Sport and Violence:
A 'De-Civilizing Spurt'?
As we shall see, Elias and his colleagues have made a strong case for an historical 'civilizing process' in the occident, not least in relation to sport. Paradoxically, the robust accusations of violence levelled against sports people and, especially, spectators in the high modernity of disorganized capitalism might be interpreted as evidence for rather than against Elias' thesis: do such accusations not, after all, speak of acute sensitivity and concern? Yet there remains much more to be said about both the persistence and the contemporary nature of linkages between sport and violence. The representation and mediation of sporting violence have attracted attention of late, far less so, Elias and his progeny apart, its social structural substrates. Violence is not merely a property of the hyperreal. Sociological explanations of violence in and around sporting events, and often too its representation and mediation, need to be anchored in social structures.
This chapter starts with a few reflections on the influential figurational analysis of sport and violence in general, and of rugby in particular. This is followed by a wider assessment of the phenomenon of football hooliganism that draws on a range of empirical studies. This assessment points not so much to the inadequacy of the figurational perspective per se as to its weight-bearing limits. For the figurationalists it seems as if football hooliganism – in all its multifarious forms – comprises a single figuration that can be explained sociologically with reference to a single logic and its single concomitant set of relations. In fact, football hooliganism, like all social phenomena, can occur across a variety of figurations and can be revisited and re-analysed with benefit according to different logics and relations.
The third section draws mostly on the logic of honour and its relations of status and, in disorganized capitalism, celebrity, to consider and account for how perpetrators of sporting and spectator violence (villains) have been recast – and recommodified – as celebrities (heroes). In the fourth section