Topic of the Week: Play

  • Posted on: 22 August 2016
  • By: thecollective

Of all the human experiences, play has one of the greatest potentials to tell us about ourselves. To some, play represents an essence that seems to evoke the child or the animal in a person and it has been argued that humans distinguish themselves precisely by the manner and frequency by which they play. In this topic of the week, we’re looking at the anarchist idea of play.

As anarchists, how do we play? What is the ideal anarchist game? What about anarchist friendly games you and your friends have played / used to interact in the world? How can we interact (play) together outside the context of capital? How has play helped to mentally and physically keep us sharp? Does your anarchist practice and strategy take play into consideration? Why / why not?



No, not really ..? Weird question. Although I guess I do view almost random vandalism as a playful expression of one small aspect of my anarchist identity, I did it as a kid before the politics so … what else?

Martial arts training, same thing. It's fun and has some context with my anarchism but isn't predicated on it ... I don't think I "play as an anarchist" because that would be taking play too seriously. Politics is relatively serious to me but it occasionally influences my hobbies and the stuff I do for fun. That montreal communique that just went up about "playing" during a power outage is an interesting take.

Most of the anarchists I know already have too much fun and not enough of anything else ;)

More like reconsidering your relationships to general activities. Whether play is serious or not serious or somewhere in between is not something I care much about. If I can't find play in what I'm doing, the likelyhood that it will lead to burnout is extremely high.

Sure but at the risk of sounding like I'm about the protestant work ethic (hint: I'm not) there's a lot of work anarchists should be doing IMHO that won't always feel like play. Obvious shit like running a social space involves at least a few hours a week, preferably divided up between like a dozen people so it doesn't end up being a burn-out risk for 2 or 3 people.

Some work feels like work but is still worth doing.

No, there is no work anarchists should be doing. If you are doing work, you are supporting someone who is above you or who has no connection to you. If you are playing, you are supporting yourself, your friends, your community, or, in your dreams, your band society.

doing the dishes is work, so is maintaining a livable house. its not fun, and generally anarchists dont do either. but probably should if they want any kind of quality of life. and i get it, many dont care. but having such a black and white view of work, and probably responsibility, is self defeating and childish. and while it is understandable as a product of extreme socio political alienation and oppression i would say that most anarchists arent in that position, or if so are thre by choice and as a result of their own decisions.

Well well well, a kindred spirit it seems stalks these cyber corridors, good comment.

I don't like it when people equate "anarchism" with "apathy", as in "not doing the dishes" or something. It's always been clear to me that being free is being accountable for your own shit (what capitalists and authoritarians surely aren't, always relying on other people's work or servitude like the big babies they are).

Not having masters means also not being a slave. Masters are responsible for what their slaves do, without taking responsibility but rather delegate the work to them. See?

So anarchist rejection of "work" has primarily to do with rejecting working for others, on the other's conditions and regulations.

But you get the general theme of my and my kindreds comments concerning lazy-ass anarchists using this "ideology" as an excuse to avoid doing basic chores?

You are assuming my definition of work is the same as the mainstream definition. It's not. If I'm doing something where I am constrained in a way that limits creative expression and fun (as in, if there are only certain ways I am allowed to do something, excluding impossibility) and/or if I am doing something for someone who is not myself or my friend, who is exploiting my labor, and where I am commodifying my labor, then I am working. If I am doing the dishes of myself and my friends, potentially with my friends, while singing, dancing, breaking some for fun, taking breaks when I want, I am not working. I am just living, or perhaps, playing.

Wow, what am I missing?
"If I am doing the dishes of myself and my friends, potentially with my friends, while singing, dancing, breaking some for fun, taking breaks when I want, I am not working. I am just living, or perhaps, playing."
How does an anarchist get themselves into a Broadway musical?

What you are missing is that it doesn't look like a musical

A squat soap-opera then.

I'm the op and you're an idiot. I won't bother responding because you already got taken to school by other randos below.

Why is play usually presented in the context of games?
As if games were the extent of play.

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.” – R.D. Laing


My friends and I like to play Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. It might be a little outdated, but it is a powerhouse of play. Also you can vote.

