Monday, September 13, 2004

Play Ethic on the Radio in UK and Ireland

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Such an amazing response to the Johnnie Walker's drivetime show I did last week in the UK, on BBC Radio Two. Johnnie was by turns tough-minded and sympathetic, and I've had scores of e-mails from listeners -one woman almost crashing the car because she was taking so many notes. Here's a link to a clip of the show - don't know how long it'll be up, but it's about the last half an hour.

The highlight of a breakneck day in Dublin last week was an interview with Pat Kenny, who's taken over from Gay Byrne as voice of the nation there (at least on radio). He was well-informed, critical but also responsive. (I appear about 1hr 37 in). There's quite a few pieces to appear in the Irish press - post 'em here when they appear.

Monday, September 13, 2004 at 09:40 PM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Play Ethic @ IoS, PanMac, The Times

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More press on the Play Ethic. I got the chance to summarise the book for the Independent on Sunday - see continued post link below - and there's also a semi-serious 10-step guide to playerhood which you might enjoy. Posted there is also a review from the Times Educational Supplement - which is happily positive. My publisher, Macmillan, has also built a site for the Play Ethic, which contains a good explanatory interview about the book from me. And the Times did a little blurb also, pointing out the parallel with Richard Neville's Playpower manifesto. Some more pieces to come over the next few weeks - will keep building up the archive here.

Independent on Sunday

12th September, 2004

State of Play

By Pat Kane

They seem like the most obvious and unambiguous pair of words in the language: work and play. What one is, the other is not. The first is the necessary, duteous labour that maintains our society’s wealth and stability. The second is the messy, trivial indulgence that we allow ourselves (and our children) when our labours cease. Isn’t this obvious?

Not at all. The truth is that, in the UK and Europe at least, our attitudes towards work - how we define, regulate and endure it - are in a state of acute crisis. Meanwhile, we downgrade and disregard our elemental human capacity for play - a capacity which, if properly understood, could provide us with a powerful new ethics: a way to revive our enthusiasm for the active life.

At the moment, work seems to be more about the inactive life. Recently, the Bank of England reported that half a million men had left their jobs in the nineties because of ‘generous long-term sickness benefits’. A Newsweek cover in August depicted a giant thumb squashing a office drone; the story related how business and governments are getting tough on Europe’s work-shy workers, whose long holidays and short daily labours are being blamed for the drift of jobs to more toil-friendly territories, like Eastern Europe and Asia.

Even when they’re in work, they’re slacking, if the recent French bestseller Bonjour Paresse! - Hello Laziness! - is any evidence. Its subtitle is ‘The Art and Importance of Doing As Little As Possible in the Workplace’.

The historian Niall Ferguson has recently been peddling the notion that Europe has an ‘atheist sloth ethic’, compared to god-fearing, work-loving Americans, who still retain the ‘Protestant work ethic’ of their Puritan forefathers. As we all know, our Presbyter General, Gordon Brown MP, has been conducting a seven-year war against sloth and for the work ethic (remember his recent, eye-popping assault on the ‘sickie’ culture in the public sector, and his consistent animus against the work-shy poor).

Yet what always startles me about this government is the sheer incoherence, even schizophrenia, of its vision for what motivates modern men and women. They call for ‘a renewed work ethic’ – but aren’t these the legislators who decriminalised dope and propose 24-hour drinking laws, who enable the digital transmission of a thousand trashy lifestyle channels, who loosen the gaming laws so that every community can potentially have its own casino?

In railing against the ‘permissive society’ and ‘yob culture’, did Fr. Blair notice that unleashing a nation of consumerist, hedonist, screen-watching leisureholics hardly helps his case? No wonder the Bank of England report on sick leave noted a ‘large increase’ in numbers citing ‘mental and behavioural disorders’. These schizophrenics are driving us crazy.

Confused politicians? That’s hardly news. But we should try to do better. The problem is that too many of us are happy to accept a crippling dualism in our lives. Our willingness to come together to make objects or services that enhance and improve our society shouldn’t be confined to the term ‘work’. And our inexhaustible human urge to express ourselves, to dream of different worlds and futures, to seek out new experiences and relationships - all this shouldn’t be confined to the realm of ‘leisure’ or ‘recreation’. How can we integrate these two human impulses - that is, our ability to produce, and our capacity to imagine?

