The history of the playground is marked by an irresolvable contradiction:
On the one hand modernity has conceptualized play as a biologically inherited drive that is spontaneous, pleasurable, and free - attributed to the autonomous and individual self. Yet, on the other hand, modern societies have rationalised and shaped children’s play from the outside to advance social, educational and political goals.
Thus the 'playground' is in fact about censoring and restricting types of play deemed undesirable and displacing them from places deemed dangerous or corrupting, such as the street.
“War Games”: Photo taken by Francis Reiss to illustrate Lady Allen of Hurtwood’s essay in Picture Post, November 16, 1946 (Kozlovsky, 2007: 1).
This contradiction is embedded in the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states that play is a universal right of the individual and, at the same time, defined it as an instrument of social policy: “The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purpose as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right” (Kozlovsky, 2007: 1). A statement, which encapsulates the paradox of the modern discourse of play.