READING GUIDE TO SELECTIONS FROM: Hargreaves, Jennifer (ed ) (1982)  Sport Culture and Ideology, London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul

I picked these selections because they offer some interesting insights into the problems of developing a critical Sociology of sport.

Chapter One. Hargreaves Jennifer  'Theorising Sport: an introduction'

The theoretical treatment of sport has been confined largely to physical education, rather than discussions of theories of society, which are often implicit. Sport has had a low-status, with emphasis on its conservative functions. Studies have been positivist, backed by medical and therapeutic functions, while sports science has largely been quantitative, and has signed devised existing assumptions  (and for example that there is a competitive sports ideology, or that hazards like injury or drug-taking are integral to sport). There has been an empiricist tradition, which has been descriptive, atheoretical, and not self-critical. Sport has been seen as a cultural universal -- so that sporting nationalism is seen to be the same in Britain and the USSR. These views have been little challenged even by new influences on sport -- such as the 'movement of creativity and individualism in the 1950s, associated with women's work' (page 3) -- or by the needs to increase the status of physical education as a school subject in the late 1960s. More recent reorganisations have provided new emphases though, such as the growth in academic status of sports studies. The interest in sport in terms of recreation rather than education, has led to connections with the  'problems of leisure' rather than the formerly  narrow focus from teacher education. 

The new sports studies courses do have accounts of social context, although they are mostly American, and therefore functionalist. A critical, Marxist sociology of sport is still in its infancy. Sociology still tends to be added to sport, and it is still mainstream Sociology: the problems of sports professionals still dominate the agenda. 

Cultural Studies is exerting a new influence, and sport is now included as a topic of study, but still an option one. Cultural Studies is still the best source for theory, however, with its  'free-floating intellectuals' [organic intellectuals?] and its multi-disciplinary nature. 

Cultural Studies originates in post-War experience, the growth of mass culture, the recognition of culturalist inferences, and the emergence of popular works like those of the E P Thompson. However there was a danger that sports became part of a traditional lost way of life. Although there was much mileage in this view, and in 'culture industry' approaches, there was excessive pessimism. The classic work, Hoggart's and Williams's, tended to emphasise literature rather than sport, although the latter was much more central. 

Structuralist or semiotic approaches are also important, including the work of Althusser, who does mention sport as a cultural apparatus  (page 9). This work helps us understand ideologies of  'individual competitiveness, chauvinism, nationalism and sexism', although it ignores oppositional sporting ideologies -- e.g. in Amateur Athletics. Semiological work is less well developed, although there is a discussion of sport by Barthes in Mythologies and a piece by Bouet about the Olympics (in the International Review of Sport Sociology 1977, volume 3 No. 12). Although semiological techniques are useful, there is a problem connecting ideology in Barthes's sense to ideology in a class sense, as in Williams, and there is a need for a general reworking, for example to consider the ahistorical and anti-humanist bits of the former or, and how they fit the complex and contradictory elements found in the latter. Similarly, the abstract notion of  'relative autonomy' needs to be detailed against real contradictions. However, these approaches are useful in opposing individualistic notions of creativity and so on. 

Bourdieu's approach is different again. His work on the sociology of culture is little known, although it is more concrete and historically specific. Bourdieu has written more extensively about sport, arguing that it has a specific history, a relative autonomy, and is 'homologous' to social and economic relations of production, which its 'invariably' reproduces. This works through the notion of  'habitus' --  'that which generates a lifestyle', a regulating mechanism, a logic  'derived from a set of material conditions of existence to regulate the practice of a set of individuals in common response to those conditions' [these quotes are from Hargreaves, but they refer to a piece on Bourdieu by Garnham N and Williams R in  Media Culture and Society 1980,  volume 2, number 3]. Apparently, the importance of class habitus depends on upon type and distribution of cultural capital. These combinations produce collective tastes -- for example, the middle classes regards the body as an end in itself, for reasons of appearance and health, and see sport as a site of struggles over her definition of a legitimate use of the body, with undertones of power and morality. There are differences among class fractions too -- between the amateur, aristocrats or gentleman and the intellectuals, for example. Economic relations lie behind the emergence of sport as a spectacle, which can have a  'decisive political effect', and behind the division between experts all professionals and laymen or fans. Sport is also an industry, and a 'surrogate channel for upward mobility'  (page 13). There are still problems with Bourdieu's work, of course, including its tendency towards 'eternality'. 

