Play as a Form


Philosophy of play does not make a clear distinction between man’s playing nature, playing and play. Play is a form in which playing occurs and, as such, the way of manifesting man’s playing being. A distinction should be made between playing as fulfilment of man’s playing being (playing act) and play as behaviour in accordance with the imposed norms. Play as a normative constraint has no tendency towards the improvement of man and of interpersonal relations, but tends to reduce (“discipline”) him to the model of a usable citizen (subject). It is a matter of endeavouring to preserve the ruling order and to reduce man to the “dimension” which corresponds to that order. The ruling historical forms of play are behavioural forms deprived of humane (playing) contents, alienated from man. They are reduced to a behavioural model that is in fact a form of play in which the ruling relations are being manifested. Playing is reduced to the endeavour most consistently to imitate the assigned model of play, of which the rules should not be violated at any cost. Therefore, the play’s “unchangeableness” becomes its crucial feature. The ideal of “perfection”, by means of which “cultural” legitimacy and infinity of the ruling forms of play are provided, is reduced to the complete submission of man to the rules of play, as well as to the imposed esthetic pattern – which represents the “stage set” of the ruling order. Man’s longing for another man is being mediated by relations that estrange man from other human beings and reduce him to the role imposed on him. A typical example is the “sport play”: it becomes a mechanism by means of which man is made to express other men’s non-liberty. The intellectual sphere cannot be man’s compensation for the senseless life he lives; in the same way the love song cannot be a substitute for a lack of human closeness. Instead of endeavouring to define the notion of genuine life, which always occurs as a response to false life, the genuine human life should be lived.

Libertarian play does not strive for the creation of new forms of play, in a word, for assigning a normative constraint, but for the development of man’s playing being. Specificity and irreplicability, which derive from the specificity and irreplicability of man as a creative personality, dominate. Instead of the development of play as a separate social area, we should have a propensity for development of the playing disposition “inside man” and, on that basis, for establishing society as a playing community, where (potentially) each form of human activity represents at the same time a form of expression of his playing being. Libertarian play endeavours to annul the fragmented man that has been decomposed in accordance with the requirements of the fragmented world, where the requirement of “synthesis” is reduced to the development of technical expressions that should impress with a lavishness of colour, sound and form and become a “compensation” for an increasingly impoverished humanness. It is a matter of superseding the world divided into the world of “misfortune” and the world of “happiness”, and a matter of “restitution” of man’s powers from alienated social spheres and of establishing the human Ego as an integral source of man’s relations towards the world as whole.

The form libertarian play does not represent a limitation, but an opening of possibilities for development of man’s playing nature and in that sense only one of the expressions of his creative nature: the development of forms of play is an expression of the development of man’s creative (playing) powers. It is not an issue of the form as an imposed pattern of behaviour, and in that sense an ideal of “perfection”, but of the form as a spontaneous and non-replicable expression of the specific moment in the manifestation of man as playing being which is symbolic of the libertarian and visionary. The “encounter” of men by means of the pure (esthetic) forms is a clash between soap bubbles. In a repressive society play as a form represents a repressive normative confinement that impedes the fulfilment of man’s authentic playing being. The endeavour to get through to the essence of humanness and to “catch” it by fixing human existence at the level of certain forms, structures, spiritual formations – inevitably leads towards preservation of the world in which such forms and structures are possible. The expression of play has to be of such a nature as to enable man to realize his own playing being. Genuine creativity does not go for the creation of playing forms, but for the enrichment of the human personality and development of interpersonal relations. Play is neither a transcendental nor a trans-subjective, but an immanent and inter-subjective phenomenon: it is an immediate interpersonal relation and, as such, represents the supreme form of establishing a society as a community of free persons, in a word, the creation of the humanum in the untainted sense. Commitment to play means a struggle for the fulfilment of man’s necessities and abilities for play, and not just becoming skilled and imitating the imposed model of play – which appears as the “supreme human challenge”. Instead of play as “cultural form” representing the basic possibility of playing, there is man as a cultural (playing) being: the authenticity of play is the expression of the authenticity of man. Play is not a criterion for determining a playing disposition and playing, reduced to the transcendental normative form, but the free realization of human playing (universally creative) powers. Play is the supreme and the most immediate form of experiencing the world through creating it, which means that it represents the most immediate and the most authentic form of man’s becoming human. In genuine play the dualism of the “being” (Sein) and the “ought” (Sollen) has been dissolved. Nothing is earlier than man, above man or exterior to man. The so called “universally human” does not exist outside of man any more (as an imposed or transcendental sphere); it is no longer the image of the “man” for which man longs and exclusively within which he can distinguish “his own (human) look” – but man as a free and dignified person becomes the creator and the “image” of humanness. Instead of the “perfection” model, the free man becomes a source of the esthetic inspiration: freedom is the substance of beauty. Schiller indicated the correct path: instinct for play is the instinct for freedom. Playing turns into the awakening of the lethargic (deterred) playing being, “enlivening” the senses, surmounting anxiety and shedding the snakeskin of the (petit) bourgeois. Instead of giving vent to the deterred being, spontaneity in play requires breaking through the barriers that constrain man. What develops the playing disposition is not play per se, but humanness that develops as man faces limitations, misfortune, and challenges imposed by life. A rich creative life is the basic precondition for the development and enhancement of the playing being. Genuine play is the expression of an extended horizon of the freedom achieved, an expression of enthusiasm for life, and the supreme form of manifestation of man’s life-creating powers. Enjoyment in play derives from contentment with the engagement of life; interpersonal closeness in play is possible exclusively because of the closeness acquired in the process of struggle for a new world: man’s motion towards another man at the same time represents man’s motion towards new worlds. The actual result of playing is not play, but man enriched with spirit, emotions, sensuality, and enhanced interpersonal relations. The completed experience of humanness represents the “measure” of the richness of playing.

