Een meervoudige werkelijkheid : een sociologisch - filosofisch essay over het collectieve belang van recreatie en toerisme

Lengkeek, J.


Man is not in a position to know objective reality in its entirety. In our everyday lives we coexist with a reality that is an inter-subjective, limited construction. It changes over historical time and can vary from society to society. Man tries, however, to create new realities in all sorts of ways. These run parallel to or overlay everyday reality. This is the reason why I have given my study the title 'A multiple reality'.

Leisure, I think, creates an exceptional range of opportunities for surveying realities other than the one we are accustomed to. We forget time, step out of our physical limitations, give ourselves up to dreams and have the feeling that we are returning to what we essentially are. The longer we have been on holiday, the longer we take to adjust to our normal routines again.

Everyday reality is constructed out of many different elements. These include the standard conceptions of time, space and truth, social relationships, preferences and moral judgements. In leisure we put commonsense knowledge 'between brackets'. From the perspective of the obviousness of everyday things it is, by definition, difficult to study the relativity of our reality. Therefore the bases of my approach is philosophical and leads subsequently to questions that make sociological analysis possible. Because I am searching for a far-reaching understanding of the phenomena of leisure, and especially those specific forms we call 'recreation' and 'tourism', my study has assumed a theoretical and therefore abstract character. At present, nothing is so unpopular in the recreation and tourism sector as theoretical and abstract discussion. It is in this way that 1 find myself at the heart of a problem faced by policy makers in this field.

Recreation and tourism exert an inescapable pressure on societies throughout the world. They are the product of social developments and give yet another dimension to the (social) world. The search for 'other' realities has caused the greatest migration of people of all time and has also given rise to a new industrial revolution: the tourist industry. Tourism is poised to overshadow other economic sectors. Because of its success, there is a growing and naive euphoria about the possibility of shifting government involvement to the market. The tourist-recreation experience is increasingly being seen as a normal form of consumption, and so, when producing for this industry, it is considered enough to follow market principals. The government does not pass judgement on its citizens' right to consume freely and tends to withdraw itself from the policy field in question.

The development of the tourist-recreation sector in the Netherlands and the policy associated with it, provide a good example of the changing opinions and dilemmas that are also apparent at an international level. Between 1960 and 1980, Dutch government policy became more expansive in its provision of outdoor recreational facilities. It was not the market but the ideology of the welfare state that provided the guidelines: a policy 'of general benefit', to produce a recreational environment, freely accessible to everyone and financed by public funds. Physical conditions necessary for the welfare of citizen, such as greenery, fresh air and space for activities, that were being threatened by the increasing urbanization of an already densely populated country and other claims on space, were secured in separate recreation areas. In the 1980s there was a turn about: the emphasis was now on the commercialization of tourist and recreational opportunities. The accent shifted to professionalizing the sector by making more use of management techniques and marketing strategies. The survival of the sector had become an object in itself and perhaps its main objective.

The changes in thinking and the increasing commercialization have neither lead to reflection on whether such a policy reversal was justified or to a reconsideration of the basis of this policy. However, three problems are evident.

The first problem is that government policy, built up over the last 25 years has lost its basis. In fact there was more government involvement in tourism and recreation in the Netherlands than elsewhere in the world. In a period when a general re-orientation is taking place as far as government tasks and collective expenditure are concerned there is no reliable, well-supported rationale for tourism and recreation policy. The most significant opinion which survives on collective facilities is that they exist and that considerable amounts of money have been invested in them.

The second problem is that recreation and tourism assume a complex position in the ongoing debate on the sustainable development of society. Physical changes are becoming increasingly apparent at local and regional level and these changes represent an assault on livability, rest and space in the community. At the same time a physical concentration of 'natural' values appears in other places: a compensation, as it were, for what has been lost elsewhere. In this way a dual situation is formed: parks come into being alongside deserts. The nature areas are not freely accessible to the human visitor. To an important degree recreation and tourism, certainly in their commercial form, are seen as threats to the natural environment. They are associated more with other, economically necessary evils and are not seen as being able to contribute to the (sustainable) quality of existence.

