Monday, March 16, 2009

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious cults; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports. In fact, few fields have such broad scope and relevance for research, theory, and application of knowledge. The field also offers a range of research techniques that can be applied to virtually any aspect of social life: street crime and delinquency, corporate downsizing, how people express emotions, welfare or education reform, how families differ and flourish, or problems of peace and war.

Sport sociology

Sport Sociology
Readings from Brown, S.P. Introduction to ESS, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Although sports sociology is a subdiscipline of exercise science, it is also a part of the parent discipline of sociology, which is the study of human behavior and social interactions within particular contexts. Sports sociology examines sports as a part of cultural and social life, and adds a different dimension and perspective to the study of sports and exercise. More specifically, sports sociology examines the relationship between sports and society and seeks answers to many issues and questions regarding sports and culture.

Sports are a pervasive part of culture and are considered to be social constructions within society created by groups of individuals and based on values, interests, needs, and resources. Sport forms are created by groups of individuals. Each culture creates and uses sports for its own purposes; therefore, sports take different forms from culture to culture.

This directly relates to the concept of physical activity and exercise for different cultures.
Because of various factors, such as religion, politics, and economics, certain groups of individuals may have limited access or be restricted or forbidden to take part in sports and/or exercise activities. Thus the value of sports takes on different meanings in different cultures. Other factors, such as which controls sports, what rewards (intrinsic or extrinsic) are received from sports participation and the status of the athlete/participant, have some effect on the value and place of sports in a particular society. The purpose of this chapter is to familiarize the student with the social issues that permeate society and thus permeate sports.
Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts.
Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious cults; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports. In fact, few fields have such broad scope and relevance for research, theory, and application of knowledge.
Sociology provides many distinctive perspectives on the world, generating new ideas and critiquing the old. The field also offers a range of research techniques that can be applied to virtually any aspect of social life: street crime and delinquency, corporate downsizing, how people express emotions, welfare or education reform, how families differ and flourish, or problems of peace and war. Because sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is a rapidly expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft policies and create programs. Sociologists understand social inequality, patterns of behavior, forces for social change and resistance, and how social systems work.
The mission of the Augusta State University sociology program is to teach and employ sociological theory and knowledge to empower our students and to contribute to a better society. We seek to explore and reveal how society and culture shape human lives, thoughts, and behaviors. Through teaching the skills of sociological analysis, research, writing, and social action, we strive to make our students more effective and valuable as citizens, scholars, and professionals.
Sociology of Sport Online
sosol is an international electronic forum for the stimulation and dissemination of research concepts and theory relating to the sociological examination of sport, physical education and coaching. The journal publishes theoretical and empirical papers, critical literature reviews and conventional book reviews.

Political economy of sport

The Political Economy of Sports There are several structural
characteristics of a political economy approach upon which I
touched earlier and would like to develop a bit here. The first
and most general point I want to emphasize is that the character of
sports varies with the mode of production of the society in which
it appears. The history of sports parallels the history of human
society. In each of the five great modes of organization for social
production, sports and the world of serious activity has been
mutually inter-dependent. In primitive communal societies, in
slave, feudal, capitalist or socialist society, sports has been
shaped by the dominant mode of production. Contemporary sports: Football, basketball, soccer, track and
field events have their origins in inter-tribal, inter-feudal and inter-
capitalist warfare. Football probably started out as a predator village kicked the heads of
conquered neighbors around. Baseball is little else but the
skilled use of the bludgeon. Field events: shot put, javelin,
hammer throw and archery all come out of the weaponry of feudal
warfare. Such events as the marathon, the hurdles, the obstacle course,
the dash and the relay recapitulate the structure of field
communication in the various military encounters between low tech
armies from the wars between city-states in ancient Greece to the
crusades through the feudal conquests of France, Britain,
Scandinavia and the African nations. The modern assimilation of sports to military goals came in
1811 when the Germans were occupied by the armies of Napoleon. The
mass calisthenics which later came to be associated with the
Jugendschaften of the Hitler era, were encouraged as prelude to the
overthrow of the French oppressors by German patriots. In our times, sports is shaped more by the commercial needs of
advanced monopoly capital. There are several points at which its
needs shape the structure and development of sports. The most
significant structural change in modern sports is the gradual and
continuing commodification of sports. This means that the social,
psychological, physical and cultural uses of sports are assimilated
to the commercial needs of advanced monopoly capital. The Realization 'Problem'If you have ever wondered why sports stars get such high salaries
and why major sports have so much time/space on mass media,
the answer is simple.A major use to which sports are put by commodity capitalists
is in the solution to the "realization problem." Given the
profit motive, capitalist firms produce more than their workers can
buy. This happens for two reasons. First, workers collectively do
not get paid 100% of the price set by the market. For any given
firm labor costs are about 25-35% of the price set. Across all
workers who share in the division of the profits, the wages are
less than 100 percent of the price available with which to purchase
the goods they produce. In low profit lines, workers may have 95% of the value
produced; in high profit lines of production, they may have less
than 50% of the value of the wealth they produce. Whatever the
case they can't buy it all. In such a case, the economy tends to
slow down to recession or depression levels. There are several
ways to renew demand each with other problems- warfare destroys wealth and renews demand.
