History, Sociology and Critical Sport Studies

Authored by: Douglas Booth , Mark Falcous

Routledge Handbook of the Sociology of Sport

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415829731
eBook ISBN: 9780203404065
Adobe ISBN: 9781134116621


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Scholarly interest in the study of sport as a social phenomenon gained momentum in the 1960s with the institutionalization of various subdisciplines – notably sport history, sport philosophy, sport psychology and sport sociology – following soon thereafter. Whilst each field of study generally comprises broad churches of philosophies, methods and theories, clearly defined critical streams concerned with social justice, relations of power, social conflict and social change gained impetus in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In this chapter we discuss the emergence, development and influence of these critical streams, to which we both subscribe, in sport history and sport sociology. Notwithstanding the fact that the critical streams of sport history and sport sociology share common political and ideological ground, we maintain that the traditional disciplinary foci of empirical evidence (history) and theory (sociology) and associated differences in methodological traditions constrain closer subdisciplinary connections. Moreover, we suggest that the recent intellectual turn toward postmodernism and scepticism of realist epistemologies compounds divides between the two subdisciplines. Although anti-essentialism remains a minority position in sport history, largely articulated through a small postmodern historiographical stream, it occupies a conspicuous, albeit contested, position in sport sociology. Thus, we are of the view that closer relationships between the two subdisciplines will remain limited in the foreseeable future.

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