They can also circle fuck, circle jerk, drink pbr, go eat pizza, feed their dogs, do sidewalk fashion shows, control social media pages like the Spanish Inquisition, and if you're really lucky... clandestine nightly actions that little people care about and nobody can take part into!

Don't be so negative come on...

the previous totw you linked focused more on sports. this one is an attempt to move away from that and more into the realm of play
- thecollective not signed in.

Yeah, why does this TOtW feel like you're selling meta-data? I mean, I know nobody in their right minds would pay for this data but it still feels like fucking market research questions

Didn't you get the memo? @news is now a focus group / polling communications site.

Let's play 'all-class-struggle-anarchists-are-marxist-and-should-hide while we pretend to look for them'.

The game should be --- 'all-class-struggle-anarchists-are-marxist-and-should-hide while we move on and forget about them'.

I like that the sound of that game.

That's cute. As if the trollscum comment-warriors of do-nothing-and-call-it-anarchy-land aren't in perpetual hiding from everything and everyone.

Ironic that strugglismos are the ones continually hiding from and paranoid with the process of mediation which respects all facetes of popular enquiry? Now go, and I'll pretend to count to 100 while I catch a taxi to a more sane and less co-opted event.

Limiting the topic of play to games only is a really narrow definition. I think some links to writings on play & anarchism would be helpful and it appears many have not encountered a lot.
Haven't read many in a few years, can't think of them off the top of my head but they're out there!

"Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing."
- Johan Huizinga (Homo Lumens: A Study Of The Play-Element Of Culture)

Interesting, I've dabbled with the glass-bead game.

Seven Theses On Play

Play is desire realized, it is the negation of domination. Play is
unmediated activity that does not attempt to produce a specific
emotion, indeed any emotion at all. The result of play may be
alternatively orgasm, terror, delight, even death. Play is ambivalent;
any one of these conclusions or any multitude of others are possible
(there may even be no conclusive result). Yet, each eventuality in
its own context is correct because none are specifically elicited
except in the content of the play-activity that produces it.

In pre-agricultural societies play was the common denominator of
all activity, in much the same way that the gift was the characteristic
mode of exchange. For the primitive, play was the activity that not
only defined tribal and familial relationships, it also provided food,
clothing and shelter. In the pre-agricultural era of abundance, the
outcome of any given hunt was irrelevant. Necessity (and surplus)
meant nothing in such societies, consequently food-generating
activities were not driven by the alternative of starvation, rather
they existed simply as diversion, play. Further, play was essential
to the stability of pre-agricultural societies because of its tendency
to exclude coercion, language, even time. The death of play was the
triumph of civilization, of domination...

Capital has sought to abolish play and replace it with leisure-time;
a void that must be filled as opposed to fulfillment that negates
the void. Leisure-time is capitals” valorization of play, another
mediation in the infinite maelstrom of mediations. In capitals”
dual role of pimp and prostitute it not only creates leisure-time,
… …
Such valorization demands passive, stupefied participation (the
negation of play) and seeks to elicit a single response, enjoyment.
Which is, of course, the pay-off for time/money investment in a
specific commodity/spectacle. As a result, play (like language)
reverts to its magic form and becomes something dangerous,
unmanageable, ultimately lethal; and capital in order to discourage
play portrays it as such...

Capital, even in its current manifestation of real domination,
has been unable to eradicate play. The “discovery” of play
occurred repeatedly in this century, occasionally (though not
exclusively) in the realm of the avant-garde. Alfred Jarry in the
Ubu plays and his system of pataphysics (the science of imaginary
solutions) definitively incinerated the continuum of retrograde
representational form. In doing so he reintroduced play not as an
anesthetic, but as a wrecking ball. Dada continued the assault, but
with the exception of the Berlin variant (and its most impressive
non-member, Schwitters) the notion of play became ritualized,
dead. The final recuperation of the avant-garde, achieved via the
reaction of surrealism and the concomitant resurrection of the
representational form, eliminated play as an element of rejection
until the re-emergence of Utopian currents after World War
II. A number of post-war cultural movements, most notably
Lettrisme, the Situationist International, Mail Art and Neoism all
incorporated play into their experimentation. Each movement,
however, failed to realize the revolutionary implications of play
and in doing so allowed it once again to become formalized, rigid
and as such became recuperated as mediated activity.