A prolonged recession renews demand.
Price wars dispose of surplus production but benefit big competitors.
Crime requires replacement of items stolen.
The welfare state redistributes wealth.
Credit and deficit spending can keep the system going a while longer.
Capitalists compete for foreign markets and try to capture surplus value from
foreign economies with which to renew demandHowever, a major way to dispose of "surplus" goods and realize profit is to
transfer desire from the world of cultural events; sports, theatre, religion or
patriotism to the world of commodity production via advertising. The inability of a capitalist firm to dispose of "surplus"
production leads corporations to purchase sports programming as a
commodity to generate demand by using the beauty and elegance of
athletics as an envelope in which to insert a commercial message. Extracting Surplus Income. A second structural feature of advanced
monopoly capitalism which besets the accumulation process is the
great inequality of income distribution among those who do work for wage labor. The Yuppie portion of the population has discretionary income
as do most elements of the capital class, but in the capitalist
system today a few million people get around 40 percent of that
wealth and hundreds of millions share less than 50 percent of the
wealth. In America, the bottom 20 percent of the population share
only five percent of the gross national product. A lot of money to
be sure but far less than is required to purchase all the cars,
beer, refrigerators, cigarettes, and other items produced. The few million who do have surplus income and could purchase
the surplus production don't need the fourth car, the fifth
television set or the tenth toaster. This distortion in income
means, again, that capitalists can't realize profit. A third reason
that there is a surplus of goods is the tendency in capitalist
systems to disemploy workers by the use of new technology or by
increased productivity from each worker. These disemployed workers join the surplus population. Their
material needs may be met by the state in its welfare system, by
family members, by private charity or by friends. Again many turn
to crime as a way to reunite production and distribution. So, in
order to dispose of the surplus production on profitable terms,
capitalist firms turn to advertising to create an ever expanding
layer of false needs and wants among those who may have
discretionary income. Or try to expand markets overseas to the
disadvantage of capitalists in other countries who also have the
same realization problem. Since sports events generate large audiences and participants
(for any or all of the reasons mentioned earlier: the alienated
solidarity, the alienated sexuality or the alienated aesthetics of
play), advertising firms buy the audiences and sell them to
capitalist firms which are large enough to have national markets
and wealthy enough to pay the costs of the audience, the
commercials, the media time and the teams involved. Apart from the
fact that this solution to the problem of capitalist production
greatly inflates costs of distribution and apart from the fact that
small firms tend to fail, the real problem of this growing alliance
between sports and capitalism is the linkage between mythic
concerns of a society and profit concerns of private capital. Cultural Marxist Analysis of Sports. In brief the argument in Cultural Marxism is that sports has absorbed
some of the religious needs of a secular society for solidarity and
for a metaphysic. The analysis of sports presented here is that it embodies elements
of four great founding myths of society -- especially that of a morality
metaphysic which instructs players and fans alike about how to
approach the problematics of interpersonal interaction; how to
relate oneself to the social unit, and how to confront the
imponderables of nature and other groups. It seems to me that it is this morality metaphysic which so
intrigues and so engrosses fans in the actions and outcomes of a
sports event. It is this morality metaphysic which can be used as
an envelop in which to insert advertisements. To understand the
rise of commodity sports in America, we need to connect the
political economy of capitalism to alienated social life. Every society has four general myths which help reproduce it
across generations. The first great myth is, of course, the
creation myth. The second myth and the one used here is the
morality myth -- one which instructs us on how we are to deal with
the ordinary contingencies of life, how we are to relate to others
inside and outside our group.
