Nonsense, caring and everyday hope: Rethinking the value of playwork

Russell, Wendy K ORCID: 0000-0002-5028-6428 (2018) Nonsense, caring and everyday hope: Rethinking the value of playwork. In: Aspects of Playwork. Play and Culture Studies, 14 . Hamilton Books, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, USA, pp. 13-27. ISBN 9780761870609

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At the time of writing, the UK is facing the deepest cuts to public services in the history of the welfare state (Slay, 2012). Publicly funded play services are at the forefront of these cuts (CRAE, 2015; Hayes, 2014). Playworkers are seeking different delivery models and ways of articulating value without compromising the playwork ethos. This highlights a fundamental tension for playwork between (in Marxist terms) its exchange value and use value. Put starkly, exchange value links directly to sources of funding for playwork projects and therefore lies in playwork’s capacity to address social policy agendas such as play-based learning, development of social skills, crime reduction, physical activity/obesity reduction and community cohesion. Playwork’s use value has been articulated in a number of ways, but broadly lies in the co-production of spaces that support children’s open-ended and autotelic playing. Any attempt to direct playing towards policy outcomes risks commodifying it and turning it into something other than play. Yet these are not straightforward dualistic oppositions, nor are they the only way of articulating value. This chapter draws on my research on the dialectics of playwork (Russell, 2013), which focused on open access playwork that tends to be funded in deprived areas, a salient point. It offers a specific dialectical perspective, moving beyond stark either/or dualisms, grand narratives and causal statements, towards an appreciation of the interrelatedness of forms of value and the importance of keeping space open for whatever might emerge. This involves being comfortable with uncertainty and paying attention to ways that spaces are co-produced, in particular to small moments of playfulness, nonsense and perhaps resistance to adult intentions. What is offered here are but tentative steps. I am not pronouncing on a universally applicable strategy for the survival of playwork, but aiming to look beyond existing articulations of playwork’s value, not to dismiss them as wrong, but to see what more can be said.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Playwork
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
Research Priority Areas: Health, Life Sciences, Sport and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Wendy Russell
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2020 15:57
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2022 15:31

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