Davina Cooper

Transforming Markets and States through Everyday Utopias of Play

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If utopia is, in part, a project of reimagining - fashioning hoped-for better ways of performing everyday activities, and addressing the challenges and limits that come from a utopian politics that has abandoned perfection, can play contribute something to this process? This essay explores the reimagining of two socially dominant institutions: market and states. While many on the left argue for the abandonment of both institutions, this essay considers the part play might play in their retrieval (as a retrieval that is also necessarily a revisioning). It does so in two different ways. First, working from the premise that markets are not adequate structures for fairly and fruitfully organising the distribution of resources, the essay explores whether the social architecture of the market has something to offer play, particularly playing with strangers. Speakers' Corner is the focus for this discussion, which focuses less on the Corner's famed status as a "marketplace of ideas" and more on its resemblance to other community marketplaces. Second, the essay considers whether imitative role-play, that deliberately revises or reverses the structures it imitates, can help to reimagine states and state institutional practices. With examples that range from "pretend" citizen republics to feminist academics "play-acting" judges, the essay asks what play can bring to critical state politics.


  • State
  • Markets
  • Play
  • Everyday Utopias
  • Speakers' Corner


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