I believe that play, and particularly the notion of the player, can be a new and unifying force in our lives. The first thing we need to do is to make our understanding of the term much more profound. We need to shrug off the Puritan legacy - ‘the soul’s play-day is the devil’s work-day’ – that has confined play to childishness at best, and deviance at worst.

The word ‘play’ itself has a surprising etymology. It comes from the Indo-European term -dlegh, meaning ‘to engage, to exercise oneself’. Play is essentially about active and energetic individuals, existing in a dynamic relationship with others. Hardly a trivial or silly definition.

Look at biology and psychology, and we can see how play is as essential to human development as work - arguably more so. It is through early play that we complex mammals build up the essential skills for survival and flourishing. And as our societies move further and further away from scarcity and into affluence, these core skills of play - communicating, interacting, imagining, experimenting - become more central and vital to our adult lives, not more marginal.

As much as we can look around us and see a work ethic in crisis, I think we can equally see a play ethic emerging before our eyes. Information technology is crucial in this. We are in the midst of a digital generation - I call them ‘soulitarians’ - whose attitude to technology is the opposite of ‘alienated’ and ‘oppressed’.

Unlike the old workers, these new players presume that the interactive machines in their lives - e-mail or mobile, Playstation or iPod, weblog or search engine - exist to connect them with others, or to enrich their experience, or to collaboratively create, not to serve someone’s strategic goal or bottom line. Business and organisations are struggling to harness the potential of these digital players - but when they do, the landscape of how we create products and services will be completely changed.

If play means ‘imaginative engagement with others’, then players can be found in many more places than the tech-sector. A play ethic could provide a positive case for the reduction of working hours, rather than the negative and defensive arguments that protect ‘life’, ‘family’ and ‘relationships’ from ‘work’.

A player with free time from production is a different prospect from a worker with free time. Rather than wearily plug themsevles into the ‘feelies’ of leisure and entertainment (so thoughtfully enabled by the current government), the player’s mentality is to be in the world, testing out possible schemes and initiatives with others, literally ‘playing their part’ in the drama of a community or city.

Forging your play ethic is very much about taking your own decisions, and making your own mind up, about your future direction as a productive and creative person (see ‘How to be a Player’) - which many people, as my book shows, are already doing.

But wouldn’t it be great if we had a government which really ‘joined-up’ its thinking about how to maximise the potential of its citizens? Rather than harangue them into work, and then befuddle them with leisure?

Then again, maybe a nation of active players isn’t exactly what a bunch of confused politicians would welcome.

Pat Kane’s The Play Ethic: A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living is out on Macmillan, for more see http://www.theplayethic.com. Pat Kane is appearing in Borders in Glasgow on 16th September, 0141 222 7700


HOW TO BE A PLAYER: A TEN-STEP GUIDE

1. Take reality lightly. This was the definition of the play attitude given in 1794 by Friedrich von Schiller, author of the ‘Ode to Joy’ – and it’s still right. This doesn’t mean living in a fantasyland. But it does mean striving to see all the fixed structures in your life – whether work, school, family, relationships, technology – as potentially changeable, rather than grimly determined. Literally, seeing things ‘in play’ and ‘at play’.

2. Have children, or be around them, at various ages and stages.
Kids today are thriving in an environment of speed, interactivity and cultural change that their elders never imagined. Respect their strivings, and learn from their playful energies.

3. Play the lottery…and plan your future. A play mentality is about staying coherent in the face of incessant change – so it’s healthy to sample some of the extremes forms that play can take. Gambling is about allowing the gods of chance to play with you: scenario planning is about playing God (or at least simulating him/her) over your own life. Do one directly after the other, and you’ll definitely be living a play ethic.

4. Take this job… and rise above it. Confucius said that ‘the man who finds a job he loves never works another day in his life’. If you haven’t found it yet, at least keep imagining that productive and creative future you want for yourself, even in the midst of the most oppressive tedium. No matter what situation they find themselves in, players are always internally prepared for things to change – and because their mentality is open and searching, they’re able to see change where others can’t.

