XBookless in my home, perched upon a heap of cheap Munirka made furniture, all that we could afford after blowing up so liberally on books, I sit at home fighting the noise, the dust and an entire pelt of workmen and an agitated Georgie. I only hope within the deep recess of my mind, with a heroic sense of inner certainty that all this cadaver will eventually end in a beautiful home. That beauty of a tiled floor with shower lights is a state of harmony presently only in my dreams. And I am not a dreamer. So I sit back, blanked out in my mind, vapid in my thought when it suddenly strikes me that I am indeed the leisure class. Everyone in the house seems to be at work, pulling, pushing, lifting, carrying, pounding, rubbing, sweeping and washing and which includes an anxious hyperactive supervision by Georgie, I sit motionless and still. I wonder, what is a leisure class, what are their existential coordinates and what do they do about their thinking?
The leisure class has long been defined as a class of people who need not earn their own incomes, incomes emerge automatically out of nowhere. Nowhere because they do nothing to invest towards an income in the current period. They may have inherited some money, or won a lottery or what is not probable have had some property which by sheer force of time and inflation appreciated to render them with purchasing powers which are enough and sometimes more than enough to give them a dignified lifestyle similar to those who have to pump adrenaline to go to work. The leisure class by the dint of not earning its income is a class that does not really interact with the society at all. It is a class that definitely tries to match its steps with the world as a consumer but because most of our consumption is geared towards earning an income, the leisure class finds it difficult to remain a consumer as well. This is my present state of affairs. I am out of office for the whole of this week, and like a leisure class totally out of work. Sitting at home, I simply do not know what I should consume.
The problem of a society based on the model of consumption, a leisure class is a problem, for even if this class has some money, it knows not what to buy because it has nothing to buy for. I once visited the home of a family which had graduated to the leisure class in a nearby village in the NCR. They we renovating their home with beautiful marble and tiles but inside the house there was only a single hall with balconies all around, resembling a merchant’s home in Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The women of the house asked Madhusree and me what furniture should suit them best. They of course had a leather sofa in the middle of nowhere and a centre table with a black glass. They were confused and pained in that confusion. They we hopeless where consumption was concerned. At the exit I noticed two large hookah. We were told that these were for the ladies to smoke, a powerful item of consumption while they were peasants but now as a leisure class, that had become illegitimate.
As a producer class, the leisure class knows not where to invest. Massage parlours, restaurants, boutiques, gymns, Kachori franchisee are the businesses which a fairly easy to enter but difficult to sustain. Shops close as soon as they open leading to a colossal waste of capital. When leisure class runs businesses, there is no accumulation, no learning, no technology advancement. This is the way in which economies collapse.
As a culture class the leisure class pursues impressionistic art, abstract cubism, the theatre of the absurd or polemical cinema where emotions are spoken of rather than be conveyed. As artists, the leisure class cannot bring about a change in the consciousness on a wide scale.
The birth of the leisure class in a society comes from a surplus, which rather than be circulated, accumulates like a tumour on the body social, wasting away the health towards myeloma. The existence of the leisure class is not only the failure of the market to work through the invisible hand, but is also a political failure.