Entertainmentality! Modernising Pleasure in a Victorian Leisure Industry, or Did Foucault Ever Play the Hackney Empire?

Professor Peter Bailey (University of Manitoba)
5 June 2011

Summary (taken from History SPOT blog)

What is entertainmentality?  That was my first question when I saw the title of Professor Peter Bailey’s paper and quite possibly (I imagine) will be your first reaction as well.  Thankfully Bailey provides us with a definition and admits that it is a ‘hyped-up’ word but one used for very good reason.  Entertainmentality is a derivative of sorts from Foucault’s concept of governmentality.  Foucault developed this concept near the end of his life (somewhere around the 1970s/80s) as a way of describing the art of government.  It looks not only at the strategies of government that are easily apparent but those elements designed to render society governable.  In essence Foucault was looking at how governments maintain social discipline.

Entertainmentality then, looks at how the rising up of the entertainment industry in Victorian Britain was managed, strategized and organised to enable leisure to become an acceptable past-time whilst also maintaining a society with a strong and healthy work ethic.  Many of those in position of authority did not believe that ‘fun’ was an acceptable use of a workforce’s time and saw the rise of an entertainment industry as a threat to social order and governmentality. 
In this paper Bailey studies the Victorian musical industry as the prototype modern entertainment industry.  In particular he focuses on the contemporary debate and social/moral re-organisation involved in whether or not leisure and fun were acceptable and legitimate forms of pass time or even indeed, a human right. 
Bailey works through various examples of ‘celebrity’ supporters of ‘fun’ and leisure entertainment and the arguments they used to silence critics.  Bailey also looks more closely at the Victorian musical industry to understand how they operated and for what reason.  He looks at how conformity was of key importance to the eventual rise of leisure whilst also providing for the viewpoints of the dominant cultural order.
Additional resources:
Professor Peter Bailey Profile
BBIH (subscription required) Authur search: “Peter Bailey” 
For more details on Foucault’s thoughts on Governmentality see Graham Burchell, The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (University of Chicago Press, 1991).  Publishers website  

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