James Vernon / Lecture 18 – Mass Democracy and the Problem of Leisure

Blackpool, Lancashire, North West England, 1920s.

Topic of lecture is sense of cultural crisis following WW1: idea that popular culture was so degraded, it created conditions where fascism and Bolshevism could flourish. British culture attempted to educate and culturally improve public.

RECAP: Previous lecture about Great War consequences to British economic, social, political, and cultural life. Conditions ripe for political/social revolution, but none between the wars.

LEISURE CRISIS: Different from Victorian rational recreation. 1) Now, everyone has right to vote. Previously, did not and had to prove they deserved it. 2) Now, Trade Union movement argued leisure was a social right. 3) Leisure not for self-improvement, but for benefit of society as a whole. 4) Mass nature of popular culture considered politically corrosive by intellectuals who deemed it escapist, etc. Rise of anti-Americanism. Newspaper, football/sports, holiday (Blackpool, seaside town in Lancashire, North West England), cinema became mass phenomena. Intellectuals see mass culture as producing a mass incapable of assessing/deciding, and thought the manipulation of masses is what causes fascism.

Therefore, LEISURE REFORM PROJECTS. Leisure good for community, not just individual 1) BBC 1920s. Classical music, debate, etc. 1% people listened to classical programming. 2) Left Book Club. Subscription/mailing + ideas for talking points. 3) Pekham Health Center. Canteen. People got to choose between presented food options.


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