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 take to try to help relieve 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, religion, 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.

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 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 that "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.

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.

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".

External links

* [ Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique]

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  • escapism — 1933, Amer.Eng., from ESCAPE (Cf. escape) + ISM (Cf. ism) …   Etymology dictionary

  • escapism — ► NOUN ▪ the seeking of distraction from reality by engaging in entertainment or fantasy. DERIVATIVES escapist noun & adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • escapism — [e skāp′iz΄əm, iskāp′iz΄əm] n. 1. a tendency to escape from reality, the responsibilities and routine of real life, etc., esp. by unrealistic imaginative activity 2. behavior characterized by this tendency …   English World dictionary

  • escapism — [[t]ɪske͟ɪpɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT If you describe an activity or type of entertainment as escapism, you mean that it makes people think about pleasant things instead of the uninteresting or unpleasant aspects of their life. Horoscopes are merely… …   English dictionary

  • escapism — es|cap|is|m [ıˈskeıpızəm] n [U] activities or entertainment that help you forget about bad or boring things for a short time ▪ Books were a form of escapism from the real world. >escapist adj ▪ pure escapist entertainment …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • escapism — es|cap|ism [ ı skeı,pızəm ] noun uncount something pleasant or exciting that helps you to forget about real life and the boring or unpleasant parts of it: the pure escapism of James Bond movies ╾ es|cap|ist adjective: an escapist fantasy …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • escapism — noun (U) something that helps you to forget about your normal life and think of more pleasant things: It s not intended to be a serious movie it s sheer escapism. escapist adjective …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • escapism — noun romance novels offer a form of escapism that many people thoroughly enjoy Syn: fantasy, fantasizing, daydreaming, daydreams, reverie; imagination, flight(s) of fancy, pipe dreams, wishful thinking, woolgathering; informal pie in the sky Ant …   Thesaurus of popular words

  • escapism — UK [ɪˈskeɪpɪzəm] / US [ɪˈskeɪˌpɪzəm] noun [uncountable] something pleasant or exciting that helps you to forget about real life and the boring or unpleasant parts of it the pure escapism of James Bond films Derived word: escapist adjective an… …   English dictionary

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