Chorvát, I., J. Šafr (eds.). 2019. Leisure, Society and Culture in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Praha: Sociologické nakladatelství SLON.
Leisure is often the value to which people attach importance in their lives. This book deals with leisure time at the dawn of the 21st century, particularly with the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the Czech and Slovak Republics. It is based on the perspective of changing society. It seeks to show how changes in a number of spheres, such as the world of work, employment, the gradual transition of young people to the adult stage, demographic shifts, technological developments, reforms in education, diversification in consumer orientation and others manifest in the sphere of leisure. The Czech and Slovak authors present the results of rich empirical analyses from many sociological surveys conducted in both countries in the last 30 years. They interpret them on the basis of developmental trends in both countries since the break-up of the common state in 1992.
In the first chapter, we consider leisure time as a phenomenon typical of modern society, in which it becomes a valuable commodity and a gradually expanding phenomenon. We have shown how over time, leisure becomes important in terms of personal experience within an individual’s private life, something that fills the time outside of work with subjective preferences, abilities and ideas. Leisure is commercialised, and the so-called leisure industry, arguably the fastest growing economic sector, has employed an increasing share of the productive population. Thus the essence lies not in the individual himself, who organises his free time according to his own individual needs, but in the demands of the leisure industry, pushing members of a consumer society into an increasing quantity of usual and undisputed activities. For that reason, we further analyse the phenomenon of “hurriedness” as a real fact of our time in an effort to reveal its socio-structural mechanisms. We have identified changes in economic life as the most significant (increasing female employment, intensification of work, increased pressures on job loss, non-standard work, corporate long-working cultures, increased labour flexibility), cultural changes (especially increased consumption orientation and more intensive time segmentation) and technological changes (such as new information and communication technologies, digitisation and the phenomenon of internet social networks).
The next chapter is devoted to the analysis of basic frameworks, which could have had a direct or mediated impact on some forms of leisure time in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the period of transformation after the collapse of the common state, there were some differences in opinions, attitudes, values and life strategies of Czech and Slovak citizens. The transformation of the economy after 1989 brought more negative phenomena to Slovakia (for example, higher unemployment and a decline in the standard of living for a significant part of the population), which resulted in greater dissatisfaction with the post-1989 development and a more critical perception of the reforms in the Slovak Republic. When comparing both countries in the period just after 1989, a frequent conclusion of various sociological studies was that Slovakia's modernisation deficit was a result of the different course of modernisation in both societies. It is undoubtedly true that Slovakia's modernisation lag has been moderated in many areas of life in recent decades. In the second chapter, however, we brought the knowledge that the mentioned deficits still occur in some spheres and, among other things, are reflected in the Slovak Republic's lagging behind its western neighbour in the reduced accessibility and lower density of facilities for leisure activities in the spheres of culture, sports and recreation. This is reflected in a greater number of theatrical performances, cultural houses and concert halls, museums, galleries, libraries, higher attendance to castles, chateaus and monuments and a higher number of published journals and magazines in the Czech Republic—not only in absolute numbers but also in relative numbers. Similar statements apply to the topic of sports. Compared to Slovak settlements of similar size, Czech settlements are better equipped, which is reflected by the better accessibility of sports grounds for residents of larger and smaller settlements in the Czech Republic. Another manifestation of the lagging sports infrastructure in Slovakia is the higher quantities of sports associations and clubs for the major sports in the Czech Republic, with the exception of football, as well as lower employment within sports in Slovakia. The differences in the “socio-cultural settings” of the inhabitants of Czechoslovakia at the end of socialism were also reflected in the lower number of Slovaks travelling on vacation every year, and these differences persisted even in the first decade of the 21st century. In recent years, the difference between the two countries has partially diminished. The trend of participation in holidays outside the place of residence is also on the upward curve in Slovakia, and it reflects the catching up of Czech neighbours with other indicators of high living standards.