Libertarian play rejects a competition reduced to combat between people aimed at preservation and development of the ruling order, and advocates outplaying (similar to “outsinging” typical of traditional folk music) that in essence represents struggle against the established order of destruction and development of man’s universal creative powers. In outplaying, man represents another man’s inspiration, which means that man’s motion towards another man is dominant in it – which is possible exclusively based on man’s need for another man. In this context Rousseau’s principle homo homini homo est attains its true value. Outplaying requires endeavouring to supersede what has already been achieved (for creation of the novum) through the development of interpersonal relations, and not through clashes between people based upon the Social Darwinist principle bellum omnium contra omnes and the progressistic principle citius, altius, fortius. The principles of domination and elimination have been abolished within it and replaced by the principles of tolerance and solidarity, and all that creates life opposes whatever destroys life and restricts freedom. Instead of striving for victory and records, outplaying calls for an attempt to “enlarge” humanness and to create a new world. The key issue here is not how much, but by what means – where the starting point for defining humanness is not the repressive esthetic stereotype that tends towards “perfection”, but man himself. Development of the “quality” of play requires development of rich individuality and of interpersonal relations. In this context, the skills are not manifested in relation to man as an independent (“objectivized”) power (reduced to a dehumanized and denaturalized “playing technique”), but as specific (individual) human expression. Outplaying in the elements of play, where playing of one individual represents inspiration for the playing of another (like in traditional folk dances, jazz, love play…) creates the possibility for everyone freely to express his own playing being. Spontaneity, creativity, imagination – are expressions of the playing uniqueness, as an originally human uniqueness.

A distinction should be made between man as play being, and man as playing being. In the first case he represents an object, while play is the subject; in the second case he is the subject, and play is a result of the fulfilment of his playing being. Huizinga’s homo ludens is not man-player but man-toy of superhuman forces. It is exactly the same with antique and Christian man, as well as with Nietzsche’s Übermensch: he is a toy of the cosmic forces. With Fink and Gadamer the notion of play is being used to reduce man to a phenomenological abstraction which is merely a masque behind which the concrete man, reduced to a toy of capitalism, is hiding. The emancipated playing personality requires a man as a unique life-creating being, and as such a creator of his world – and, thus, a self-creator. Through playing, the playing disposition turns into play that becomes the basis for identification of the limitations of playing and of the possibilities of its development.

In the capitalist world play is a vehicle for entangling the repressed working “masses” into the spiritual orbit of the bourgeoisie and, therefore, attains a “classless” determination – which is manifested in the well-known maxim “sport has nothing to do with politics”. Libertarian play is not apolitical, but represents an inherent part of political struggle against class society. As regards Nietzsche, he perceives in play a vehicle for the creation of a “new aristocracy” in an exclusive organic (class) community. It is, instead, an issue of creating an organic community of free creative personalities by means of play. The new society cannot be created through play but through political struggle, however, there is no true political struggle if, at the same time, it does not represent a struggle for the liberation and development of man’s playing being. Schiller’s fascination with play was directly encouraged by the French Revolution, which opened the gates for the new era. Likewise with Goethe, Klopstock, Fait… The struggle of the oppressed and the awakened and, in that context, the belief in man and in his ability to realize his libertarian being, provides play with a meaning. Without the struggle for the free world play becomes escapist and an empty form.

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