Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Bettina Lerner


idleness, work, leisure, punk


As our leisure time has increased in the twenty-first century, paradoxically, so too have social and cultural expectations about the nature and value of work. In this thesis, I argue that work in the modern world has taken on new shapes – the project of identity formation, image maintenance, and receptiveness to advertising – and how these new forms of work are fundamentally intertwined with leisure. I first aim to establish a timeline of Western attitudes to work, beginning with the works of Max Weber, Jon D. Wisman, and Matthew E. Davis. Then, through the lens of the 1970s punk movement, I show how these attitudes have progressed from aspiration to dejection and resentment. Through texts by Lewis Hyde and Jenny Odell, I present idleness as distinct not only from work, but from its capitalist counterpart, leisure, and argue for an adoption of idleness as a means of self- and cultural preservation.

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