Finite and Infinite Games

James P. Carse

A highly unusual book that can either be interpreted as a work of ludology, sociology, psychology, or philosophy, depending on how one approaches it.

When it was first published, it was not well received. I used to think it could have various applications to the multiple fields it touched on, but the book ultimately didn't do anything other books in those other fields couldn't do better. I was content to consider this tiny little book as not much more than an entertaining—though useless—bit of high-minded diversion. ... however, that might just be a lack of “perspective” on my part.

I later learned another author—Simon Sinek—wrote a book called The Infinite Game, which attempted to fully apply Carse's theories to the world of... of all things... business management. Of course, I find this to be incredibly strange. Carse's description of “finite games” is a complete encapsulation of profit-seeking mentality, which even the original text of Finite and Infinite Games was overwhelmingly negative on. Carse had a clear bias, characterizing finite games so terribly he didn't even need to label them as “evil.” Yet Sinek nonetheless managed to adapt Carse's philosophy to the agreement of the corporate American world he wished to sell it to, as a highly-paid motivational speaker; with bourgeois clients and well-connected associations ranging from the RAND Corporation, to the United Nations Global Compact, and even the American Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) during their numerous human-rights-abuse scandals ranging betwixt the Obama and Trump administrations alike.

I feel it is unfair for me to tar Carse with a brush for the actions of another author, one whom he likely never even met, but I wonder if there wasn't something incredibly dangerous in this tiny book that I simply failed to notice... Then again, I did only discover this book through degrees of separation from Stewart Brand, so perhaps I should've had my guard up a bit more?

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