5. Build your networks – as many as you can. Players don’t (or shouldn’t) depend on static structures to support their activities – not just the company, not just the state, not just the family, not just the community. Use the internet, and as much free-time as you can manage, to connect yourself to people who are passionately interested in specific things that are relevant to your life-journey. Treat your desires with respect, not contempt.

6. Never pass up the chance to experience something crazy or challenging
. It’s a big globalised world out there – and the more you can play with your basic terms of reference, the better prepared you’ll be for the next big shift or change in society. Try a new religion or theory, ponder the quantum or the Mobius strip, take up an underground sport, sample an unfamiliar drug. But always try and do it in good, convivial company.

7. Get broadband, become wireless. What the town square and the shop floor was to the worker, so the broadband terminal and the wireless hotspot is to the player – both open spaces which enable people to connect and commune. Except players can connect to the world, at almost any point in the world. The web is your global playground – use it.

8. Be an unashamed amateur at something. Amateur means ‘doing something for the love of it’. That childish moment of ‘playing around’ is such an essential energy source for us – and we downgrade it at our peril. Esteem your hobbies: be a Jill or Jack of all the trades you’d like to try. (Music is particularly good for the health of a player’s synapses).

9. Extend the playground. Being a player is fine and dandy – but having a play ethic is about realising that politics might stand in the way of everyone getting a change to play. Support campaigns, parties and politicians that look at reducing working hours, extending parental and sabbatical leave, supplying free grants for education and the arts. And be intelligent and innovative about your own lifestyle – hopefully with a partner who wants to play and care.

10. Attend to your resources. Play creates energy, but it also requires it. So burn off as much as you ingest; deploy whatever mind-therapies are required to keep eternal sunshine on your spotless mind; laugh and flirt and have as much sex as you can. And that’s an order!


Times Educational Supplement, Sept 10, 2004

Plea For Play Hits All The Right Notes

Review by Gerald Haigh


THE PLAY ETHIC: A MANIFESTO FOR A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIVING. By Pat Kane. Macmillan Pounds 12.99

CULTIVATING CREATIVITY IN BABIES, TODDLERS AND YOUNG CHILDREN. By Tina Bruce. Hodder & Stoughton Pounds 14.99

A WELL-TEMPERED MIND: USING MUSIC TO HELP CHILDREN LISTEN AND LEARN. By Peter Perret and Janet Fox. Dana Press Pounds 16.50

In the film The Sound of Music, Maria (Julie Andrews) famously takes down the nursery curtains to make play clothes for the stern captain's seven children. It's a subversive act for, as the housekeeper tells her: "Von Trapp children do not play -they march!"

It's surprising that Pat Kane doesn't invoke Maria -the ultimate playful adult ("a flibbertigibbet, a will o' the wisp, a clown") -in support of his thesis, for he drags in just about everyone else. His richly exotic index, in fact, reads like one of those knowingly clever songs by Noel Coward; the Ds alone include Bobby Darin, Rene Descartes, Dilbert, the Dixie Chicks and Greg Dyke.

Kane's entertaining roller-coaster ride of a book strives to define a counter to the "work ethic", and to give it a philosophical underpinning, illustrated by reference to people and groups who are reaching for, or have achieved, a playful life of unbridled creativity. Take Sarah, for example, "a tall, chin-forward woman in her early thirties".

"'Of course,' she announced, cigarette already aloft, 'you have a slightly wobbly moment about whether you'll get the next gig -whoops, hold on.' Her mobile phone rang: it was a London product designer." (No wonder Julie Andrews hasn't made it into Kane's universe. What chance does she have against the cool Sarah with her "gel-flipped hair"?) To the teacher who reads them, some of Kane's ideas are already received wisdom, but it's still good to see them reiterated. "Education has always prepared children for 'society'," he writes. "Yet 'society' has never been prepared for truly educated children."

Kane detects real hope in the way educators strive to inject passion and vision into the nuts and bolts of their work. He finds The TES (which he read over six months as part of his research) "inspiring". It has "human capaciousness". There are "so many experts straining to translate their findings into useable tools for pressured teachers".

