Using examples from the world of sport, illustrate the main principles of a sociological approach? Essay

Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies… The scope of sociology is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in the street up to the investigation of world-wide social processes (Anthony Giddens “Sociology”, 1989)[1] - Using examples from the world of sport, illustrate the main principles of a sociological approach? Essay introduction. A sociological approach is one that investigates into society to record the changes and differences at an individual level but at also the larger structural level assessing norms, values and how the social environment influences individuals.

The sociological approach can be well explained through sporting examples as there is a clear link as sport reflects the society it is played in, “Sport is all around us. Yet few of us look critically at how it affects our lives and even fewer look at how we as a society affect sport. ” [2](Ronald. B. Woods, 2007) The relationship between a sociological perspective and sport in society is that way in which it intensifies and overstates contemporary issues in our society today such as gender, racism and class.

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In this essay I will focus upon the how the main principles can be illustrated upon social class, its influence on sport in line with the sociological approach and the views of the Marxist perspective, the working classes are exploited by the higher classes, and Functionalist perspective, a functional prerequisite where scarce resources are allocated making room for social mobility[3] (D. Malcolm 2010). Social class refers to the hierarchal distinctions between individuals or groups in society, these distinctions are based on “a combination of income, wealth, education, occupation, and social connections[4] (Coakley, 2009).

Sport arose out of class conflict and conflicts within classes. The greatest example is that between the amateurs and professionals, the two tiered system amateurs and professionals, in early British sport, a good example disproving the functionalist view that scarce resources would be allocated fairly. The middle and upper class men who dominated the sporting establishment not only had a theoretical preference for amateurism; they also had self-interest in blocking the professionalisation of sport, which threatened to make it feasible for the working classes to compete against themselves with success.

Working class sportsmen didn’t see why they shouldn’t be paid to play as they were taking time out of work to participate. Hence there were competing interests between those who wished sport to be open to all and those who feared that professionalism would destroy the ‘Corinthian spirit’ showing a lack of social mobility in sport. The best example can be seen in the total split of rugby to league and union in the 1800’s with professionals in the northern version of the game and union in the south predominantly remaining amateur for many more years as a game for the higher classes, a weakness in the functionalist argument.

Golf in Scotland and Rugby union in Wales however are clear exceptions to class segregation sharing the Functionalist view of social mobility and fair spread of scarce resources. In the Marxist view the wealthier and more educated members of society , Bourgeoisie, participate in sports, and attend and watch games whereas the lower socially classed individuals, Proletariat, are less involved as they cannot afford the time off work; wealthy classes want to show their wealth and power by flaunting availability of leisure time and consumption of sports[5] (Veblen, 1899).

High-income groups have more time to participate in leisure activities such as swimming, golfing, and going to the gym than low-income groups, “Social class and class relations influence who plays, who watches, who consumes information about sports, and what information is available to the mainstream media”[6] (Coakley, 2009). Those with higher income also have better exercise/leisure facilities due to the fact they have the money to pay for such services.

Social class plays a vital role in sports. It influences who can participate in what sports and to what level of participation. The limiting factor associated with social class is money in a Marxist view and also in a Functionalist view. Money is the means which to obtain the equipment and facilities necessary to partake in the sport without money one cannot perform organised sports. The people who are being affected the most are minorities, because they lack sufficient funds for participation.

This and not genetics could be the reason why black minorities are less commonly seen in expensive sports such as Polo in the and hockey, and are more commonly seen in easily accessible sports such as football and basketball in the US, where there is a basketball court at the majority of local playgrounds. This is a good reason as to perhaps why the NBA is mostly composed of black people and sports like cricket and rugby are mostly white dominated.

Perhaps it has nothing to do with genetics, but what sports you have access to growing up, race and class would also influence. One study has shown that Olympic athletes and officials have higher social class backgrounds and figures show that those in the socio-economic group’s professional to intermediate/junior non manual , Bourgeoisie, are the highest consumers of sport with 56% average compared to 35. 5% in the manual labour classes , Proletariat[7] (D.

Malcolm 2010). However some have risen up to be some of the best athletes in the world such as Michael Jordan and Lewis Hamilton, so how much of an influence is social class alone in affecting sports participation that greatly. This is a key criticism of both the Functionalist and the Marxist view, showing maybe money isn’t the only factor and we should consider individuals being active in generating their own identity and social status.

Social class and media are connected in that the media represents how it wishes to present the certain classes. In movies, the extremely wealthy people play Polo, the middle class people play organized sports such as football or cricket, and the lower class people play unorganized sports at the local playground or park, football. These representations portray the idea that is how their social class should act and which sports they should partake in, Max Webber was quoted “humans live in webs of meaning they themselves have spun”. 8] (Sage 1990) If they feel they belong in one type of sport, they may not desire to move to a different sport where they may be able to excel further in this is known as false consciousness in Marxist theory where the masses will be deceived into what is deemed acceptable and not. Moving to a higher level of game play can be impossible depending on your social class. Some higher education athletes may have to give up their passion for sports in order to obtain a job and earn money for their family so they can help provide food or buy clothes.

Many students either have to give up sports because they have to get a job to pay for their tuition or do not have the resources available to even make it to higher education and higher levels of the game, thus ending their careers. When looking back at it, social class and its ability to limit participation are highly positively correlated. If one does not have the means necessary to participate in the sport they desire due to the limiting affects of social class, then their sports career is simply over in line with the Marxist view.

However, some minorities have made it over that wall and moved on to college and professional careers showing that money is not everything and with enough talent and motivation athletes can get to the top no matter the circumstances. There are clear criticisms in both conflict theory and functionalist theory over the influence of social class as we cannot simply be explained by reference to money. Individuals will be proactive in deciding their own social identities and groups using sport as a tool to develop distinctions between themselves and others to form a society.

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