Morality myths instruct us about the forms of evil, the sources
of evil, the agents of evil and the solutions for evil. A third great myth form is one which tells us how to understand and
survive the inevitable tragedies which is the common lot of all people --
what to do about death, about love gone wrong, about children gone wrong
and about the imponderables of life. The fourth great mythic form speaks to the future and to
the failings of the past in that social formation itself. This
fourth mythic form usually says that times were good before, they
turn bad through no fault of the system and they will be good again
if one has faith. A myth is a line of symbolic activity -- activity in music, in
activity, in mime or in words -- which grasps the basic concerns of
a society and resolves the conflict and contradictions inherent in
social life in its chronology and in the logic of its action
(Silverstone, 1983:138). The simplicity of the sports event is especially amenable to
mythic use. In the play, the protagonist must overcome adversity
in society and in nature. Each play and player must, to be
successful as a mythic element, transcend everyday activity. The
game is trans-parent in its play and unlike written or narrated
myths has no foregone conclusion. Every fan has the same standing
as do all others. In those crucial moments of play, a satisfactory
event is anticipated and recognized by all present. One does not
need a priestly functionary to interpret the mysteries as in
religious myths. In that respect, sports may be experienced
directly for its aesthetic and mythic meanings. The structure of sports as a mythic form is about
socialization under conditions of conflict. In feudal society; in
competitive capitalist societies with class as well as ethnic
conflict; in the world capitalist system with its nationalistic
antagonisms, the mythic structure of modern adversary sports
resonates with the lived experiences of workers, Blacks, third
world patriots as well as partisans of geographical animosity. All
stress the need for the individual to accept and to work within the
existing structure of social conflict and "friendly" competition.
Commodity capital, with its internal crises and contradictions
has assimilated the mythic form to its own needs for survival, for
profit, for socialization to competitive, aggressive, privatized
character as well as for legitimacy with workers, consumers and
citizens who are its natural antagonists. I raise the question
about whether American sports in its commodity form -- however
excellent and appealing -- should be harnessed to the ideological
needs of a given class or elite in any society. The view advanced
here is that sports, indeed all cultural activities, might better
be oriented to the general social interest in authentic solidarity
and prosocial cooperation rather than the special character and
consumer morality of monopoly capital.
Every social group needs to use the awe and mystery of myth,
magic, pretend, rehearsal, play and the world of imagination
and make- believe to the reproduction of cultural forms. All sports activities are mythic endeavors in which the forces
of life are pitted against the forces of nature. In the case of
football, basketball, baseball and, more intensely tennis, the
effort to control a ball pushes the player to the limits of
psychobiological capacity and endurance. The catch takes on added
drama if it occurs in a strategic moment of play. Still more
dramatic impact arises should the moment of play be located in a
strategic game or even in a moment of note in the entire history of
a league or nation. The means by which conflict is to be resolved is by excellent
individual performance within the logics of team goals. In a
recent (18 July 1983) Monday Night Baseball game, the shortstop of
the Toronto Blue Jays made four such plays in that single game.
Few persons on earth could have made the moves as swiftly, as
gracefully or as accurately and with the panache displayed. The
grace, beauty and art possible from the human body shown forth
clearly in that game. In like fashion, the extension of the physical capacity of the
human body in making spectacular catches in football is even more
remarkable taking place as they do in the face of expert defensive
play by the opposing team. Most of those who watch football know
and appreciate those catches, the moves for which match in grace
and timing the finest of ballet. By themselves, this physical
excellence is only of passing interest -- observed only for the
purest of aesthetic reasons as indeed one may appreciate ballet.