Kane knows there are too many people out there who really do think life is a serious business that's not workin' if it ain't hurtin'. The scary thought (which he avoids) is that it just might be their seriousness that gives the rest of us the playful freedom he's so passionate about.

Kane, you imagine, would approve of the current drive to get more creativity into the curriculum. He'd certainly nod at Tina Bruce's notion in Cultivating Creativity of the child's right to play. "Whilst they play, children prepare, simmer and illuminate ideas."

There are always doubts about any earnest attempt to corral and closely define a concept such as creativity. Nevertheless, it's an area where teachers -especially those trained in the grey 1990s -need lots of practical help, and that's what Professor Bruce sets out to provide.

She begins by demolishing some myths -creativity isn't necessarily about genius, or just to do with the arts, or only displayed in performance. She goes on to give guidance about nurturing individual children, about building a creative environment and about the crucial role of adults. (How many parents worry that their child has a teacher who's not picking up on obvious signs of creativity?) There are good photographs that illustrate points in the text. Professor Bruce is strong on the idea that creativity isn't just about painting and singing.

In A Well-Tempered Mind (a reference to Bach's ground-breaking "Well-Tempered Clavier"), the authors put flesh on the feeling shared by all music teachers that the experience of music enhances thought and learning in unexpected directions, well beyond the simple act of enjoying the sound.

The book describes work in the United States: the Bolton Project, in which a group of musicians regularly visited Bolton elementary, an under-performing school in North Carolina. They played music to the children and encouraged responses that improved thinking skills, abstract reasoning and communication. Over two years, test scores improved and the school moved out of its "at risk" status.

The book describes the project and many of the individual lessons and children's reactions in detail. It's exciting stuff and necessary reading for all who are battling to ensure the place of music in the school curriculum.

Monday, September 13, 2004 at 08:08 AM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Play Ethic review in Guardian, FT

Review
Delighted & intrigued by the continuing coverage given to the Play Ethic book. Two reviews here from UK business commentators - one truly engaged with the thesis, the other essentialy (though instructively) dismissive.

Will Hutton will need no introduction to some, as the author of the best-selling stakeholder manifestos The State We're In, and The World We're In, Observer columnist, and director of the Work Foundation. His review in the Guardian Review puts the Play Ethic in context with a slew of other anti- and counter-work ethic books out at the moment, like Hodgkinson's How to Be Idle, Carl Honore's In Praise of Slow - and happily, Hutton thinks mine is the "most arresting, fresh and insightful". He really gets my point about how play is at least a legitmate framework for action and understanding as work (maybe a fruit of the seminar we had last year).

But I'm most intrigued by the point he develops from the closing chapters of the Play Ethic, about how these post-work values might be a way to increase the global peace, by projecting an image of a less punitive, more embracing West (what Joseph Nye calls 'soft power'). It's a genuinely new insight, and one I'm going to muse on.

Not so impressed by Stefan Stern's review of the book in the Financial Times last week (see post continuation link below) - by turns inaccurate and abusive. Indeed, Hutton's point about the global impact of play values -which I talk about in the book by saying that, 'after 9/11, the relationship between work, play and spirituality are almost unbearably pertinent' - Stern dismisses like a schoolyard bully. 'No, they aren't'. Um, yes, they are...

But I'll concede that the economics of the play ethic anticipate a kind of 'busyness model' which is only beginning to be assembled. The thinker to watch on the notion of an 'economy for players' (or as she calls them, 'psychological sovereigns') is Shoshana Zuboff - her interview in the current edition of Strategy and Business (registration. req.), outlining her commitment to a support economy, is a great place to start. One of my major research topics in the coming year.

Financial Times, September 9, 2004 Play's the thing for the new economy's child

Pat Kane's conviction that having fun is the best way to work is superficially attractive but not necessarily true, writes STEFAN STERN


We are encouraged from an early age to distinguish between fun and the serious stuff. At school, when the bell rings, playtime is over and it is back to lessons.

But ever since Rousseau first challenged the idea that children needed to be rigidly programmed, there has been a suspicion that repressing our playful instincts might not just be misguided, but could actually be harmful. Does creativity not feel a bit like play? Are we not more productive when we are having fun?

