The Accursed Sovereign

On vacations

Posted in Criticism, Philosophical Anthropology by bradishn on November 23, 2009

When I was writing my thesis, I read a piece in a book entitled The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s (Eugen Weber) that discussed the rise of the vacation as a popular activity in France.  At one point, the discussion arose of the vacation as a modern, capitalistic form of control.  One author (though I cannot remember their name for the life of me) opposed the vacation to the carnival, pointing out that the vacation was a means of escape, whereas the carnival was a chance to question, throw into dissarray, and generally fuck with power relations (though I will not discuss the counter-point that carnival strengthens these relations by existing as a set-aside time to question them, thus reaffirming their normalcy).

But is the vacation only escape?  Can it only dull the mind?  I think this could be the case if we think of vacations as consumptive in nature.  That is, if the vacation is a way for an individual to escape from mental thought by engaging in consumptive activity (ie, vacationing at a ski resort, going on a cruise, attending an island resort, etc), then the vacation is buying back into a capitalist logic.  But what if one had a non-consumptive vacation?

I believe what we need is contemplative vacations.  The vacation is a change to remove oneself from productive processes and rethink oneself.  The vacation provides a chance for self-exploration, an attempt to gain a better understanding of self.  Through these private moments, one can reapproach one’s relation to society and the productive processes.

Capitalism saturates our social environments.  Interacting with the broader society we consume, produce, sell, buy, etc.  We cannot escape the constant barrage of societal impulses to perform these actions.  Our thoughts become clouded, our reasoning weak.  By taking a reprieve from these activities (to the extent that we are able), we can wipe the grime from our eyes and better see where we are, where we want to be, and what we must do.


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