But unlike most ballet today, sports games are located in
significant social frames within which they take on mythic force. In a world series, with the bases loaded and two out, and with
the score tied in the ninth, a long fly ball is immediately
anticipated as a dramatic event. As the center fielder races back,
gauges the flight, lifts off the ground in every effort, whether
the catch is made or whether the ball clears the 430 foot marker,
the partisan crowd is on its feet as one, explodes in a cheer of
delight as one and appreciates that all others present share the
grand moment. The soaring grace of the fielder's catch or the
perfect timing and power of the batsman testify to the possibility
of human success in everyday life. That is what the myth -- and
the game -- is all about. As noted, the sports event teaches us four things: it tells
us what the sources of evil are, it tells us who the agent of evil
is (often conceived as the enemy), it instructs us in the forms of
evil, and it instructs us in the means by which evil is to be
overcome. In the case of baseball, the source of travail is to be found
in the physical forces of nature; time, space, gravity, weather and
light. The sources of evil are found as well in the individual
imperfections of the players: the lazy player, the inept player,
the foolish player, the cheating player, the selfish player, and
the indifferent player. Evil is to betray one's teammates to
sloth, greed, envy, pride, anger and hate. If not the unproductive team member, the agent of evil is the
outsider. For most major sports, it is the visiting team. High
school and college sports set as enemy the opposing team much more
than do the professional teams although in baseball, everyone hates
the Yankees; in football for years it was the Chicago Bears and in
basketball the Boston Celtics who embodied adversity. The particular forms of evil embodied these teams entailed
unfair tactics, dirty play, illegal recruiting, purchasing of
pennants and players as well as architectural innovations of the
field of play which gave unfair advantage to the other team. When combined, the forms and agents of evil as embodied in the
mythic structure of sports teaches a lesson. It says the tribe is
the paramount unit of social order, the enemy is other neighboring
tribes; they cheat and thus are less than human. This default
renders the home tribe the embodiment of the human being in its
highest, most principled form -- however, since the opposing team
violates the rules of social life found in the sports event, it
excludes itself from the normal courtesies of social conduct. Such
self exclusion in turn justifies less-than-social treatment of the
enemy. By this practical logic, the home tribe at once justifies
noncompliance with social rules and in the same moment preserves
the home tribe myth of superior moral standing. If the Yankees buy up all the best players, they default on
the rules and may be subjected to tactics otherwise inconceivable.
Since the Chicago Bears hit, gouge, kick and pile on, they
disqualify themselves as equals and may be hit, gouged, and kicked
without culpable wrong imputed to the home team. Since the Celtics
use picks, fast breaks, double-teaming, presses, and platoon
substitution tactics; since they grab the super stars from college
ranks and use the home court advantage in extremis, they also are
the embodiment of evil for all other home teams -- and the Celtics,
Bears, and Yankees view the Philadelphia Warriors, the Green Bay
Packers, and the Dodgers as less than human. In the Marxian analysis presented here, sports have been
commodified and massified in response to some of the structural
problems of advanced monopoly capitalism. A separate but parallel
analysis is possible for bureaucratic socialist economies or the
semi-feudalities in the Mid-East and Far-East. In brief, sports solves the problems of accumulation and
legitimacy in the ways mentioned above. Sports in its present form
presents us with a modern metaphysic for daily life. It redeems,
in a false and trivial manner, alienated conditions of work. It
provides alienated solidarity in a conflict ridden society. Its
super-masculine model of play offers to redeem an alienated
sexuality. And its aesthetics and metaphysics provide an envelope
into which to insert a message vesting desire into possession of
material goods rather than in primary social relations. In a final
section, I would like to add to this cultural analysis of sports,
a structural analysis of advertising since the advertising industry
is the enterprise which uses the metaphysics and aesthetics of
sports to colonize social desire in the interest of private profit. This analysis is part of a larger analysis of the use of dramaturgy
in society to manage the political and economic problems of class
cleavages, racial conflict, gender preference and bureaucratic
authority in mass society. The major thesis of this work is that the technologies of
electronics, theatre, and the social sciences; sociology, as well
as psychology, are used conjointly to mystify consciousness and
subvert democratic and collective political possibilities in the
interests of class elites as well as other elites within the world
capitalist system (and in bureaucratic socialist societies). This technology provides a slick, smooth, scientific way to
preserve privilege in a putatively democratic society. The crude
and disruptive politics of fascism are replaced by an $80 billion
industry of dramaturgical practitioners in the advertising industry
whose only productive labor is to serve elites in the extraction of
surplus value and creation of false consciousness. Commodity
sports is but one expression of the alienation of the lively arts
to the managerial needs of capitalism. Commodity politics,
theatric commercials, electronic religion as well as the spectacles
of space and war all converge to use dramaturgy in the sociology of
fraud to serve power, privilege and the great wealth of
multinational corporations. Advertising and Commodity Sports I have suggested that commodity sports a metaphysic about how to
do life. Located within the problems of commodity capitalism,
sports lends itself as a particularly effective tool for advertising. If the morality myth embedded in sports resonates with the lived
experience of fans, advertising resonates with the structural
features of advanced monopoly capital. In an automated, productive economic system the main problem
of the capitalist is to realize profit. The shift is from the
exploration of the working class to the extraction of surplus value
from the consumer. To do this it is necessary to use science and
guile rather than coercion and discipline. The modern corporation
cannot force the consumer as readily as it can coerce the employee.
