This article examines the views of those who regarded the unemployment of the 1930s not solely as a disaster, but as a liberating new form of leisure for workers, provided that they could make the 'right use' of this leisure. This was an urgent challenge for more and more workers would
soon be faced by 'a vast surplus of leisure time' made possible by technological change. The solution was to use the voluntary adult education movement to guide workers towards this 'right use'. The problem was that the grants which the government and charitable trusts made available to the
voluntary sector were too small for the task and, more fundamentally, the analysis was misconceived and contradictory. But these opinions did serve to reinforce the case against public works, and legitimised a continuing desire to supervise working-class life on the part of the state and its
partners in the voluntary sector.