A third problem is that large-scale recreational and tourist locations determine the form and content of the social, cultural and physical environment, without people having asked themselves enough whether these 'transformations' are desirable in the long term. Because of the one-sided orientation towards the here and now wishes and desires of the leisure consumer, a silent revolution is in process which will have far-reaching consequences later.

Against this background the assignment I have set myself in this study is to search for collective interest in recreation and tourism that can be argued and (theoretically) thought about. The Dutch situation provides the concrete example. Because, in principal, the government is the protector of collective interest, I give particular attention to the role and the responsibility of government in this area. Further I have limited myself to concentrating on developments that occurred in state policy after World War Two.

In preparation for my quest for collective interest in recreation and tourism, I begin in Chapter One by exploring the essence of leisure. The debate on the importance of Vita Activa and Vita Comtemplativa that has preoccupied thinkers concerned with the mundane or higher condition of Man from the time of Plato to the present day, provides me with an historical context. In the antithesis between both forms of being, I mean to find a basis for describing different forms of reality which I will subsequently relate to Schutz' phenomenology. His insights are themselves rooted in the works of such philosophical thinkers as Edmund Husserl. This is the basis for my hypothesis that man is able to create different realities. Leisure is one of these realities: it is removed from the everyday and the obvious.

The second chapter deals with the way in which reality is constructed in society. I have introduced the concept of 'contra-structure' to refer to everything that falls outside the concept of everyday reality. It is a concept that has a hinge-like function in the argument as a whole: everything revolves around it where matters of leisure and all other forms of what is not self- evident - games, humour, religion and science - are concerned. From Bourdieu I borrow a sociological perspective when viewing the structural elements involved. The differences in peoples' position as they relate to each other influence the reality produced. In this way I try to draw Bourdieu's theory into more areas of reality than that of the everyday. Relationships are assumed to exist between the different realities.

In the thirdchapter I add another sociological dimension to the construction of the 'other' reality and the changes that affect it. In line with Habermas' argument concerning the rationalisation of modem society, I suggest that the organization of the everyday social order does not only continually lead to the production of another reality, but subsequently also leads to an encapsulation and exploitation of contra-structure. Because of this the latter looses its specific significance, becomes everyday and necessitates the production of yet more new worlds. Habermas' approach is strongly orientated to a (recovery of) moral mastery of the everyday order and is not sensitive to the way people deviate towards other realities. I supplement this view. The theoretically argued area of tension between the rationally organized everyday world and the contra-structure is at the heart of the issue of collective interest in recreation and tourism. This tension, which can exhaust the sources of contra-structural space and significance, is particularly apparent in the socio-cultural and physio-spacial environment.

How government approaches and continues to approach the social and physio-spacial environment in the interests of the tourist-recreation contra-structure is examined in Chapter Four. The analysis is illustrative and makes no pretence at completeness. Primarily, empirical support is sought for a thesis that concerns the emancipation of the social subsystems (the State and the Market) and the helplessness of values. Concrete situations provide the object for a debate on collective interest and for the debate as collective interest.

Collective interest is evident in the three central dilemmas discussed in Chapter Five : the relation between tourism and recreation as far as nature and ecology are concerned (1); the relationship between the interests of government ' market and social organizations in the field of recreation and tourism (2) and the increasing consumerism associated with recreation and tourism (3). In these dilemmas the questions which reoccur are: whose interests and reality dominate and what is the cost of this domination and for whom.

The sixth chapter summarises the preceding discussion and provides a synthesis. I conclude that the only way to evaluate the disadvantageous consequences of collective activities is to be more aware of the artificiality of our social world and to decide, rationally, to allow realities other that the everyday, the right to exist. Recreation and tourism must be safeguarded to a certain degree from continual commercialization and government servicing.

Here, the artificial maintenance of different realities is of collective interest. It demands, paradoxically enough, intervention and organized collective activity, precisely that which was the most threatening for an ideal leisure situation. The analysis does not solve the problems of a policy sector, but brings a much larger and more essential social problem into focus. In this way the sustainability issue, often so one-sidedly bound to nature and ecological values, can be usefully supplemented. Another collective interest which becomes increasingly clear is the need for continual and critical debate. And for this government, commerce and interest groups must be prepared to distance themselves from time to time from the everyday pragmatism of their policy.