It turns to depth psychology and social science to generate demand.
Monopoly capital uses advertising to solve the problem of
accumulation and of legitimacy.
Advertising uses the drama and mythic power of sports to generate
demand and to realize profit for advanced monopoly capital. There is also the shift from price and quality to generate
demand. It is not possible to use pricing to generate demand in a
stable monopoly system (Baran and Sweezy, 1976:115). Were one of
the ten or so giants which dominate a product line to resort to
price as a demand mechanism, it would destabilize the entire
industry with devastating results for many. Quality cannot be used
to generate demand for several reasons. There are the additional
costs of quality; there is industrial espionage which quickly ends
any advantage a new improvement might bring. There is the
profitable parts and repair industry and most of all there is the
advantage of built-in obsolescence for future demand -- all of
which militates against quality -- and for advertising. The
products advertised nationally are products from the monopoly
sector. Products from the competitive sector of the state sector
are seldom advertised on mass media. A third thesis on advertising relates more directly to the
realization problem. A capitalist economy can only realize profit if all products are sold.
But since workers do not have 100% of the price of a product paid to
them directly or indirectly, capitalist economies tend to have surpluses
which are not readily absorbed by workers taken collectively --
and the tiny handful of capitalists could not use all the gas, beer, autos,
chain saws and sanitary napkins produced -- so they must create a
neurotic need for such surplus purchasing. They must generate
layer upon layer of desire and they use the elegance of professional
baseball, football, basketball and soccer to do so. Commodity sports with its morality lessons provides an envelop
in which to hide the compulsion to consume apart from need, apart
from merit, apart from other needs, apart from thought and words.
Advertising, of course, cannot increase demand for all commodities
but can shift demand from commodity A to commodity B.
Fourthly, advertising is the cheapest way to reach millions of
people. Commission sales only works in very special circumstances.
In cons or swindles, in real estate and other super high profit,
high growth lines, face to face sales can be used but not in mass
sales with low profit margins. So in the U.S., it is the structural needs of advanced
monopoly capital in general by which one can best understand the
growth in broadcast sports. And it is the morality myth embedded
in sports which connects compulsive needs of the consumer with the
compulsive needs for profit. Other myths may be also used to
create demand -- on day-time television, oriented to the alienated
house-wife, a differing myth is used to envelop demand -- that of
the competent woman, still attractive and able to cope with the
many failings of husband, children and neighbors. Such women use
the household budget (about 60% of family income) to marshal the
supplies to sustain her social skills. Advertising capital furnished by monopoly industries at once
encourages the production of cherished cultural supplies such as
sports and transforms these in the same moment into their alienated
form. A whole host of unproductive labor is used to reunite
production and distribution on profitable terms for the monopoly
capitalist beset by increasing costs of production, increasing
legal restraints on dangerous practices, increasing foreign
competition, decreasing markets in the unfree world, and decreasing
freedom to control third-world supplies. Advertising is a
necessity in this time of crisis for monopoly capital. Sports is
a happy cultural activity upon which capitalism may parasitize --
for a while. Conclusion. There are many ways to understand the huge
investment a society allocates to sports and to other athletic
activity. At any given level of analyses there are significant and
important validities upon which to focus depending upon the
interests and concerns of the critical scholar. In the previous
section of this paper, the focus has been the mythic character of
the rules and lines of play in contemporary American sports
culture. In the earlier section, the focus was upon the political
economy in which sports are located. A political-economy approach to sports examines how and why it
has been commodified. The Marxian view is that commodity sports is
used by advertising to generate demand in an economic system in
which demand is restricted by profit considerations, by monopoly
practices, and by a continuing discrepancy between aggregate wage
and aggregate price across all capitalist lines of production. The
need for profit in advanced monopoly capitalism results in every
possible good or service be commodified. Sports is commodified and
sold to the largest corporations in order to add dimensions of
desire and false need to products without intrinsic value to those
with discretionary income. That so many people invest so much time, emotion and money in
these pursuits instructs us that something important is happening.
