Unemployment and leisure: the Marienthal legacy
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Business
A sociological classic on unemployment was the study of a small Austrian town, Marienthal [Jahoda, M., Lazarfeld, P. F., & Zeisel, H. (1972). Marienthal: The sociography of an unemployed community. London: Tavistock Publications]. Written in 1933, the investigation aimed to provide the psychological situation of 478 families. The unemployed experienced lower expectations and activity, a disrupted sense of time, and a steady decline into apathy. They tended to be lonely, isolated, hopeless and passive, yet prone to bursts of violence. In the 1990s a researcher (Lobo) used investigations to study late career unemployment focusing on self, family and lifestyles [Lobo, F., & Parker, S. (1999). Late career unemployment. Impacts on self, family and lifestyles. Williamstown: HM Leisure Planning]. The study found that: self-concept and identity of the unemployed was damaged; the unemployed experienced adverse health effects; the impact on the family was profound; being unemployed was very different from having increased leisure time; engaging in serious leisure compensated for loss of paid work; and lifestyles in unemployment seen as active, social, domestic and passive were psychologically beneficial. The impacts of unemployment in Marienthal (1933) and the late carrier study in the 1990s are juxtaposed to demonstrate the universality of job loss.