Sport and Labour

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Historically, play is the privilege of the ruling classes. It is not a respite from labour nor is it a preparation for labour; it is a means for ensuring their domineering social position and for proving their «superiority» over the working layers. Play includes activities which contribute to the strengthening of their oppressive power (war games, hunting…) as well as the activities which prove their elitist status. Finally, play is part of the privileged life-style of the ruling class. Hence opting for play is not the matter of one’s individual choice, it is a class duty. Unlike the previous ruling classes, the bourgeois seeks to integrate the oppressed working «masses» into its spiritual orbit and thus prevent their libertarian struggle. This acquired a special political significance when workers managed to obtain the eight-hour working time which enabled them to become class-conscious and politically engaged: play became one of the most important means for colonization of the workers’ leisure time and for their depolitization. The ruling forms of play have always been the embodiment of the ruling relations and values in a condensed ideological form. Even when, temporarily, they were a form of the political struggle against the ruling order, they remained a way of spiritual integration of the oppressed into the ruling order. Sport is a typical example. That is why Coubertin, in his Olympic philosophy, insists on the principle to «rule in the heads» as the supreme «supraclass» pedagogical (political) principle. He was aware that real social changes were impossible if the workers remained within the spiritual horizon of the capitalist order. Here it should be noted that the following discussion is to supplement what was said in the book «Sport, Capitalism, Destruction», regarding the criticism of Plessner’s, Habermas’s, Rigauer’s and Lasch’s views on the relation between sport and work.(1)

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