Escapism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Escapism is mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an "escape" from the perceived unpleasant aspects of daily stress. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people do to try to help feelings of depression or general sadness.

Some believe that this diversion is more inherent in today's urban, technological existence because it de-facto removes people from their biologically normal natures. Entire industries have sprung up to foster a growing tendency of people to remove themselves from the rigors of daily life. Principal amongst these are fiction literature, music, sports, films, television, roleplaying games, pornography, recreational drugs, the internet and computer games. Many activities that are normal parts of a healthy existence (e.g., eating, exercise, sexual activity) can also become avenues of escapism when taken to extreme.

In the context of being taken to an extreme, the word 'escapism' carries a negative connotation, suggesting that escapists are unhappy, with an inability or unwillingness to connect meaningfully with the world.

Some social critics warn about attempts by the powers that control society to provide means of escapism instead of actually bettering the condition of the people: for example, Karl Marx said "Religion is the opium of the people". This is contrary to the thought of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who argued that people try to find satisfaction in material things to fill a void within them that only God can fill.

Others may argue that means of escapism are provided by capitalism to those who desire a form of "escape." Some fictional escapist societies are the Eloi of The Time Machine as well as those depicted in certain dystopian novels. Examples of this are Fahrenheit 451, where society uses television and "seashell radios" to escape an otherwise bland life and Brave New World where drugs and recreational sex are used.

However, there are some who challenge the idea that escapism is fundamentally and exclusively negative. For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien, responding to the Anglo-Saxon academic debate on escapism in the 1930s, wrote in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" that escapism had an element of emancipation in its attempt to figure a different reality. His friend C. S. Lewis was also fond of remarking that the usual enemies of escape were jailers.

A German social philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote that utopias and images of fulfillment, however regressive they might be, also included an impetus for a radical social change. According to Bloch, social justice could not be realized without seeing things fundamentally differently. Something that is mere 'daydreaming' or 'escapism' from the viewpoint of a technological-rational society might be a seed for a new and more humane social order, it can be seen as an "immature, but honest substitute for revolution".

History

Some believe that this diversion is more inherent in today's urban, technological existence because it removes people from their biologically normal natures. Entire industries have sprung up to foster a growing tendency of people to remove themselves from the rigors of daily life. Principal amongst these are fiction literature, music, religion, sports, films, television, roleplaying games, pornography, recreational drugs, video games, fashion and the internet. Many activities that are normal parts of a healthy existence (e.g., eating, sleeping, exercise, sexual activity) can also become avenues of escapism when taken to extreme.

In the context of being taken to an extreme, the word "escapism" carries a negative connotation, suggesting that escapists are unhappy, with an inability or unwillingness to connect meaningfully with the world.

However, there are some who challenge the idea that escapism is fundamentally and exclusively negative. For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien, responding to the Anglo-Saxon academic debate on escapism in the 1930s, wrote in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" that escapism had an element of emancipation in its attempt to figure a different reality. C. S. Lewis was also fond of humorously remarking that the usual enemies of escape were jailers.

Some social critics warn of attempts by the powers that control society to provide means of escapism instead of actually bettering the condition of the people. For example, Karl Marx wrote about religion as being the "opium of the people". This is to be compared to the thought of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who argued that people try to find satisfaction in material things to fill a void within them that only God can fill.

Escapist societies appear often in literature. The Time Machine depicts the Eloi, a lackadaisical, insouciant race of the future, and the horror their happy lifestyle belies. The novel subtly criticizes capitalism, or at least classism, as a means of escape. Escapist societies are common in dystopian novels for example Fahrenheit 451, where society uses television and "seashell radios" to escape a life with strict regulations and the threat of the forthcoming war.

German social philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote that utopias and images of fulfillment, however regressive they might be, also included an impetus for a radical social change. According to Bloch, social justice could not be realized without seeing things fundamentally differently. Something that is mere "daydreaming" or "escapism" from the viewpoint of a technological-rational society might be a seed for a new and more humane social order, it can be seen as an "immature, but honest substitute for revolution".

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Escapism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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