Gramsci's work can also be applied to sport. Hegemony appears as a set of practices affecting the commonsense judgments of people. This is especially important for sport, and should enable us to examine these matters empirically  (page 15)  [I think Hargreaves means so we can intervene in specific struggles]. Gramscian approaches need to be developed into a proper analytical study, as they have been in media studies. 

Overall, sport is difficult to analyse. There are many aspects to it, and it offers contradictions -- for example, contradictory experience for the performer and the watcher.  [these contradictions are then equated with contradictions in the concept of the 'popular'  in Hall!]. Sport is immediate, and transient. It is still idealised, and in common sense it is believed to be accessible universally in some way, taken for granted. It is about bodies rather than minds, so theories of consciousness, selfhood, and culture seem not to apply. This is too dualistic for Hargreaves, since  'mentalities and subjectivities are expressed in every sphere of existence'. Sports studies have are traditionally low academic status, one reason for the Conference on which this book is based. The rest of the book goes on to focus on a 'sport/culture/ideology nexus'.  

Chapter 2 Hargreaves, John  'Sport, Culture, Ideology'

There has been a neglect of the study of sport in Sociology, despite some exceptions  [and note three on page 54 gives a list] -- for example there is nothing on sport in the Affluent Worker studies, or in the classics of cultural studies or of leisure. More recent material in the 1970s  [listed on page 55, note seven]  led to meagre results only, to isolated and incoherent studies. The field has been left to  'deeply entrenched common-sense', cultural elitism, notions of sport as necessarily anti-intellectual but good for you, no real core of analytical problems, and therefore no career as an analyst  [!]  (page 33). 

Yet sport is connected to the social order, and offers an idealised version of it. Indeed analysis is sometimes seen as an attack on a sacred sphere. Everyone loves sport, and sees it as full of desirable attributes, and can resent the intrusion of big business, bureaucracy, or spectator violence. The relation between sport and power is particularly ignored, although there are a range of approaches in sociology and in marxism to illuminate it. 

Functionalist approaches are the most popular and dominant, and often implicit in empirical studies: they are often Parsonian or social - psychological. In this approach, culture is seen as adaptive, while any contradictions arise from social strain. Sport, therefore, integrates and socialise individuals, helps form stable identities, channels aggression, and serves to unify or integrate schools or communities. A particular feature is that sport is rule-bound and organised, so that progressively extending opportunities to the public necessarily involves them in organisations. In this way, sport provides for the cultural needs of consumers. This is uncritical in terms of the contemporary form of society, and it leads to seeing contradictions as mere deviance to be prevented  [Hargreaves is thinking of soccer hooliganism here]. These approaches have given serious attention to sport, and have led to studies of conflict, but they are inadequate to analyse power, especially  'class power'and its relation to hegemony. 

For example, advanced capitalism leads to a 'concerted attack' on a working-class way of life -- to domestication, towards respectability for working-class festivals, and to a later politicisation of sport  [the example here is the Olympics and professionalisation]. There has been an imposition from above: definite organised interests define  'social needs'. 

There are interactionist approaches. For example, Goffman has analysed gambling as a matter of identity creation, while Marsh et al, in The Rules of Disorder, see spectator violence as a  'ritualised battle over territory'. This approach does recognise variety, and differences between cultures,, and attempts to show, for example, that crowd behaviour need not necessarily be completely 'irrational', that even violence is rule-bound, and none that events can be amplified by excessive policing. But why should there be aggression at all?  Here, there is a reliance on ethology, on a notion of violence as natural in society. There is no analysis of this society, or its politics, and even an advocacy a ritual rather than social change  [Hargreaves refers to the Radical Criminology approach here]. In this way, interactionism slides into weak functionalism (as in Gouldner's attack on Goffman). 