A playful spirit animated many of the "new economy" pioneers. And at the height of the boom in mid-1999 the US magazine Psychology Today chose "the power of play" as its cover story.

Play, the magazine argued, makes you live longer. Play helps women select a reliable mate (men who are playful, or who like playing with children, are less likely to be violent). Play makes adults happier and improves their memory. The psychologist Brian Sutton-Smith commented in the same issue: "The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression."

Even if the pool tables and scooters which symbolised some of the sillier tendencies of the dotcom boom have now been put away, the modish concept of "play" as a creative force has survived. Now Pat Kane - British pop star, journalist, player - has produced a fat book to support his contention that what the world needs now is a "play ethic".

In Kane's view this play ethic could become "the conceptual bridge that links the needs of organisations to function and develop in a market democracy with the needs of individuals to make their labour as unalienated as possible".

By which he means -I think - that play can save us from the drudgery of work, while magically allowing us to meet the demands of our employers. If you find all this a bit paradoxical, Kane has an answer: "Living as a player is precisely about embracing ambiguity, revelling in paradox, yet being energised by that knowledge . . . An ethic of play is, in effect, an ethic which makes a virtue, even a passion, out of uncertainty."

Kane is nothing if not playful in this book. He hurls concepts and assertions at us, rarely pausing for breath, sprawling all over and around his subject. Almost nowhere in the book does Kane discuss competition, deadlines, emerging markets, limited resources, and all the other sober realities of business and economic life. He dismisses the "work ethic" without showing how necessary work will get done. This is playtime, and such matters can be left to others.

In this way Kane keeps the "new economy" torch burning. But, of course, that was the problem with the "new economy" - it did not really exist: it was all supply and no demand.

Perhaps we would temporarily have more fun at work if playtime could be extended, but what would we actually achieve? How many sales would we make? And how creative, in the true sense, would we be?

We would be far too busy playing "outside the box" to do the hard work which creativity and innovation demand.

Kane's play ethic has no answers to the important questions. Instead, the closest we get to a justification is the grandiloquent: "The productivity of a playful society rests upon individuals pursuing their creative agendas in unity and tension with others . . . but crucially, this does not mean some kind of bucolic, peaceful equilibrium. People will still be committing themselves to exacting, demanding tasks and labour, as well as pursuing various forms of bliss, self-transcendence and boundary crossing."

He writes: "In the aftermath of 9/11, the relationships between work, play and spirituality have become almost unbearably pertinent." No, they have not. He also observes: "Thrusting the values of play into the heart of a deeply work-oriented situation is to risk derision and defensiveness." Yes, it is. "A deeply work-oriented situation"? Could he possibly mean an office?

Indeed, our author is so consumed with the need for play it seems a miracle he ever got round to producing over 350 pages of text. Still, he has. There are also nearly 70 pages of footnotes. And along with a host of quotations and references he finds room for his fellow-countryman Robert Burns, quoting his two most famous lines: O wad some power the giftie gie us, Tae see oursels as ithers see us!
Kane sees this as an example of the "play of the imagination", an act of creative sympathy. Readers might be more sympathetic to Kane's cause if had read and reflected on the next two lines of the same poem: It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An' foolish notion.

THE PLAY ETHIC
A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living
Macmillan, £12.99

Saturday, September 11, 2004 at 10:45 AM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Players and Idlers on BBC Radio Scotland

radio_scotland_logoHere's a nice radio promo spot for the Play Ethic that I did with Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler and How To Be Idle fame. As I expected, we agree on most things - we're both trying to define a different model of activity and creativity from that defined by work culture. But I think he's the bohemian, and I'm the futurist...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004 at 02:27 PM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Play Ethic on 'Heaven and Earth'

alice_rossWelcome to those who've seen me on BBC1's Heaven and Earth show, talking about players, workers and idlers. If you're interested in the book, you can buy it here, and find out more here. There are some recent reviews also available.