It is the view advanced here that sports has gradually absorbed the
religious impulse of a secular society, commodified it in
capitalist societies and is in the process of assimilating that
impulse to the economic and legitimacy needs of capitalism. Perhaps
there are better ways to understand sports but I know no better for
the present organization of American sports. The analysis here presents a given sports event as an instance
of one or more of the four great myths found in a society with
which to instruct its young people in the metaphysics of human life
as it is constructed in that culture. The four myths are: the
Creation Myth, the Morality Myth, the Tragic Myth, and the Destiny
Myth. All interesting novels, plays, poems and sports events
incorporate the structures of one or more of these myths into its
story line. The Morality myth of advanced capitalist society suffuses the
structure and chronology of the contemporary sports events in the
United States. Competition, the resultant system of individual
stars and individual viewers, the emphasis upon playing within the
rules set by a small non-playing elite, the constant push by
coaches and managers for greater productivity, for personal
excellence and for uncritical acceptance of the authority system
all resonate with the problematics of capitalist production in
shop, office, school and factory: competition, discipline,
creativity, teamwork, victory, and alienated joy. As an embodiment of a mythic form which instructs all persons
concerned, fans and players alike, on how to live out one's life in
a laudable and praiseworthy style, sports supplements, complements
and in some instances, displaces the sacred writings of the Bible
and the Church Fathers. In a secular society, the drama of sports
events absorb and bend the quest for the sacred to the profit
concerns; to the control needs of the rich and the powerful. It is this concern with the morality myth which so intrigues
and so captures the fan and the player. We all need a metaphysic
for the shaping of our everyday behavior. Professional football,
baseball, basketball, volleyball and soccer, each in its differing
format, provides us with such a morality. I suggest there is a basic incompatibility with commercial
sports and the longer historical interests of a society. I propose
that a society which permits its mythic forms in sports to be
purchased as a commodity, mortgages its future to the rich and the
powerful. In this case, it is the private capitalist firm which
has absorbed sports to its ideological, political and economic
needs. Such commodification of sports ceases to serve the general
social interest in morality, in solidarity, and in excellence of
individual effort when these interests are confined within the
special interests of the capitalist firm for profit, for
legitimacy, for growth and for control of markets, material and for
a complacent labor force. The argument presented here is that there is much of social
value found in sports and in other mythic carriers. Given the
social utility of morality myths and the great investment of time,
talent and concern with sports in America, the significant question
to raise is whether a society should so organize that talent and
time of athletes, artists and actors to serve interests of private
profit. Corollary to that question is whether other forms of
sports, other modalities of morality, other structures of myths
might not better serve the social interest or the human project. In this respect, the sociology of sport fits within a larger
framework of the political economy in which it is found. The usual
approach to the study of sports sociology surgically isolates
sports from the society in which it is found and from the content
and outcomes of the cultural activities. One should keep in mind
that it is the cultural activities -- ranging from family life to
religious life and embracing art, music, science, games, leisure
time activities as well as politics and parties -- which give life
its distinctly human character. Work, food, shelter, health care
and survival skills are basic to life but the creation of culture
in all its forms is basic to human life. The propensity is to trivialize the sociology of music,
theatre, sports, folk arts and their economic and political meaning
of these. A Marxian theory reclaims these cultural activities and
locates them in a research endeavor which emancipates them once
again to celebrate distinctly social and collective endeavors.

