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Leisure, The Basis Of Culture 1st Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1890318352
ISBN-10: 1890318353
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Editorial Reviews


"Pieper's message for us is plain.... The idolatry of the machine, the worship of mindless know-how, the infantile cult of youth and the common mind-all this points to our peculiar leadership in the drift toward the slave society.... Pieper's profound insights are impressive and even formidable." -- New York Times Book Review

"These two short essays by a contemporary German philosopher go a long way towards a lucid explanation of the present crisis in civilisation.... The first essay... should be read by anyone-and young people in particular-anxious to come to some conclusions about the nature of society." -- The Spectator, London

"[Pieper] has subjects involved in everyone's life; he has theses that are so counter to prevailing trends as to be sensational; and he has a style that is memorably clear and direct." -- Chicago Tribune

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: St. Augustine's Press; 1st edition (November 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890318353
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890318352
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Charles Comer on January 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I cannot say enough about this wonderful and important book. It's message is simple: Western culture has taken upon itself a disposition toward life--and an outlook upon the world--of total work; of work-for-work's sake; or, if you prefer, we have internalized the Weberian protestant work ethic to a debilitating degree. In so doing, so Pieper suggests, we threaten to loose our very souls, both culturally and personally. We must make time for contemplation and reflection, and to, more generally, bask in the truth, beauty and goodness that is available to us in every facet of existence.

While Pieper is a Catholic philosopher in the Thomistic tradition, his arguments are solid and broad enough for those who may be non-religious, or of different faiths. Nevertheless, Christians will, I am sure, enjoy Pieper's articulate use of Christian inspired ideas and use of sources.

Those familiar with Heidegger will also appreciate Pieper's line of argumentation and the resemblances it has to the Heideggarian notions of Gelasenheit, Gestel, and Aletheia.

The second half of the book is a fantastic apology for, and description of, philosophy and the contemplative life.

In short, I cannot recommend this book enough for everyone. It's message is so needed now more than ever, as we have as a society become slaves of productivity. When I teach Introduction to Philosophy I will be sure to use this book!

One last note in brief: if anything bad can be said, it would have to be in regard to the multiple typos throughout the text. I do hope that St. Augustine Press makes an effort to rectify this problem, as it seems an injustice to such an important book.
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Rick Poce on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
The excellent Malsbury translation of Pieper's famous work brings together many of the themes found in other works of the author. For instance, leisure or stillness, is not to be thought of as leisure in the contemporary sense. Leisure is to be thought of in a framework of an teleology which is a contemplation of ends, or last things. Since man is made for union with God, human work is not seperate from this end. Today, the work of man is an end in itself, and philsophical anthropology and culture suffers. Pieper shows how this is a reorientation from the classical and scholastic world view which shared a common vision of anthropology as man seeking those things which are above. This book is a must read for all those who think modern culture is suffering from an identity crisis.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tony Theil on July 13, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the 50th anniversary edition of Josef Pieper's philosophical classic which was originally published in German in 1948. Pieper defines leisure not as we understand it in the 21st century, but within the philosophical-theological context of divine play and its impact on the intellect as it was universally accepted from the pre-Christian Greek philosophers and later developed by Aquinas. The importance of leisure was unchallenged until Kant usurped it in 1796 with a philosophy of reason and work; "...the law of reason is supreme, whereby property is possessed through labor." Kant's philosophy gained acceptance and became well suited to the industrial revolution which soon followed.
Pieper takes the command "Be still (at leisure) and know that I am God" - Psalm 45 and distills it from there. Leisure is non-active; it is receptive and consists of contemplation or celebration. Like grace, intuitive and creative thoughts are communicated while at leisure. I find Pieper's premise true because my most inspiring thoughts come while taking a shower or while on a walk through the woods. Einstein would also agree, because he was riding his bike when the theory of relativity crystalized in his mind.
Also in this 160 pge book are Pieper's 1947 lectures collectively entitled The Philosphical Act. He begins by quoting Thomas Aquinas, "The reason why the philosopher can be compared to the poet is that both are concerned with wonder." It flows from there.
Pieper's philosophy is reflected today in the Slow (Food) Movement. It's also understandable how Pieper made a significant impact on E.F. Schumacher and his Buddhist economics as contained in Small is Beautiful.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gregory on September 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book for the first time about ten years ago, and have just re-read it. Both readings were delightful and edifying. The first reading was like a slap in the face. It was a shock to have a writer attack the pre-eminence of utility. For nearly a half-century, it was pressed into my mind that usefulness was a virtue-- and not just a garden-variety virtue, but the foundation of all civic virtues. I dare say that practically everyone brought up in the West in the Twentieth Century was similarly molded, by the education establishment, by the penalty-reward system,by the politicians and (for a large part) by religious leaders. If you weren't doing something useful, if you weren't somehow contributing to the general utility of society, you were not a good citizen.
An example (trivial, perhaps)is as follows: There was a time when kids could leave the house on a summer day, run around, hang out, play games, and finally come home for dinner. Not today! Little League, Soccer league, tennis lessons. Hup! Hup! Hup!
Pieper cries out with a message that is, I claim, carrying with it more and more urgency. We have to start looking at each of our activities and asking "Is it good?", and not "Is it useful?" But even before this, we have to learn that those two questions are not identical.
One of the other reviewers objected tp Pieper's world view, asserting that in the modern age, we have more spare time for leisure than in years past. He said: "we work much less than people use (sic) to have to work and this is due to being able to produce more in less time."
This is utterly false. At the height of human civilization, (in the West, anyway), there were less than 140 working days per year. The rest were Sundays and Festival days.
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