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Conclusion Imitation and Resistance Organized free time is compulsory. Theodor Adorno, “Free Time” In his essay on leisure Theodor Adorno argues that free time is in reality very serious business: “Free time . . . does not . . . stand in opposition to labour. In a system where full employment itself has become the ideal, free time is nothing more than a shadowy continuation of labour.”1 Adorno adds that sports in particular teach “modes of behavior which, sublimated to a greater or lesser degree , are required . . . by the work process.”2 Seen in this light the modern, utilitarian notion of free time is clearly antithetical to the ancien régime idea of leisure. Sport has been transformed from an “activity for no purpose” into a utilitarian activity in the service of corporations and consumerism. The compulsion to work is mirrored by the compulsion to recreate. In other words, recreation must be as productive as work. In France the concept of free time is generally linked with the rise of the Popular Front and its implementation of the forty-hour workweek and paid vacation for the French working class (passed into law in 1936). But the transition of sport from noble privilege to utilitarian obligation began much earlier. The writings of Eugène Chapus, whom we have studied in several chapters, indicate that | Conclusion 182 by the middle of the nineteenth century sports had already begun to transition into what Adorno refers to as a “leisure industry.” Chapus appears at the crucial turning point in the history of sport in France, when sporting practices (and practitioners) had ceased to survive under the protection of the nobility and come to rely instead on the interest of paying consumers. Chapus himself depended on these consumers for his daily bread. In addition to describing sport’s ties to the past, his writing also appealed to members of the bourgeoisie and their utilitarian spirit. He explains on the first page of Le turf (1854), a book devoted to equestrian affairs , that sports provide a distraction for the man who would otherwise be entirely consumed with business: “If one were to banish sport and arts from the life of nations, society would only have unfortunate people condemned to spend their entire lives rowing the galère [slave ship] of business.”3 Here sports become as necessary to modern society as work itself. Thanks to the occasional distraction sports provide, the man who seriously engages in sports will be better prepared to seriously engage in business. Adorno puts it this way: “Free time must not resemble work in any way whatsoever , in order, presumably, that one can work all the more effectively afterwards.”4 As the ultimate proof that sports are no longer reserved for the elite and that they are useful in building an economy, Chapus offers the following example: “Sport does not belong to the aristocrat only; it flourishes and is very in vogue in a country where a republic is more than a theory, in the United States. In the mores of this industrial, commercial, positive, utilitarian country, one thing strikes the visitor: the brilliant worshipping of sport!”5 He goes on to argue that the French, more than any other people, Conclusion | 183 should be leading the world in their commitment to sport. As a result of France’s “industry, wealth, and chivalrous customs” the French should be on the forefront of sporting “progress.” They should understand that over the course of the nineteenth century sports had been stripped of their “futile façade” and that they now “respond to serious necessities in our civilization.”6 Here again Chapus presents sport as serious business that, when studied carefully , is not a waste of energy (“activity for no purpose”). It becomes instead a “serious necessity” for the continued progress of France. At first glance it may seem incongruous that Chapus, at the same time he was publishing books and a newspaper about sports, was also publishing travel books (De Paris au Havre [1855], De Paris à Dieppe [1856], De Paris à Rouen et au Havre [1862]) and preparing a new edition of his book on elegance, reprinted as Manuel de l’homme et de la femme comme il faut—essentially a handbook on etiquette. These three different types of publications, however , all share one overall objective, namely, introducing the bourgeoisie—the new nobility—to the codes and signs and leisure activities of the old monarchy. In a way all these books are travel guides, as they initiate the uninitiated middle...


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