Sport sociolo9gy 2000

Sport sociology 2000Dr. Kathleen Armour, Dr. Robyn Jones & Daniel Kerry
Brunel University, England
The purpose of this paper is to consider ways in which Sport Sociology can be valued as a discipline within sport sciences1, within sociology and within the world of sport which it analyses and serves. Brooker & Macdonald (1995), among others, point to the high status which society accords to the natural sciences, and note that this is also mirrored in physical education and sport sciences. Yiannakis & Greendorfer (1992) suggest that the broad field of sociology has "failed the litmus test" (p.5) of providing answers and solutions to society's social ills, and that within sport sciences, sport sociology is similarly deemed to be irrelevant to the practical needs of sport and sports practitioners. Ingham & Donnelly (1997) question the value of a sociology of sport, and challenge us to consider whether a "deliberate commitment to a sociology of sport is re-required" (p.392), while Loy & Sage (1997) suggest that sport sociology has reached a stage in its development where "a sociology of the sociology of sport now seems appropriate" (p.315). Sport sociology 2000 is, therefore, a title representing a deceptively straightforward mission. In essence, it is a plea for sport sociology to build upon its sound and expanding traditions of the 1980s and 1990s, and to grow. In order to do this, it is suggested in this paper that sport sociology must mature into an applied, inclusive, and cooperative (then collaborative) discipline in the next century. 1. Sport sociology within sport sciences: Defining the task
The central purpose of Sport Sciences is to study that conglomerate of mind, body and spirit which is the embodiment of sport and a wide range of physical activities. That embodiment is, inevitably, a social being - a member of society; and not just any society of course, as Ingham & Beamish (1997) remind us in their analysis of the 'enculturation of the social subject' (p160). A social being cannot escape society in order to participate in sport, rather, society consists of structures and agents who constitute - and reconstitute - sport, and sport sciences. Thus, the purpose of sport sociology is clear: it must study the sports/exercise person (at whatever level) as a social being in a particular social context; it must study social structures which endure and which have influence, and it has a self-appointed, moral imperative to study the processes and the outcomes of inequality (Donnelly, 1996) and ignorance in sport. It is, fundamentally, a complex, person-centred venture located within the multifarious facets and levels of sport, including elite sport and performance, coaching, health/exercise, social sport, and sport/physical education in schools.
But why restate the obvious? Well, if the above is anything like accurate, it is useful to be reminded that embarking upon sport sociology (indeed any sociology) is a daunting venture. The obvious leads to the obvious - those working in the area need all the tools available to them. Thus, there are positivist and anti-positivist adherents, qualitative and quantitative methods and, among others, critical, figurational, feminist, interpretive and historical paradigms. Love them or hate them, a mature discipline may need them all because the questions to be asked are intricate and obstinate; as Chalip (1992) points out 'In the real world, problems and needs are multifaceted and multidisciplinary' (p.262). Furthermore, the answers, like the social beings themselves, resist categorisation into neat paradigms; how much simpler if they did not! 2. On being 'applied'
In terms of its development towards maturity, Sport Sociology can best be described as a late adolescent/early adult. In the key text 'Sport and Social Theory', Rees & Miracle (1986) note that research in Sport Sociology had been criticised in terms of both its quality and quantity. They cited the plea by Loy, Kenyon & McPherson (1980) that sport sociology research ought to be more clearly grounded in social theory. Indeed, the whole purpose of Rees & Miracle's text was to show the importance of social theory to 'the development of sociology of sport' and to 'encourage readers to start their search for answers to questions about sociology of sport from some theoretical perspective' with the ultimate aim of achieving 'wider acceptance of the utility of sociology of sport among sociologists and sport practitioners alike' (p.vii). It is encouraging to see how far sport sociology has come since 1986. A glance at any of the international journals in the field provides ample evidence of sport sociology grounded in social theory. Perhaps, as a direct result of this, sport sociology may become more widely accepted within sociology - although Sage (1997b) remains sceptical. Two examples could be viewed as encouraging, however: one is the invitation to sport sociologists to present at the 1998 British Sociological Association Annual Conference in Edinburgh (April 6-9), and the second is the conference link between the International Sociology of Sport Association and the International Sociological Association (Montreal, July 26-August 1, 1998).
Arguably, where sport sociology has been less successful is in its attempts to gain greater acceptance among sports practitioners, and it is that issue which underpins this discussion. A paper by Luschen, within the Rees & Miracle (1986) text, makes a useful starting point. Luschen (1986) points out that 'the topic of the practical uses of sport sociology is not often discussed' (p.245), and he advocates a theory of 'action knowledge'. Interestingly, he envisaged that such a focus on 'applied' research would lead to enhanced academic respectability within the broader field of sociology. As he notes: 'sociology itself has yet to resolve this critical link between theory and practice' (p.245). Luschen's (1986) suggestion was that sport sociology ought to focus upon developing 'action knowledge' which he described as follows:
Action knowledge, in general, does not mean simple recommendations of a concrete and normative nature...The program of action knowledge aims for a deeper and more rational understanding based on explanatory knowledge and situative considerations. (p.248)
The primary purpose of action knowledge is to inform policy and planning and, to this end, action research is identified as a way of ensuring that policy and implementation are compatible. Luschen (1986) was, however, cautious about the scope of action knowledge - warning that it is not to be viewed as 'utopian engineering' (p.251). Nonetheless, he views it as essential knowledge for a range of professionals in sport: 'teachers, coaches, administrators, journalists and executives.....certainly need it to better understand their own position and action in modern sport' (p.253). We would wish to add sports participants/performers themselves to the list.
