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Leisure The Basis Of Culture [Paperback]

By Josef Pieper (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   176
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 15, 1998
Publisher   St. Augustines Press
ISBN  1890318353  
EAN  9781890318352  

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Hardcover $ 22.00 $ 19.36 625803 In Stock
Paperback $ 12.00 $ 10.20 103392
Item Description...
In this elegantly written (and produced) work, Josef Pieper introduces the reader to an understanding that leisure is nothing less than "an attitude of mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world." Beginning with the Greeks, and through a series of philosophic, religious, and historical examples, Pieper demonstrates that "Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture." Of the frenetic contemporary clamor for things, entertainment, and distraction, Pieper observes, "in our bourgeois Western world total labor has vanquished leisure. Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture -- and ourselves." For, to Pieper, slavery is a state of mind and soul into which entire peoples descend when mental, moral, spiritual, and political independence is corrupted by a preoccupation with material well-being. Long unavailable, this reprint of the original edition of 1952 includes an introduction by T. S. Eliot.

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More About Josef Pieper

Josef Pieper Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.

Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of cultural forms of secular totalitarianism and of its philosophical foundations through a rehabilitation of the Christian concept of man that is related to experience and action. Plato and Thomas Aquinas in particular were the inspiring sources of a constructive criticism of contemporary culture.

Josef Pieper was born in 1904 and died in 1997.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An Important Book  Sep 12, 2008
I read this book for the first time about ten years ago, and have just re-read it. Both readings were delightful and edifying. The first reading was like a slap in the face. It was a shock to have a writer attack the pre-eminence of utility. For nearly a half-century, it was pressed into my mind that usefulness was a virtue-- and not just a garden-variety virtue, but the foundation of all civic virtues. I dare say that practically everyone brought up in the West in the Twentieth Century was similarly molded, by the education establishment, by the penalty-reward system,by the politicians and (for a large part) by religious leaders. If you weren't doing something useful, if you weren't somehow contributing to the general utility of society, you were not a good citizen.
An example (trivial, perhaps)is as follows: There was a time when kids could leave the house on a summer day, run around, hang out, play games, and finally come home for dinner. Not today! Little League, Soccer league, tennis lessons. Hup! Hup! Hup!
Pieper cries out with a message that is, I claim, carrying with it more and more urgency. We have to start looking at each of our activities and asking "Is it good?", and not "Is it useful?" But even before this, we have to learn that those two questions are not identical.
One of the other reviewers objected tp Pieper's world view, asserting that in the modern age, we have more spare time for leisure than in years past. He said: "we work much less than people use (sic) to have to work and this is due to being able to produce more in less time."
This is utterly false. At the height of human civilization, (in the West, anyway), there were less than 140 working days per year. The rest were Sundays and Festival days. There was more "spare time" in the 13th Century than there is in the 21st. But, as Pieper points out, "spare time" does not equate to "leisure". One can use his spare time watching TV, and wind up with zero leisure.
So, the first time through this book, it was like a slap in the face, challenging the shibboleths under which I had labored for so long. The second time through was sweeter. The book wears very well. It will be read in the 22nd Century.
Killing the false Idol "Work" (Dru translation)  Dec 30, 2007
Pieper makes the argument that freedom and philosophy are closely related; bad philosophy can lead to enslavement of oneself or of societies as a whole. The Greeks (whom we take most of our higher level concepts from and who had perfected the ideals of freedom to their greatest level) viewed philosophy as closely linked to wonder, hope, and the marvelous; an open system that never doubted the presence of mystery even in one's ultimate thoughts, as opposed to some modern attempts that have created a "complete" philosophical system like Hegel's or Marx cause. One of the main points of Pieper is that our notion of work and how the word is used today is due to the influence of Marxist socialism upon our psyche and attack on our freedoms. Anything worth doing had to justify itself as work in the socialist/Marxist scheme, which included something that traditionally had been known as the antithesis of work being school or learning. We use words that justify what should more rightly be known as educational "efforts", or "studies", or "learning" as school "work". Everything has to serve a utilitarian aim as work in the modern jargon or become suspect. Pieper explains how this change, and others, in concepts of things has done something on par of putting more links in the chain that enslave us, we are our own keeper in how we think, or worse are enslaved by the system of government. Work more rightly is seen as taking care of the necessities: food, roof... The word for school comes from the Greek word for leisure, leisure is the proper use of extra time to make oneself a greater whom ever you are supposed to be.

This is what Aristotle means when he says, "I work in order that I may have leisure." Which really means I take care of my basic needs in order that I have time to examine being in relation to all things.

