In chapter four of Peiper’s Leisure The Basis of Culture Peiper presents the term “proletarian”, which then becomes the central focus of the passage. This term and the conversation surrounding it caught my attention while reading not only because it discusses the major issue of class division but it also discusses what it truly means to be poor.
Peiper begins by stating that in modern times the term proletarian is often used to refer to the lower class or manual laborers. It is a term that has become synonymous with a certain social class. However, Peiper disagrees. He states that the real definition of the proletariat is one who is chained to his work, whether it be because he has a lack of income/property, because he is coerced by society into valuing work above all else, or because he suffers from “inner impoverishment” (Peiper 58). In other words the proletariat is someone who does not value leisure but instead is a supporter of “total work”. We can then see that, when using this definition, the proletariat is not confined to one social class but can be anyone from any sort of background.
This passage made me pause and reflect because in today’s society we have become so obsessed with material goods, social status, and success that we have truly lost the sense of what it means to live a fulfilled life. I often, along with the rest of the society, believe that those who are financially well off are living a better life than those who are just making ends meet. I have fallen into the trap of believing that to be successful one must first be thriving in their career. Peiper in the passage contradicts this belief and states that to live a fulfilled life is to have appreciated leisure and the beauty of life. This then completely changes what it means to be poor. The CEO can now be poorer than the manual laborers. We are no longer confined to working as much as possible to get ahead but instead can make enough to live and become spiritually, emotionally, and mentally rich in our free time – which is far more important to our well-being.