The Uses of Sport: A Critical Study

By John Hughson; David Inglis et al. | Go to book overview

4

SPORT AND POPULAR CULTURE

We concluded the previous chapter with a discussion of Robert Putnam's interpretation of 'social capital' in relation to sport. We commence this chapter with further consideration of Putnam, looking more into the cultural implications for sport that appear in Bowling Alone (2000). In the previous chapter we were interested chiefly in developing a position on sport and public life via an engagement with American social commentators, including Putnam. In this chapter we are interested in further developing our understanding of the cultural status of sport, more specifically how we might discursively locate sport within popular culture. We noted early on in the last chapter that the notion of democracy underlies the debate about culture within American intellectualism. This applies very much to Putnam, whose negative prognostications on cultural life in the United States are explicitly related to a decline in civic engagement and political interest. For Putnam a healthy democratic polity depends on people being actively involved in public affairs, not only taking an interest in politics but pursuing active involvement in community matters at the local level, in one way or another. This might involve a formal community engagement with sport as a participant or in an organisational capacity. For Putnam, then, the political merges into the cultural and the activity of people is vital for both political and cultural life.


Sport, popular culture and democracy

Putnam's democratic approach to cultural life places him at odds with the cultural elitist strain of cultural commentary - in the United States and elsewhere - that feared the extension of a democratic spirit into the cultural realm. There is no pejorative reference in Putnam to mass culture. His grassroots approach to cultural engagement militates against such characterisation. However, upon inspection, Putnam does ironically have something in common with mass culture critics. The position of mass culture critics is ultimately a paradox. They fear the intrusion of the so-called masses into the cultural domain on the grounds that they believe the masses to be incapable of coming to decisions based on cultural discernment. The masses are believed

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The Uses of Sport: A Critical Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Sport, Culture and Civilisation 8
  • 2 - Sport, Community and the Common Culture 30
  • 3 - Sport, Public Culture and Community 51
  • 4 - Sport and Popular Culture 72
  • 5 - Sport, Postmodernism and Culture 94
  • 6 - Sport, Power and the Material Relations of Culture 116
  • 7 - Sport, Culture and Embodied Experience 138
  • 8 - Sport, Culturalism and Ethnography 159
  • Conclusion 179
  • Bibliography 188
  • Index 203
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