M 4:1 Assignment 1: Discussion—Cultural Influences on Work and Leisure Time

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American society places much emphasis on merit through work. Vacation periods in the U.S. are the shortest among industrialized nations. Many argue that advanced technology has only busied people’s lives further, instead of alleviating the time necessary to complete day-to-day tasks.

Using the readings for this module, Argosy University online library resources, and the Internet, complete the following:

  • Examine Huizinga’s “Play Theory.” Why is “play” differentiated from other activity? What makes play “play” and not just another activity one does in the day?
  • Considering this theory, evaluate how culture influences your play and leisure time.

Support your statements with examples and scholarly references

Work and Vacations

Recap of Scenario:

Ch’en Liu, a Chinese foreign exchange student has come to the United States to study for a year at the Centervale High School. The Taylors—Dennis and Heather—have volunteered to host Ch’en in their home for the duration. The Taylors’ son, Robert, also goes to Centervale and is in

the same grade as Ch’en.

“Letter and Tests”

One Saturday morning, Robert and Ch’en are sitting around the breakfast table at the Taylors’ home. Robert asks, “What do you want to do today, Ch’en?” “Well, I have two tests to study for, and I thought that I would write a letter to my parents,” Ch’en responds. “Didn’t you just write a letter to them two weeks ago, dude?” Robert asks.“Well, yes, but I know they enjoy reading them. My Mom, especially, likes to hear how I’m doing here—how I’m doing in school,” says Ch’en.

“You Can Taste Summer”

“Man, I can’t wait for school to be out!” Robert says. “I’ve got big plans for the summer. We’ve only got three more months. I can almost taste it!”

“Taste it? What do you mean by taste it? How can you taste summer?” Ch’en asks, looking confused.

“Taste it . . . I mean . . . I know how good it will be,” Robert replies. “I’ll be able to sleep in, go out each evening and not have to worry about being

home early. I’ll go out driving with my friends, hit the Dive for some burgers, and watch loads of movies. On top of that, I’ll spend plenty of days at

the beach watching girls. Plus, Mom and Dad always take a couple of weeks off to travel. Last year we went to Yellowstone National Park and

camped for a week. This year, I think we’re going to the Rocky Mountains.

“My Fun and Your Fun”

Having told Ch’en all about his plans, Robert asks, “What about you? What do you do during the summer?” “Our semesters are a bit different,” Ch’en replies. “We go to school from September to January, take a break, and then we go again from February to July. We get off in August. Sometimes we travel, but generally

Dad has to work. Plus, I often need that month to take tutoring lessons before my

next semester. Sometimes Dad can get extra work in the summer, and he likes that.”

“Not my dad! He looks forward to those two weeks all year long!” Robert exclaims. “Mom doesn’t get vacation time at her job, but she takes it off anyway, without pay.” “Your dad only gets two weeks off all year?” Ch’en asks. “My dad gets four, but they’re scheduled around the state holidays, so he doesn’t get to pick when to take them.” “What do you like to do for fun, then, as a family?” Robert asks. Ch’en, looking thoughtful, responds, “I’m not sure what we do

for fun is what you do for fun.” “Well, go get the studying done so we can have a little fun ourselves this weekend, okay?” Robert says. “I’m ready to get out of the house!” Ch’en and Robert realize that there is a great difference in their ideas of what work and leisure is.

Having reviewed the scenario, answer the following question:

1. What determines your perspective towards work and play?

The economy

The family

The media

All of the above


In every culture, the social institutions shape how you view work and play. In some economies

(such as agricultural economies), there is less time throughout each day to “play,” and people spend their time off of work differently than they would in a post-industrial economy. Families

also influence your ideas of what defines an enjoyable activity (such as playing soccer, or chess).

Media influences your ideas of what is fun and what is not fun and what is working too hard and what is being lazy (based on how people act in commercials, in movies, and on television.)

Diversity and World Cultures

©2011 Argosy University Online Programs

Expressive Culture

Expressive culture refers to intangible concepts that social members take for granted and includes both beliefs and behaviors. For example, each culture tends to have its own conceptualization of what constitutes art. This may vary within subcultures, historical periods, and across countries or continents. Consider the painting of Marilyn Monroe by American artist Andy Warhol. Next, contemplate the Buddhist cave paintings discovered in Dunhuang, China. Both depict women who were undoubtedly perceived as great beauties within their culture, yet neither is likely to appeal to each other’s culture.

Expressive culture also takes into consideration free time and play. It is hard for some cultures to evaluate play. To be certain, livelihood is an important consideration in how you play. For example, the connotations of play differ widely between a child in a village in Africa, and a child in suburban America. Children in agricultural economies will play differently from children in industrialized economies.

Even as adults, some cultures highlight play more than others. For example, free time earmarked for vacation varies across countries. In addition, for some people, play is not very different from work. What shapes our ideas about what play means to us, as individuals or as social group members?

Cultural anthropology evaluates these concepts of expressive culture effectively because it stresses upon the role of upbringing and society’s influence on beliefs and values.

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