7-3 | Ludic Ontology

Article

Ludic Ontology
Play’s Relationship to Language, Cultural Forms, and Transformative Politics

Rachel Shields

Abstract:

The author defines play as something beyond culture and its quotidian practices, discussing play as an embodied, affective experience that cannot be fully conveyed using conventional language. She looks at notions of play in the political philosophy and cultural criticism of the late-modern thinkers of late-capitalist society and notes that, although they have studied play extensively and theorized about it as a psychological, sociological, and anthropological phenomenon, they do not think play transcends human activity and culture. This means, she argues, that political theory and play studies have lost a highly productive way of considering play. To rectify this loss, the author conducts a selective survey of play scholars, including Johan Huizinga, Thomas S. Henricks, and Mihai I. Spariosu, to help her make philosophical claims about play as a basic force, one which drives language to adapt to feelings, sensations, and experiences that language currently fails to represent adequately. She argues that a more extensive exploration of this idea might enable many popular theories of culture and politics to deal more honestly with resistance, social change, and revolution. In short, she argues for a theory of play as the force that allows us to imagine alternatives to current cultural verities. Key words: democracy and capitalism; language and power; late modernity; mysticism; philosophy of play; play theory; sociology of play