What of Marxist approaches? Critical Theory was an early influence, leading to a number of studies  [listed in note 41 page 59, and including the work of Hoch Rip-Off the Big Game]. In this approach, sport trains a docile workforce, enhances work discipline, and replicates all the features of advanced monopoly capitalism, such as specialization, standardization, bureaucracy, quantification, and therefore alienation. Sport is thoroughly commercialised, dominated by the market, sport is a commodity. Sport is also the home of  'quintessential ideology'-- egoistic aggressive competitive individualism, based on a myth of equality of opportunity, while concealing real inequalities of class, power, gender and  'race'. The State is complicit, even in state socialist societies. However, for Hargreaves, sport is also associated with political radicalism, and it is very popular, so it cannot alienate [sic!  page 42]. If this ideology is so pervasive, how do the critics escape it? The whole analysis is over-deterministic and totally incorporative. In reality, sport offers an  'arena of under easy accommodation and conflict' [Hargreaves wishes it were? He knows it is? He hopes it is?]. Critical Theory ignores important differences in and between sports; it is too static and ahistorical -- for example there are differences between state socialist and bourgeois societies. These faults may not be attributable to Critical Theory as such, but arise from unsophisticated attempts to apply it  (page 44). 

There are also structuralist Marxist approaches, and the work of marginals like Barthes and Bourdieu. There is also Althusser and his essay on ideology: sport is an ISA, and it serves to r take eproduce social formation, and to interpellate individuals. This approach too is very general, seeing all culture as ideological. The attempt to split ideology from science leads only to elitism. There is a wide gap in practice, for example in the education system  open [with all those resisting teachers?]. There is no explanation of conflict, therefore Althusser is a functionalist. Further, it is wrong to see all social institutions as ISAs. The old division between the State and civil society is still important, for example there are frequent conflicts between the State and the private sector in Britain, and other areas of resistance and hegemony. It does make a difference if sport is located in the private sector  [there is a reference here to the debate between Poulantzas and Miliband on the nature of the State]. The best studies are found in CCCS work -- Critcher, in Clarke et al 1979, and Clarke in Ingham et al 1978. 

In conclusion, cultural practices are real and vital in factors in reproduction , as in Williams. All practices have a part to play in the maintenance of hegemony. But culture is both constituted and constitutive -- because it has a historical tradition. We must not deny the effectivity of a mode of production, for example in restricting proletarian access to higher education  (page 48), but we must resist economic determinism. Another danger lies in seeing culture as standing for everything in a way of life, for society itself. We should not be too quick to draw boundaries, but we should focus on processes with interwoven and contingent relationships (economic, political and so on): we need to examine the economic level to grasp the issue of resources, the political level for the mobilisation of opposed interests, and the cultural level for a  'habits, customs, pastimes, rituals, style of life and achieved states of knowing and learning' (page 49). Sports operate with all three. We need to maintain these distinctions analytically, and use the term  'society' to mean  'totality' [we 'need' to to do this for pragmatic reasons? Political reasons?]. 

We need a suitable theory of ideology that will not collapse into culture, but focus on a specific type of representation, embedded in hegemonic social relations, one which conceals the interests of specific groups and classes, and contradictions. Not all culture is ideological, not all incorrect views are ideological: in particular, there are both ideological and non-ideological bits in sports. Ideology is not an illusion, there is always a rational kernel, a genuinely popular element, as with involvement in sport. Both sport and popular culture are central were concerned, but we need work on the specifics, as in film or theatre. For example we need to analyse the role of rituals and drama. We need historical analysis, tracing the related major phases of sport with industrial development -- so that sport was repressed first then reconstructed, then massified. We need to keep open the dialectic, the tension-filled reciprocal action of groups and classes -- for example, football was incorporated into capitalism, but was then recolonized by the proletariat, or, in another example, the rationalisation of sport is self-defeating because it leads to predictability, and then to new searches for spectacle or excitement, or competitiveness, rule-breaking. In this way sport can come to lack credibility, and appear transparently as a symbol of dominant values and norms. 