Sunday, September 05, 2004 at 07:57 AM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Play Ethic review in The Herald

mastheadAnother thoughtful and challenging review of the Play Ethic book by the Scottish critic Colin Donald in the Herald. No live link, so most of it is in the rest of this post (see link below), but I'm happy to take these summations:

The Play Ethic is an outrageously ambitious grab bag of ideas, personal histories and exhortations, requiring a leap of faith in the mind of the reader...Ultimately only the grimmest of Scottish mindsets would hold back from embracing Pat Kane and his gospel of "soulitarianism". The heat and scope of his furiously synthesizing, allusive intellect adds up to an enormous, shouted Why Not?...The Play Ethic is short on prescriptions of what we can do - beyond being aware - to initiate a culture where we identify ourselves through our playing personae rather than our office selves, but even articulating the shift in emphasis makes a big difference. Kane has his head over the parapet, scanning the horizon. For his energy, his openness, his connectedness and his greed for the new, he gets the credit as well as the flak.
You can read the more negative points for yourself - and when I get time I'm going to respond briefly in the comment box to each of these review postings. But excited to be stimulating minds in this way. More to come.

The Herald, August 28, 2004

Playtime Bell Has Rung

Pat Kane toils over the history of the Protestant work ethic and finds the inner player has a vital role. By Colin Donald

Pat Kane believes that Protestant-derived western capitalism has crippled our souls as hideously as the bound feet of ancient Chinese woman, and that only by prioritising fun over grind can we realise ourselves. Reading his work, crammed with dense theory, is a tough session in the gym rather than a Frisbee on the beach, but with the same invigorating effects as the workout.

The Play Ethic is an outrageously ambitious grab-bag of ideas, personal histories and exhortations, requiring a leap of faith in the mind of the reader. Discourse studded with those celebrated Kane-isms make that leap more formidable sometimes; how about “I’ve always gloried in the democratic energies of the public park” or “The experience of work at the Sunday Herald created too much cognitive dissonance for me”. Snort if you must, but ultimately only the grimmest of Scottish mindsets would hold back from embracing Pat Kane and his gospel of “soulitarianism”. The heat and scope of his furiously synthesizing, allusive intellect adds up to an enormous, shouted Why Not?

The Play Ethic is short on prescriptions on what we can do – beyond being aware – to initiate a culture where we identify ourselves through our playing personae, rather than our office selves, but even articulating the shift in emphasis makes a big difference. Kane has his head over the parapet, scanning the horizon. For his energy, his openness, his connectedness, and his greed for the new, he gets the credit as well as the flak.

The point of this book is to explore why the Protestant work ethic, adumbrated from everyone from nineteenth-century mill owners to Gordon Brown, has failed to keep its promises of human happiness, and how it no longer suffices as a template for a post-industrial, technologically enabled society. It celebrates the achievements to be gained by liberating the inner player, and charts the success of those who have tapped into this new spirit, from the Lego corporation to Linux. “We need”, he asserts, “to become more conscious of the players we already are”. Kane’s thesis is strengthened by the enormous negatives it opposes. The first is personal-historical: the experience of his father, a British Rail clerk who “sang like a Hoboken angel” but who sacrificed his personality to tedious (and eventually redundant) clerical routine, transferring his own soulful dreams to his talented sons. By doing so he defied the deadening workplace culture of West Central Scotland, and imbued the young Pat with a Hamlet-lie thirst for revenge against the corporate Claudius.

The second is the shadow of 9/11, which Kane presents as slowing down the momentum towards a more play-oriented future, “closing down the play of counter capitalist possibilities that had been bubbling since [the anti-globalisation protests of] 1999.” Al Qaeda has easy familiarity with communications technology that “neophiliacs” used to consider as benign to the point of hippiedom. They have spoiled the easy evolution of ever-more-playful technological fraternisation, and by doing so have increased the stakes for bringing the play ethic into the realm of politics and work.

The book is strong on lively examples of individuals and corporations who have embraced the play ethic – an infinitely expandable concepts – weaker on economic analysis of how a “ludic civilisation” might work or what political leadership or us players can do to expedite it.

