The flâneur, a figure most associated with 19th-century Paris, is a stroller of city streets; one who walks without the clear purpose of a final destination. A person who moves through a city in order to experience it. Instead of falling prey to the busy life encouraged by society’s fast pace, flâneurs are in no hurry. In fact, the notion of quickly heading anywhere counters their aimless wandering, which is instead focused on taking in one’s surroundings rather than traveling to someplace.
As such, the flâneur lives a slower-paced life. A life that’s not focused on efficiency and productivity. A life that’s about embracing the process of walking and all that comes with it: distractions, roundabout ways, crowds. It’s about a purposeless, idle adventure.
While the concept of the flâneur was popularized in the 1800s by Charles Baudelaire in his essay “The Painter of Modern Life” and in the 1900s by Walter Benjamin in his work The Arcades Project, it’s a concept that’s still surprisingly relevant all these years later.
Like the rise of modernity during Benjamin’s time, our current culture is increasingly speeding up, especially with endless and ever-improving technological advances. Given that, it may be a good time to return to the ethos the flâneur was founded upon: existing, at times, without a clear purpose.
When we’re always in a push to be doing something, there is value in idle moments. That could take the form of an aimless yet observant stroll through the city streets, or it could leave flânerie (the act of idle strolling) behind and engage, instead, in some other form of slow living. Either way, there’s something to be said about taking actions that aren’t connected to productivity.
We have a variety of recreational activities if you need to abandon productivity for a bit.