Chapter three shows, on the basis of an analysis of EVS 1991–2017 data, that leisure plays an important role in the lives of contemporary Czechs and Slovaks, and its importance has been increasing since 1991. In 1991, leisure was very important for 21% of Czechs and 29% of Slovaks. In the Czech Republic, the importance of leisure grew most between 1999 and 2008 and in Slovakia between 2008 and 2017. While in 2008, leisure was considered very important for 34% of both Czechs and Slovaks, in 2017 it was very important for 40% of Czech respondents, but for only 51% of Slovak respondents. A more detailed analysis showed that the importance of leisure grew in almost all age groups of the Slovak population; most within the oldest age group of 65 years and over. However, work plays a more important role in the lives of Slovaks. The share of those for whom work is very important between 1991 and 2017 did not drop below 60%, whereas in the Czech Republic, the share fell from 60% to 43% between 1991 and 2008, with the most significant decline taking place between 1999 and 2008. By 2017, this downward trend stopped. In both the Czech and Slovak Republics, the importance of work has increased. While in the Czech Republic, five respondents out of ten identified work as very important in 2017, in Slovakia it was seven out of ten. For Slovaks, it was more important than for the Czechs that their job was family friendly. This finding demonstrates the Slovaks’ emphasis on family relations. On the other hand, the Czechs declared less of a willingness to work during their leisure time. The Czechs, less than the Slovaks, agreed with the statement that work should always come first, even if it means less spare time. While it was important for both Czechs and Slovaks to relax and meet nice people in their leisure time, Slovaks were more likely than the Czechs to associate leisure with the possibility of learning something new. For the Czechs, doing as they want in their spare time was more important. Considering the necessity of earning a living, the majority of the adult population in the Czech Republic and Slovakia would like to work for the same amount of time as they currently work. In 2015, the share of those satisfied with the length of their working hours was significantly higher than in 2010. And although more than a half of the respondents from both countries were satisfied with the amount of time they could devote to their hobbies and interests in 2016, more time for their hobbies and interests would be welcomed for about 40% of Czech and Slovak men and Czech women and one-third of Slovak women.
In the fourth chapter, which was the most extensive, we focus on comparing leisure activities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia after 1990 (with short comparative feedback to the mid-1980s). Despite the almost self-evident number of households with personal computers and the Internet, Czechs and Slovaks now seem to spend more of their free time with cultural and sporting activities outside their homes than in 1984, having more social contacts with friends and acquaintances, spending more time engaging self-education, and although the number of regular readers of literature has decreased, the number of non-readers has also fallen significantly. Thus, the overall trend in both countries is a more physically and culturally active population that is more educated and more often confronted with people outside their household. In most of the leisure activities discussed (except for social contacts), the Czechs maintain a slight lead over the Slovaks, which is conditioned by the previous cultural-historical development. We analysed the attendance rates of Czech and Slovak residents at cultural and sporting events in more detail with data from Eurostat (EU-SILC Living Conditions Survey 2006 and 2015). One of the key factors that explains the differences between the Czech Republic and Slovakia appears to be the differences between the urban and rural population. In the Czech Republic, this does not play such an important role as in Slovakia. In general, participation in cultural events between 2006 and 2015 in the Czech Republic had increased, while in Slovakia it had decreased. As a result, Czechs were generally more interested in culture in 2015, but in the case of the urban population, the differences between the Czechs and Slovaks are not as significant as in the case of residents from the rural environment. However, the fact that the greatest differences between the two countries manifest mainly in the attendance of cultural and historical monuments, museums, galleries, etc. can be also explained by certain differences in lifestyle, and in the citizens’ usual ways of spending weekends and holidays. Czechs are rather focused on actively spending leisure time, while in Slovakia, the motives for travelling are dominated by passive desires such as relaxation as well as activities focused on contact with family and friends. The higher frequency of contact with family and friends among Slovak citizens demonstrates more community-type elements, while Czechs put greater emphasis on individualisation and more private forms of spending time.
The final part of the chapter provides a more comprehensive picture of a wider range of leisure activities, namely in the Czech Republic for 2011 and in Slovakia in 2016 when coordinated research on leisure time and cultural participation was conducted. The activities could be divided into five broader modes of spending leisure time, representing different lifestyles: highbrow culture, out-of-home entertainment or the “male world”, the “women's world”, which is linked to family and acquaintances, media consumption and passive forms of leisure time at home, which is typical for young people, and passive forms of leisure time, so called “hominess”. The sociodemographic characteristics that determine these different spheres of leisure and point to their typical carriers are generally similar in both societies (with some exception of the aforementioned differences by type of residential area).