Kane talks non-pejoratively about the “sickie” culture that loses more labour days than the strikes of the 1970s, seen not as shirking but as exercising their rights. The underlines a weakness of the book, that among the rhetorics of play (play as progress, play as imagination, play as power, etc), he fails to acknowledge any downside to play as sitting on your arse all day and hijacking virtual cars on Game Boy. You don’t have to be Samuel Smiles to ask if Kane’s utopianism could engage less dismissively with uncool concepts such as productivity.

As a manifesto, The Play Ethic shares some of the militant vagueness and selectivity, as well as the righteousness of the anti-capitalist protest movement, whose pranksterism he applauds. Unsurprisingly, he is for the individual against the command-and-control society, while acknowledging that the play ethic depends on a secure and well-protected society that is necessarily a firmly-controlled one. Another example of a flashy vagueness in the politics is his invocation of Trotsky’s writings on what a socialist future would look like. These days, the glamour of a Trotsky reference needs to be offset by reference to his far more significant writings about how such a society must be achieved by deliberate terror.

Because of the human terror tendency, achieving the utopia of a play-centered culture through peaceful means still remains in the domain of the poets and dreamers. Kane has constructed a massive and elaborate conceptual bridge to that domain. Burns sums up the passion and the far-futurism of the Play Ethic in his Letter to William Smellie (1835), the most affecting of the book’s epigraphs: “In some future eccentric planet: Where Wit may sparkle all its rays,/Uncurst with Caution’s fears:/And Pleasure, basking in the blaze,/Rejoice for endless years!”

The Play Ethic: A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living by Pat Kane (Macmillan, £12.99).


Sunday, August 29, 2004 at 11:13 PM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, August 27, 2004

Play Ethic review in Management Today

mtlogo From Management Today, no less, a positive and (for me) educational review of the Play Ethic book, by the comic-improviser-meets-management-consultant Neil Mullarkey. A sample:

This is not an anti-capitalist tract: far from it. The play ethic is right at home in the 'networked world of informational capitalism'. Look at all those '60s hippies now atop the entrepreneurial ladder. How can we talk of a work ethic when so much is available for free on the net - whether it be Linux software, music or writing?

I used to get frustrated with my economics tutor, who always made us assume 'perfect competition' to make the graphs work. Human beings are not rational economic actors: the reasons for this are more interesting than indifference curves. Human systems are complex; their overall behaviour cannot be predicted, but a spirit of play can cope with this uncertainty.

Emergence and extinction live side by side with competition and co-operation, altruism and selfishness. But it doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. In improvisation, if you look good, I look good.

Happy to see these points made - I'm interested in all forms of human interplay and reciprocation, markets included (though my political position on market reciprocation is probably closest to that of Geoffrey Miller).

Friday, August 27, 2004 at 07:56 AM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 22, 2004

'The Play's the Thing' (Sunday Herald Profile)

sun_heraldI was chuckling away at my profile in the Sunday Herald this week, tied to the release of the Play Ethic book and the event at the Edinburgh Books Festival. Peter Ross is far and away the most witty and perceptive of profile writers in the UK - and as Robin Williams said in Good Will Hunting, 'boy, does he have the goods on me'. But I'm also happy with it as a more-or-less accurate picture of the personal context around the book. The opening is a scream:

There is both less and more to Pat Kane than there used to be. First the less part. He walks into the restaurant on a stormy-then-sunny Glasgow Tuesday looking toned and tanned, wearing the well-chuffed expression of the born-again slim and a jacket he last had on a decade ago. Pinching the left lapel, he announces: “You see before you the raiment of self-actualisation.” This is his uniquely Kaneish way of saying that he has lost loads of weight and is much happier for it. Unconvinced by the deprivations of Atkins (the man loves all forms of complexity, which presumably includes complex carbs), he shed the pounds by examining his consciousness in order to work out why he associated sugar with a sense of well-being, then severing that connection. “The only way I could go on a diet,” he chuckles, “was to do it conceptually.”
That’s so Pat Kane. Once famous as half of cerebral jazz-pop duo Hue and Cry, he has become better known as the man with the pointiest head in Scotland, always ready to paint newspaper pages and television screens purple with discussions of dialectics and semiotics.
It gets both harsher and kinder after that. More to come in the next few weeks.

