Play as production – production as game? towards a critical phenomenology of productivity

Henning Eichberg

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Play-related products and their export have through recent decades contributed to a certain Danish image on the world level–with Lego bricks at the commercial end and adventure playgrounds at the pedagogical end. The phenomena of toy production and play exports challenge our understanding of what “play” and “game” are, and of their social as well as political significance. At the municipal level, the city of Odense–“city of Hans Christian Andersen”–is branding itself as “city of play”. On the international level, Danish play-related products have expanded on the world market. In the field of sport, Danish sport is not just elite sport, but also organised in local associations. People meet in mass summer festivals of popular sport. Folk Academies develop sport as personal development, often in an experimental way. Street sports, parkour, play and games are promoted. Civil society is a basis for the play foray of market and state. These empirical phenomena lead to some more theoretical questions. One question concerns the connection between play and Danishness. How are patterns of play and cultural identity related to each other? Other questions concern the relation between play and production. In contrast to the established understanding of play as per definition being unproductive, play also shows a productive power. Modernity has dissociated play and production, defining play as unproductive, and work as not-playful, and giving competitive sport priority as the ritual of industrial modernity. This can be questioned in a world of expanding high tech games and robot toys, as well as a commercial sport and entertainment industry. At a closer examination, it is not only the essence of play that is open to debate, but also how production and productivity are to be understood.

TidsskriftEuropean Journal for Sport and Society
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)79-96
StatusUdgivet - 1. jan. 2015


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