure perspective (SLP) would have celebrated its fortieth year in 2013, having been born in 1973 in the study of amateurs in classical music. Much of significance has happened along the way, about which one can be informed by visiting the History page at Nevertheless, some of the most momentous events are also the most recent. They are recognized in this web story.

Last year the SLP broke out of its Western concentration in its most substantial form in a study of the Arab-Iranian Middle East (R.A. Stebbins, Work and Leisure in the Middle East, Transaction, 2013). This is the only book-length treatment of work and leisure in a developing region guided by the Perspective, even though non-Western, SLP-related articles on the subject have existed for some time, mainly in Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese (Brazil). The year 2013 also saw publication of the most detailed application yet of the SLP in the field of food studies, namely, Isabelle de Solier’s, Food and the Self (Bloomsbury).  

In July 2014 the Perspective will receive its first textbook treatment in S. Elkington & R.A. Stebbins, The Serious Leisure Perspective: An Introduction (Routledge, UK). This supplementary text, or module, is designed for such courses as the introduction to leisure studies, leisure philosophy, leisure theory, and leisure and society. It also constitutes the most up-to-date statement of SLP-related theory and research. It further contains several chapters on its extension into various areas of practice, among them tourism and event analysis, therapeutic recreation, library and information science, arts and science administration, and aging and retirement. 

The SLP is becoming the theoretic framework of choice in Brazil, complementing if not largely displacing the work of French sociologist Joffre Dumazedier, which was dominant in that country throughout the latter part of the twentieth century. In August Stebbins will present a seminar on this subject and keynote two conferences, one of which is the First Brazilian Congress of Leisure Studies, organized by the National Association of Research and Post-graduation in Leisure Studies.

Furthermore, the Perspective can now be described as a formal grounded theory (R.A. Stebbins, “The Longitudinal Process of Grounded Theory Development: A Case Study in Leisure Research,” Sage, 2013, DOI: Over 960 published works give substance to this claim (see

In the works – Stebbins’ Careers in Serious Leisure: From Dabbler to Devotee in Search of Fulfillment (Palgrave Macmillan, late 2014). This book takes the reader on a developmental journey from play to paid work in art, science, sport, and entertainment. And, by early 2015, he will have written Leisure and Positive Psychology (Springer), having already done something similar for positive sociology (Personal Decisions in the Public Square: Beyond Problem Solving into a Positive Sociology, Transaction, 2009).