Chapter five is focused on new forms of leisure activities, which have spread especially in the new millennium. These are activities that are associated with the rapid penetration of new information and communication technologies into people’s lives, as well as another new phenomenon—spending time in large shopping centres. One of the goals was to find out how these new forms of leisure spending became more common among people compared to the previous forms, or compared to those that could be considered traditional. Modern information and communication technologies have a fundamental influence on our everyday life, not only in the sphere of work but also in leisure time. The use of personal computers, the Internet and mobile communications has risen sharply in both republics after the turn of the millennium. This increase was mainly due to better affordability of computing and mobile devices, as well as the acceleration of digital infrastructure building. The shift occurred also in the so-called digital division of society in terms of age. The highest proportion of those who do not use modern ICT is among people of retirement age. In terms of ICT ownership in households, the difference between the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic is remarkable for the benefit of the Czech Republic, including Internet connection and its use.
One of the most dynamically developing areas affecting virtually every individual is the sphere of trade and shopping. This was demonstrated by the number of newly opened shopping centres between 1997 and 2015 (84 in the Czech Republic and 51 in Slovakia). Ways of shopping have changed due to a wide range of additional services (multiplex cinemas, gyms, bowling alleys, swimming pools, cafes, restaurants, fast food, gaming clubs, etc.) and a complex array of leisure activities. Research shows a clear upward trend in the share of these leisure activities. While in 2008, approximately every sixth interviewed person in Slovakia (17%) was a regular part of the new phenomenon called “retailtainment”, by 2016, it was already more than a quarter of the population (28%) that was regularly engaged in this activity. In the Czech Republic, almost a third (30%) of respondents were shopping and walking in shops. In a simplified way, and with certain exaggeration, it can be noted that people from the Czech Republic walk in shops in their leisure time regardless of the content of their wallet, while in Slovakia there are more people in shopping centres who “can afford it”.
Chapter six illustrates the changing relations with sport activities in both societies after 1989 and after the end of the common state. Data from multiple surveys conducted in both countries during last 30 years were analysed in order to capture modification in three dimensions linked with sport. Firstly, the presented chapter focuses on current trends in active sporting. As in other European countries, we are witnessing the rising popularity of healthy lifestyles, which are visible in the growing number of Czechs and Slovaks who are actively participating in sports more often than once a week. For historical reasons, this trend is more visible in the Czech society. The data analysis reveals a somewhat unexpected result in the second dimension of sport activities: Slovaks have a higher attendance to sport events than Czechs. Finally, the data show that memberships in sport clubs and sport associations are higher in the Czech Republic.
The seventh chapter deals with the cultural participation of Czechs and Slovaks. The authors try not to separate the activities related to cultural events from trends in media use. They use Joshua Meyrowitz's idea that, as a result of the development of the media, the information worlds of children and adults or women and men are merged, and the differences between the private and the public disappear. There is a sense of detachment from physical location. Both nations were compared based on leisurely cultural activities performed in the private sphere (reading, watching movies and television) and away from home (visiting concerts, theatres, museums or galleries) and in terms of taste. The results of the corresponding analyses confirm that in both countries, homology is present in the form of a link between high and low culture and high and low social status. On one side of the spectrum, there are activities related to higher social status (visits to galleries, classical music concerts, theatres or ballet) and on the other side there are lower status related forms of cultural participation (discos, rock and pop concerts and cinema). Similarly, TV programmes fit together to produce three types of tastes—male popular (popular action-related movies, sports, romantic movies and series), female popular (popular romantic films, series, reality shows, together with the unpopular action-related films) and high-cultural (favourite documentaries, art films, news and unpopular reality shows). In both societies, leisure is defined by a combination of educational status on one side and age together with sex on the other. At the same time, it is possible, especially in the younger generation, to observe the trend of a certain individualisation of cultural tastes. This phenomenon results in a blending of high and low culture, and the choice of different styles from different time periods.