Acadia, sloth, laziness, a sitting in front of the tv jell-o"ing" is rightly opposite of leisure. This change in terminology is significant in how people view themselves; Marxist socialism did effect English speakers to their very linguistic core and continues to have an effect today on how we use words to justify things and those same words interact with related concepts. Without the proper usage of leisure as a concept sloth and slothful activities have been given free reign to run rampant only hindered by the term "work" which is a pitiful replacement for leisure which means time to make oneself the more beautiful person you were supposed to be includeing efforts to understand creation and interrelations of all things both inwardly and outwardly. Work is more analagous to laying brick and morter, leisure to the making of pottery on a potter's wheel (although this is simpistic). The book's messages have broad meaning. It contains only a minor insignificant attack on what is known as the "Protestant Work Ethic" only as it might be blind to Marxist inroads on linguistic attacks and its comments on leisure's effect on the contemplative life are interrelated to the good life in a broad sense, not just the contemplative life. The book is mostly about how Marxist jargon has infected Western concepts and language and distanced ourselves more from our true Greek legacy concerning the ideas of freedom and the human condition and its relation to the meaning of words and how we have become more like slaves because of it. His intent is to kill the false vain idol of work for work sake which has obfuscated a right relation to the divine. Pieper explicetly denies that this is an attack on egalitarianism or a longing for rigid class destinctions on par with archic aristocracy. It is merely a desire to revive the right place of words and exclaimation of loss in how great Western concepts have been tossed aside and consequently our humanity.

A summary of the book really doesn't do it justice.

An antitode for post-modern man and his scepticism  Aug 24, 2007
I am no philosopher, but I have always loved Plato and have with Pieper's help learned to appreciate Aristotle again. This little book is the most influential for me besides perhaps Plato. I have been rereading it for 14 years, and wish I had read it more often. Until recently I don't think I understood the second piece, and every time I read it again there are gems of insight, undiscovered before.
Read it with friends, preferably. If you are the skeptic or cynic, Pieper has an antitode. He did at least for me.

One note: I have the original translation by Alexander Dru with introduction by T.S. Eliot. I don't know why another was made. I don't know German, but the English is very clear and flows well.
Useful Leisure Time Vs. Wasting Time  Mar 26, 2007
Josef Pieper's LEISURE: THE BASIS OF CULTURE is a short but poignant commentary on the difference between joy and idleness. This book is not for those who have an aversion to serious reading and thought. Nor is this book recommended for those who are addicted to the Idiot Box (TV). Those who carefully think of "Ultimate Values," serious religious convictions, etc. would benefit from this book.

Piefer distingushes between "practicle learning" and the joy of learning. In an age of "practicle" learning, cheap religion, shallow philsosphy, etc. serious reading (The Great Books)thought, and good writing are slowly being eroded in favor cheap goods and ideas. Practicle learning may enhance one's ability to improve income. One may ask as Piefer does, at what cost. In line with Piefer's views, one may refer to the biblical injunction of "Gaining the whole world and lose one's soul." Some enter the profession to earn huge incomes and often do. They have nice homes, new cars, swimming pools, etc. Yet the pressure to "keep up with the rat race" causes early death. These men are wealthy all right. They are the wealthest men in the cemetary.

Piefer prefers another sort of learning. He wants learning to be a joy. According the Plato & co., joy consisted of insight to Divine Love and Widsom. The Medieval Scholastics argued that God was Man's ultimate joy and end of life. St. Thomas Aquinas is cited in Piefer's book as one who used reason, insight, the Catholic Faith, etc. to enhance his careful study of philosophy and theology. This type of learning was to promote the Faith and to improve one's character rather than to have more economic success. Piefer is not opposed to earning a living. His complaint is the obsession of wealth at the expense of knowledge, character, honesty, character, etc. which he believes can only be enhanced by careful reading and thought.

Piefer's short book could have been written more clearly. However, he raises serious questions that should be carefully considered. For those who take ultimate values seriously, his end notes cited books and pages for further study and thought.
An inadequate analysis of the human condition.  Sep 25, 2006
This work places supreme value on the contemplative silence , the deep receptive mode which comes according to Pieper in 'true leisure'.
I do not deny the importance of contemplation, of stillness, of allowing ourselves to be open and receptive to the Divine Presence.
But I think the criticism of work, and of human activity which Pieper makes undermines what is most great and good in us. After all we are creatures of creation, created in the image of God to walk in God's way. This means that at the center of our life and being is not withdrawal and contemplation but proper action in being with and helping others. In the Jewish tradition this walking in the way of God in compassion is the ideal way of being.
In more down- to- earth perhaps and pragmatic terms, the human being does not act 'machinelike' in work. There are all kinds of work and for many the only deep way of being with themselves is through their creative work. This kind of creativity and work is often part of our everyday life and mind, as philosophers of the James, Pierce, Dewey American Pragmatist school have shown.
Another important point. Piepper published this book in 1947 .The world has been transformed in many ways since then. One of them is that great mass of mankind have opportunities for learning, for creative work, for ' contemplative thought' for other kinds of mystical work that they have not had to this degree before.
In this sense I have a feeling of this book as somewhat dated. But again my main problem with it is that it does not really give credit to the full range and meaning of human creative activity.

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