It may be that Luschen's thinking was ahead of its time. Perhaps there was a need to become securely rooted in social theory, before progress towards practicalities could be made. Certainly, there is some recent work which seems to reinforce Luschen's earlier thoughts. Yiannakis & Greendorfer (1992) try to develop the case for applied research by clarifying the definition of 'applied' as: 'providing solutions to questions of practical importance, assisting in changing behaviour, and contributing to the amelioration of the human condition' (p.11, their emphases). They also point to the need to disseminate research information widely and effectively within the broad sports community. Chalip (1992) similarly exhorts sport sociologists to work more closely with the sports community, which 'requires applied sport sociology to be the enterprise of a disputatious, many-valued community of scholars who work in collaboration with the persons, groups and communities they study' (p.259). More recently still, Feingold (1997) draws together some of these views in his arguments for 'service-based scholarship' to provide a new focus for academia in general, and sport sociology in particular. Drawing upon Boyer's (1990) vision for higher education, which urges scholars to 'think about the usefulness of knowledge, reflect on the social consequences of their work and, in so doing, gain an understanding of how their own study relates to the worlds beyond the campus' (p.69), Feingold points to the work of Don Sabo and others to make a plea for 'social theorists to participate in the social construction of community' (p.352). Thus, Feingold suggests that we must 'expand our impact upon society through an integration of the subdisciplines [and] a more holistic view of our commitment' (p.353). In a similar approach, Martinek & Hellison (1997) argue for 'service-bonded inquiry' in the context of physical education. They argue that sport pedagogy has reached a crossroads in its development:
There is the road to traditional forms of research. Those who travel it are researchers who produce information about practice with little connection to those who use it. Completing this path leads to clear, identifiable rewards for researchers, such as publication in journals and recognition by the professional academies. The other road has few travelers other than practitioners...With few travelers the road is rough, undefined, and often void of tangible rewards.....Do we continue to journey down the path producing knowledge for only a secret enclave of scholars, or can we also venture down the path that brings relevance to real life conditions? (p.107/8).
Martinek & Hellison (1997) describe service-bonded scholars as those who have made a personal commitment to improving physical activity for young people, and they suggest that 'a combination of perception, passion and purpose' (p.112) is likely to drive the researcher along an agenda of seeking change for the better. They also suggest that such an approach will prevent researchers from simply addressing the '"hot topic" of the times' (p.112). Similar to Luschen (1986), Martinek and Hellison highlight the need for 'action-based' research. They also raise the issue of dissemination: 'the ideas from service-bonded inquiry need to be shared with practitioners...rather than being restricted to high-quality journals read by a few colleagues' (p.116). It would appear that something like a movement in sport sociology is gathering pace.3. On being inclusive
Sage (1997a) points out that sport sociology, like sociology more generally, has tended to include a wide range of methodological and theoretical paradigms. He notes, however, that there is still little consensus between the various approaches: 'It remains a discipline with several theoretical paradigms vying for hegemony within the field' (p.121). Evidence from the recent conference of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS, Toronto, November 5-8, 1997), and the ensuing discussions on 'Sportsoc', the NASSS-led electronic discussion group, confirms Sage's point. After the conference, a journalist who had attended posted a fairly blunt personal review of the event. In essence, he criticised the organisers, presenters and delegates for ineffective presentation, incoherent academic content and intolerant debate after papers. He reserved particular venom for some of the feminist contributions. Unsurprisingly, the response from sport sociologists varied from qualified support to unqualified hostility. Some threads from the ensuing discussion are interesting in the context of 'inclusiveness'. (The full discussion is best accessed from the sportsoc listserv):

Socio of sport education

The Sociology of Sport and Physical Education: An Introductory Reader
by Anthony Laker. 240 pgs.
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