Marxist and Neo-Marxist Approaches on Sport

Authored by: Ian McDonald

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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Speaking at the funeral of Karl Marx in 1883, his lifelong friend and collaborator, Friedrich Engels, declared, ‘Marx was before all else a revolutionist’ (cited in Foot 2004: 14). Theory was, for Marx, a means to understand the social world as a necessary step to transforming the same. ‘One cannot accept Marx’s scientific theory’, asserted sport sociologists Jarvie and Maguire, ‘and reject his revolutionary politics’ (1994: 110). Marx’s life work – the materialist conception of history and the studies of capital – is dedicated to one goal: to do away with the exploitation, suffering and violence that are built into the capitalist system. As Engels continued in his funeral speech, ‘[Marx’s] real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat’ (cited in Foot 2004: 14). The essence of Marxism is rooted in the unity of theory and practice of the proletarian (or workers) revolution. In this sense, the peculiarity of Marxism is that it is both an analysis of ‘the laws of motion’ of the capitalist system as well as a political programme for overthrowing that system. The scientific and the philosophic, on the one hand, and the interventionist politics, on the other, are distinct but necessary elements of the Marxist totality. This is suggested by Gramsci’s phrase ‘the philosophy of practice’ and stated without any ambiguity in the attack on the idealism of the young Hegelians in the oft-quoted 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: the point is to change it’ (Marx 1984: 423).

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