It is clear that an adequate theory of sport should operate to unite these scattered studies. One example might be to focus on the role of capital, via studies of one club, as Korr (1978) does for West Ham. We might examine particular the role of types of capital and how they gain influence. Another example might be to look at how the media handle sport, to draw parallels with other studies of news and so on. Finally, we might look at the role of State involvement -- for example the Sports Council, the role of the physical education profession and of women's PE especially, or the role of youth organisations who traditionally de-emphasise social class in sport. We might ask whether this policy works, we might extended to include  'race'.


Clarke J et al  (eds)  (1979)  Working Class Culture  London:  Hutchnson
Ingham R et al  (eds)  (1978)  Football Hooliganism  London:  Interaction in Print 
Korr C  (1978)  'West Ham United, and the beginnings of professional football in East London  1895 - 1914' Journal of Contemporary History, volume 13. 

Chapter Six Robins D  'Sport and Youth Culture'

Sport is packaged as an entertainment for youth, but there are also chances for genuine participation in it: it is seen as a ritual, as traditional, non-competitive, and people are able to participate to resist regimentation, and out of loyalty to the game. There is thus some relative autonomy, and aspects of tradition which are never assimilated this is seen best in the four popular sports -- motor sports  (speedway and road racing), boxing and football. 

Motor sports attracted misplaced upper-class people too, such as T E Lawrence, or King George the 6th, who was a speedway fan. This is also clear from studies of modern bikers, whom Willis describes as  'disaffected rebellious youth without a cause': respectable working-class youth often patronised motorsport. 

Speedway was the second largest spectator sport, especially in the summer. The bikes did not seem to be the interest -- they were all the same -- but the emphasis was on rider skill, and individual excellence  (although there were leagues). It required  'bottle' and dexterity to master both machine and opposition. There were fans, chants, yet no fighting, apart from a notorious period in the 1950s. The arena was never central for any fan fighting, unlike the connection between skinheads and football. Speedway was always and still is a family sport. It is uncommercialised, and attracts little media attention, enabling it to lead a  'peaceful co-existence' with the surrounding society. 

Grand Prix bike meetings attracted their supporters who would both attend and camp out, producing an atmosphere like a rock festival. The events are very commercial, and there is a strong emphasis on the machines. There is fantasy involvement for both riders and manufacturers, since road bikes and race bikes are made by the same people. There is often a lot of technically sophisticated talk about bikes, but violence is rare. The sport has a co-operative, grass roots base at the local level, although there are lots of trade connections. Like Willis, Robins sees technical tinkering as  'mastery over the means of production' and suggests that the distinction between producer and consumer is being broken down by developments like the Triumph Co-operative (page 141 )  [a rather short-lived venture in fact]. Road-racing is respectable, but still hyper-sexist, even where there are female riders. There are no 'Wild Ones'-type profane cultures any more, as was the case in the 1960s. Now, the sport features working-class yuppies such as Barry Sheene. The main social cost is still a large total of deaths and injuries, rather than delinquency on the streets. 

Boxing features working-class participation, but upper-class patronage. It takes place in small halls, at the grassroots level, and often involves proletarians and immigrants. Such divisions and unities are often used in matchmaking. Support for such  boxing broke up with the decline of the working-class community  (page 144). There are now professional fighters who box at dining clubs for gentleman (and bookies and car-dealers), and boxing is a mass spectator sport too thanks to television. There may have been a recent revival, given juvenile unemployment and a renewed interest among black people. However boxing has always featured  'fighting technique rather than social control' (page 145)  [as a means of regulation? Or incorporation? Robins does not explain it]. 

Support for football should not be seen as proletarian solidarity nor as resistance to embourgeoisment. It has always been partly  'accommodative', but there is a residual  'public proletarian realm'. This is because proletarian fans are denied any other social existence -- except for conservative and subcultural options. Old working-class neighbourhoods have been broken, and fans shifted to suburbia, where there are  'no natural mass meeting places' (page 146). The young often return to the city centres to meet [NB, in those days, football grounds were located in city centres]. Attendance at football is only a  'magical solution', though, since clubs are not owned by fans. The  'ends' , indeed, are disowned by clubs, so that fans lead a kind of underlife, beyond official control, fighting out of the sight of officials and police. This helps us confirm the source of violence in new estates rather than in the old communities and neighbourhoods.