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Johan Huizinga

(1872—1945)


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(1872–1945)

A Dutch historian and pioneer of modern forms of cultural history. Huizinga's Homo Ludens—A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1938, English translation 1949) is a study of the seriousness of play. Written as World War II was approaching, the book argues for the recognition of the centrality of play to human culture: play is not just marginal, rather it actually determines human expressivity. For Huizinga, certain forms of modern sport embody the ‘mechanization of community life’ and threaten the play element: in ‘immense sport organizations’ such as football and baseball, ‘we see free youthful forces and courage reduced to normality and uniformity in the service of the machinery of rules of play and the competitive system’ (America, written during World War I).


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