Play is one. Labor is so tied to functionality, whereas play is a category of non-functionality.
Play captures a lot of what goes on in the world. There is a kind of raw opportunism in biology and chemistry, where things work stochastically to form emergent systematicities. It’s not a matter of direct functionality. We need to develop practices for thinking about those forms of activity that are not caught by functionality, those which propose the possible-but-not-yet, or that which is not-yet but still open.
People like me say, “No thank you: it’s relationality all the way down.” You don’t have units plus relations. You just have relations. You have worlding. The whole story is about gerunds — worlding, bodying, everything-ing. The layers are inherited from other layers, temporalities, scales of time and space, which don’t nest neatly but have oddly configured geometries. Nothing starts from scratch. But the play — I think the concept of play is incredibly important in all of this — proposes something new, whether it’s the play of a couple of dogs or the play of scientists in the field.
The spirit of Dialogue is one of free play, a sort of collective dance of the mind that, nevertheless, has immense power and reveals coherent purpose. Once begun it becomes continuing adventure that can open the way to significant and creative change.
This is predicated on an understanding of productive work not as something indispensable to our sense of value but as something that should be limited to what is socially necessary and increasingly just a small part of what makes us human.
We need a society in which human life is not judged by its productive output or income or wealth, one in which technology is directed toward creating space for the multiplicity of the self to blossom.
“We have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy,” he wrote. The exclusive valorization of a meritocratic work ethic promises misery, overproduction, inequality and the marginalization of anyone who is unable to participate in this competition for exploitation. It is a mind-set we need to resist.
And to me it seems significant that it’s not eight hours of, say, “leisure” or “education,” but “eight hours of what we will.” Although leisure or education might be involved, the most humane way to describe that period is to refuse to define it.