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Roger Caillois, Games of Chance and the Superstar


  • Loek Groot

    (SISWO Netherlands' Institute for the Social Sciences)


Superstars are not by accident a conspicuous phenomenon in our culture, but inherently belong to a meritocratic society with mass media, free enterprise, and competition. To make this contention plausible I will use Caillois’s book, Man, Play and Games, to compare the mechanisms underlying the superstar phenomenon with a special kind of game, as set out by Caillois. As far as I know, Caillois’s book is not quoted in the literature dealing with income distribution theories, although the comparison with play and games is, for limited purposes, interesting. In play and games we find almost all elements which play a role in theories of just income distribution: equality of opportunity, chance, talent, competition and skill, reward, entitlement, winners and losers, etc. These are not chance similarities, for “. . . games are largely dependent upon the cultures in which they are practised. They affect their preferences, prolong their customs, and reflect their beliefs . . . One can posit a truly reciprocal relationship between a society and the games it likes to play”. Moreover, as we will see, superstars combine the four basic characteristics of play that make their activities a special kind of play.

Suggested Citation

  • Loek Groot, 2003. "Roger Caillois, Games of Chance and the Superstar," Public Economics 0303003, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0303003
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC - PC- TEX/UNIX Sparc TeX; to print on HP/PostScript/Franciscan monk; pages: 10

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    Caillois superstars Rawls;

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H - Public Economics

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