Ungrounding Homo Ludens: On Agamben and Modern Sports

Ungrounding Homo Ludens: On Agamben and Modern Sports

Artikel in wetenschappelijk vaktijdschrift: Sport, Ethics and Philosophy.

In this paper, I argue that the central ontological presupposition in
the philosophy of sport is the ‘sport-as-play’ paradigm. In reconstructing its archaeological origins, a normative narrative is uncovered in which ‘play’ represents a creative and ‘lusory’ social practice,
governed by game rules. In the philosophy of sports discourse,
Homo Ludens is considered as the ideal, virtuous and innocent
character, free from repressive, work-related duties or constraints.
In the early works of Giorgio Agamben (1942), the conceptual pair
play—ritual o!ers a contemporary frame of reference, rigorously
di!erent from our Homo Ludens ideal. In Agamben’s later works, the
provocative Homo Sacer concept can hardly be more opposite to
the utopian Homo Ludens paradigm. As Agamben states, political
power in late modernity is based on a so-called ‘state-of-exception’,
in which ‘bare life’ (as expressed in Homo Sacer) at “rst is excluded
from society, but then again reincluded as an exception, in order to
realize law and order. In this paper, I introduce philosophical
archaeology as a promising new method in the philosophy of
sport, debunking our prevailing Homo Ludens discourse. I argue
that modern sports in our times—inadvertently—more and more
seem to function as a ‘state-of-exception’, strengthening biopolitical power.