Play has become an integral part of revolutionary activity.
Even Lenin, the idiot father of the authoritarian left, could
(correctly) describe the Paris Commune of 1871 as a “festival of
the oppressed,” though he (like Marx) arrived at an erroneous
conclusion concerning the failure of the uprising. There are a
plethora of examples of the inclusion of play in the activity of the
Communards, particularly of play in its destructive aspect. This is
not surprising, given the Communes” lack of resources, military
contingencies and the fact that the entire rebellion lasted some 72
days. Still, the toppling of the column at the Place Vendome (a
universally hated symbol of the Napoleonic victories), as well as
the attempt by a few of the more extreme Communards to put
Notre Dame to the torch can hardly be interpreted as anything
but play. Such manifestations also crept into the the behaviour of
individual Communards. Recall the story of the young rebel who
confronted a suspect bourgeois on the street. The nervous capitalist
protested that he had never had anything to do with politics, to
which the Communard replied,” That's precisely why I'm going to
kill you.” Though the story ends here in historical accounts, it is
not hard to imagine the young rebel flashing a fiendish grin at the
shaken bourgeois and then walking off to take his place on the
barricades....bon chance, Citoyen!

Modern revolutionary eruptions have also exhibited certain
elements of play. The May-July events of 1968 in France
immediately bring to mind the joyful, indignant posters produced
by the students of the insurgent Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Further,
through the blood, tear-gas and concussion grenades of the nights
of barricade fighting (May 6-May 11), there emerged numerous
examples of play. Most observers concur on this point, Priaulx and
Ungar describe the defiant students as “one big frantic family;” even
the partisan Trotskyite account by Seale and McConville includes
an anecdote about the left-bank cafe, Le Luxembourg. During one
night of rioting the cafe had been invaded and transformed into
a makeshift battlefield, after the insurgents and police moved off
the manager was directed by a prefect to close his establishment,
to which he replied, “...tonight Le Luxembourg will not close its
doors; it has none left!” More recently, during the suppression of
Solidarity in Poland, a handful of militants produced a mask with
a billed officers cap and dark glasses that affected a likeness in
the wearer to General Jaruzelski. The twist was that the mask was
designed to fit dogs. Evidently during the final days of Solidarity
the police would spend their days breaking up demonstrations and
nights chasing stray canines who were, for all intents and purposes,
impersonating the General Secretary of the Communist Party...

The very existence of “theses” that attempt to define and illuminate
historical examples of play stand in some sad way as a testament to
the alienation from the activity they seek to describe. The terminal
malaise that has characterized revolutionary theory and culture
for at least the past two decades must be interpreted as the triumph
of formalized technique, the crushing baggage of intellectualism.
Even the ultra-left communist and anarchist movements seem
condemned to stumble the same squalid path traversed by social
democracy almost a century ago. The “revolutionary” belief that
the “liberation” of women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians or
the Third World will take a significantly different form than the
“liberation” of the working class via better wages, open employment
policies and “benefits” exists as an iron-clad example of the
pervasive disintegrative consciousness of the left. Revolutionary
consciousness, on the other hand, seems to currently reside in
the refusal of all dominative forms, the permanent contestation
of every assumption; in a word, play. If the new society gestates in
the womb of the old, then its first duty is quite obviously matricide.
Paul Z. Simons (Black Eye 1988)

I suppose target shooting is your favorite game, with all the wobblies in Rojava? You've plagiarized Lamborn excessively my friend!!

If you don't recognize the direct references from Huizinga, Stewart Home, the Sits, and Black and identify Peter---whose material was never used--not only are you a troll, but a damned ignorant one at that. Prescription--about a decade of reading should put you on par with most adolescents.

Okaaayyy... lame trolling, useless prickish citations and generic philosophy discussions aside, does anyone has any suggestions of open-air games that can be best suited for parks or other public meeting spots?

Spotting the wobblie is more challenging than spotting the capitalist, nihilist, Nascar fan, or Dadaist.

Bombs and shields.

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