Discussion of, “Play Makes Us Human V: Why Hunter-Gatherers’ Work is Play”

In an article entitled, “ Play Makes Us Human V: Why Hunter-Gatherers’ Work is Play, by Peter Gray in Freedom to Learn, the author discusses the role that entertainment and fun play in the development of a person, as well as the development of a society. Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” This statement embodies the concept of work in a hunter-gatherer society.

In the beginning of the article, the author goes ahead and lays forth the definitions of work. “Our word work has two meanings. It can mean any unpleasant activity; or it can mean any productive or useful activity, regardless of its pleasantness or unpleasantness.” This definition sets forth the whole tone of the article and raises one important question: did the work of those in a hunter-gatherer society lead to joy and satisfaction, or misery and disdain?

The author then proceeds to determine that while at sometimes work can be quite unpleasant, sometimes it is not necessarily the opposite of play. In a real world example, this concept of work can be seen by those who are living out their passions such as movie stars, professional athletes, and rock stars. In the life of a non-celebrity, however, this form of work can be seen through the actions of those who wake up every morning excited to go to their job because they are doing something they absolutely love. In a hunter-gatherer society, work is just that, something to look forward to.

Whether it be fishing, hunting, or farming, hunter-gatherer’s enjoy the work that they do. Today, people take entire weekends off to go on fishing and hunting trips. Those activities are these people’s everyday lifestyle. In this lifestyle, children make these activities into games that are fun to them, and the fun nature of these activities follows them into their adult lives and “careers.”

While hunter-gatherer societies are hard working, they work that is done is not looked upon as a chore or something that just has to be done. It is looked upon as an activity that brings joy as well as productivity to the society as a whole. To work at a job that you love is not really work at all.



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Senior, International Studies Major
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