Anarchism as a Hobby

Exploring political and social groups through the lens of deep personal interest.

Anarchism as a Hobby
“Nationalism v Anarchism” by subberculture is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Coined by Robert A. Stebbins in 1982, the term “serious leisure” consists of activities that captivate the participant “with… complexity and many challenges,” and which are voluntarily undertaken during periods of free time (Stebbins, 2001, p. 54).

For the purposes of Library and Information Science studies, where understanding the information-gathering habits of a populace is key, serious leisure is distinguished from casual leisure on several important grounds. Serious leisure “participants, by definition, willingly make significant effort acquiring knowledge” (Hartel, 2003, p. 230). Casual leisure is comprised of low-entry activities, like “conversing with friends, snoozing in the recliner, strolling in the park, and… watching television” (Stebbins, 2001, p. 53). Furthermore, while casual leisure “can cause a sort of psychological dyspepsia, a sense of ennui and listlessness rooted in the unsettling realization that one’s life is unfolding in a way largely, if not entirely, devoid of any significant excitement” (Stebbins, 2001, p. 53), serious leisure is usually undertaken with enough focus that it has the qualities of a career, and where “participants likely have more expertise than reference staff, a reversal of standard authority” (Hartel, 2003, p. 230).

Exploring anarchist communities through the lens of serious leisure provides an interesting framework for studying social and political movement trends.

While anarchism boasts a number of professional leaders and scholars, it is ultimately contingent on the activities of a largely non-professional participatory network. By definition, anarchism eschews traditional hierarchical modes of organization, preferring modular and horizontal organizational methods. Anarchists also largely operate outside of traditional support structures, such as state and academic funding. And yet, anyone “familiar with anarchist groups knows quite well the volume, diversity and creativity of their cultural production” (Hoyt, 2012, p. 30). As Andrew Hoyt points out in his essay The International Anarchist Archives:

“By avoiding the kind of formalized power dynamics that exist in most institutional archives, many volunteer anarchist archives manage to embody the values of the social movement they are documenting, blurring the line between activist and academic, between archivist and historian, and between the production and the preservation of culture.” (2012, p. 33)

Robert Stebbins writes in Serious Leisure, “work continues to be seen by many Americans and Canadians as the only really meritorious activity they do, without question the most fitting and proper role for humankind” (Stebbins, 2001, p. 53). But, for anarchists, that sort of work is a state antithetical to true human flourishing. Indeed, Hoyt’s research shows that many anarchist archives are supported and staffed by interested volunteers. This matches what Jenna Hartel writes in The Serious Leisure Frontier in Library and Information Science: Hobby Domains. That the “concept of having choice underlies the notion of leisure, which is pleasurable in part because it is what we want to do” (2003, p. 229).

For anarchists, the work of understanding, expanding, developing, and practicing anarchist theories is undertaken purely out of personal desire rather than profit or stability motivators. Indeed, there are significant social drawbacks to studying and practicing anarchism, when the subject is so deeply misunderstood that the term has become merely a commonplace term for chaos. Given that vast social pressures present a barrier to information behaviors around anarchism, it is even more potent that people undertake serious studies of the subject during their free time.

The exploration of anarchism as a serious leisure pursuit has little functional scholarship, however, significant scholarship into the area of serious leisure itself has been undertaken. Linking the theories developed for serious leisure to anarchist studies presents a new way of understanding the dynamics and community habits of anarchist networks. This matches Jenna Hartel’s suggestion that increased “understanding of information phenomena within a diversity of leisure and hobby domains enables better information provision to these communities” (2003, p. 236).

Another area where the research into serious leisure and that of anarchist studies overlaps is the subject of the Internet. Historically, anarchists have been reluctant to view the Internet as a positive vehicle for change, largely because major sectors of the Internet are controlled by corporate entities and exists on the back of a profit motive: “a new post-modern kind of open yet non-public, privatised yet not fully owned space” (Hern and Chaulk, 2000).

However, increased Internet usage since the early 2000s has only intensified early observations that Internet use furthers the ability of individuals to access hobby interests and personal projects (Hektor, 2003). Studying how everyday activities are altered through the Internet allows us to explore how web access has expanded the potential for anarchist interaction. Likewise, a “vibrant sphere of communal and individual blogs, social media pages, online radio broadcasts, websites and individual accounts” play a major role in modern anarchist networks (Siapera & Theodosiadis, 2017), and many of these activities fall fundamentally into the category of serious leisure.

Exploring anarchism from this angle allows us to see a new dimension to serious leisure: that this type of information community can be a driver for vast social change. Meanwhile, it continues to showcase the usefulness of research into leisure, which, as Jenna Hartel writes, “is what makes people truly happy” (2003, p. 229).

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, an independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider subscribing to a paid tier for as little as $2.50 per month!


Hartel, J. (2003). The Serious Leisure Frontier in Library and Information Science: Hobby Domains.

Hern, M., & Chaulk, S. (2000). Roadgrading Community Culture: Why the Internet is so Dangerous to Real Democracy. Democracy & Nature, 6(1), 111–120.

Hektor, A. (2003). Information activities on the Internet in everyday life. The New Review of Information Behaviour Research, 4(1), 127–138.

Hoyt, A. (2012). The International Anarchist Archives: A Report on Conditions and a Proposal for Action. Theory In Action, 5(4), 30–46.

Siapera, E., & Theodosiadis, M. (2017). (Digital) Activism at the Interstices: Anarchist and Self-Organizing Movements in Greece. TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 15(2), 505–523.

Stebbins, R. A. (2001). Serious Leisure. Society, 38(4), 53–57.

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