AskDefine | Define escapism

Dictionary Definition

escapism n : an inclination to retreat from unpleasant realities through diversion or fantasy; "romantic novels were her escape from the stress of daily life"; "his alcohol problem was a form of escapism" [syn: escape]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An inclination to escape from routine or reality into fantasy
  2. A genre of book, film etc. that one uses to indulge this tendency

Related terms


Extensive Definition

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".
escapism in German: Eskapismus
escapism in Italian: Escapismo
escapism in Hebrew: אסקפיזם
escapism in Norwegian: Eskapisme
escapism in Romanian: Efugionism
escapism in Russian: Эскапизм
escapism in Finnish: Eskapismi
escapism in Swedish: Eskapism

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

alienation, autism, autistic thinking, avoidance mechanism, blame-shifting, break, breakout, compensation, decompensation, defense mechanism, deliverance, delivery, dereism, dereistic thinking, displacement, dissociation, emergence, emotional insulation, escape, escape into fantasy, escape mechanism, evasion, extrication, fantasizing, fantasy, flight, freeing, getaway, isolation, issuance, issue, jailbreak, leak, leakage, liberation, negativism, outlet, overcompensation, prisonbreak, projection, psychotaxis, rationalization, release, rescue, resistance, riddance, setting-free, sociological adjustive reactions, sublimation, substitution, vent, wish-fulfillment fantasy, wishful thinking, withdrawal
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