Sunday, August 22, 2004 at 05:01 PM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Play Ethic Book - Public Events

front_cover_of_book_again_jpegTwo more confirmed bookshop dates for the promotion of The Play Ethic book on Macmillan, in addition to the Edinburgh Book Festival event on 25th August:

15th September: Ottakar's Bookshop, Aberdeen

16th September: Borders Bookshop, Glasgow.

More to come on radio, tv and elsewhere, will keep you (literally) posted.

Monday, August 09, 2004 at 01:41 AM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Play Ethic @ NeoFiles

Neofiles-logo1Been waiting for this one... A few months back I did an e-mail interview with one of my long-time digital heroes - the perfectly named R.U.Sirius, who was (in my view) one of the smartest and most visionary minds in the mid-to-late nineties cyberboom (see this 1996 interview for just how smart). I got a mail out of the blue requesting an interview for his latest project, an occasional online mag called The NeoFiles. If there's any more inexhaustible euphoric than the recognition of one's peers, send it round in a box...

Anyway, here's the published interview, which will be useful for anyone who wants an update on where my thinking is heading after the Play Ethic book. And in order that R.U.'s patrons can be kept happy, read their fascinating account of what a 'life-enhancing product' could be.

Thursday, July 08, 2004 at 07:20 AM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News, PlayTheory (Ch 2) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, June 25, 2004

Play Ethic @ Edinburgh Book Festival

whats_on_graphic_02Very pleased to announce that my event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival is now available for online booking and perusing:

Pat Kane: Work and Society
Location: Studio Theatre
Date: Wed 25 Aug, 8:30 PM
Ticket Price: £8.00
Concession Ticket Price: £6.00

Boldly rejecting the work ethic, which keeps British workers chained to their desks for ever-increasing swathes of their lives, Pat Kane, musician, journalist and thinker, proposes a Play Ethic instead. In his manifesto for a different way of living, he urges us to become players, seeking pleasure in all aspects of our lives.

Erm, don't think I'm quite that hedonistic, but I know what they mean. There will be piles of the book to buy there, I am assured. Much else being prepared in the way of promotion, I'll keep you posted. Be great to see some of you there at Edinburgh.

Friday, June 25, 2004 at 08:26 PM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The Play Ethic in the FT

An early showing of interest in the coming Play Ethic book from the Financial Times, no less - a slot in their 'Guru of the Week' section in the FT magazine. (The writer, James Harkin, has written well on mobilisation in all its resonances, wireless or otherwise). The link is here, though you'll have to pay from Monday on. In the spirit of fair usage, I'll reproduce it below.

FT WEEKEND MAGAZINE - OF ALL THINGS:
Guru of the Week
- Big Thoughts in Brief: Pat Kane
By James Harkin
Financial Times; Apr 03, 2004

For someone so keen to demolish the work ethic, Pat Kane has been hawking his ideas around with quite some industry. In recent years, this Scottish pop singer-turned-cultural commentator has taken his message about the power of play to the media, think-tanks and even the Cabinet Office, where he has been advising on creativity and human potential. Now, in The Play Ethic: A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living, he plans to convert the rest of us.

Kane says much of the work we do today is intrinsically playful. We should stop thinking of playing as a distraction and start celebrating its benefits, such as added creativity, flexibility and dynamism. We should also redefine the way we think of ourselves and label ourselves "players" not "workers". In a jittery economic climate ridden with short-term contracts, Kane says it is folly to rely on one's job for character and identity. He identifies a new type of worker - the "soulitarians", who, if and when they work, shun high salaries in favour of "meaningful" work, are keen to experiment with technology and happily flit between start-up and corporation, self-employment and job-sharing. They are capable of hard work in the right endeavour and their creativity and technological skills make them increasingly sought-after. But they are militant about putting work in its place so they can have time for travel, personal growth and new experiences.

To bring his plans to life, Kane advocates moving from a welfare system based around social security to a guaranteed citizens' income, a reduction of the working day and investment in public amenities. Once that is done, we can get down to the serious business of fooling around.

Sunday, April 04, 2004 at 12:04 PM in 'The Play Ethic': Book News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack