Challenges of self-realization: A critical analysis of vacation travel

Gitte Mygind du Plessis

Student thesis: Master thesis


The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a discussion of modern work-life and its challenges of self-realization by looking at it from the perspective of an institution emphasized as absolute non-work, namely vacation travel. The thesis is two-fold, investigating the question both diachronically and synchronically, limiting the field of study to a U.S. context. Firstly, the historical field of possibility for the contemporary knowledge workers selfrelationship as constituted through his vacation travel is laid out by conducting a Foucauldian genealogy on the concept of vacation travel, starting in the industrial period in the mid 19th century. The genealogy shows that vacation travel in connection to the worker's selfrelationship has continuously been closely linked to a capitalist mode of production and the contemporary situation for the wage earner. The central finding of the genealogy is that today's idea of vacation as something pursued in the purpose of self-realization is mirrored in discourses of vacation travel the industrial period, where vacation as an escape to nature is viewed as sustaining the very existence of the worker. Differences in the discourses of the industrial period and today however point to an overwhelming amount of responsibility placed on today's worker in relation to actualizing himself while on vacation compared to earlier. While these two periods are also both characterized by discourses arguing for the concept of vacation, suggesting that it is under pressure, in the periods between the industrial and today, it is taken for granted that everyone goes on vacation, and rather than depicting an opportunity for self-actualization, discourses focus on a worker being tasked with managing difficulty and disappointment in relation to his vacation travel. Secondly, the question to what extent vacation travel today moderates the challenges of self-realization for the contemporary knowledge worker is addressed by employing a psychoanalytically inspired analysis, viewing vacation travel through the !i"ekian lens of 'ideological fantasy'. This view adds to the critical potential of the genealogy by suggesting that realizing oneself and being happy on vacation is a strong moral obligation that not only potentially intensifies the stress of self-realization the worker is faced with in his work-life rather than relieving it, but also functions to support the contemporary capitalist way of work the vacation is supposed to be a break from. In short, this analysis points to forms of oppression inherent in capitalism today in relation to vacation travel.

EducationsMSocSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages78