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Bourdieu (1988) Program for a Sociology of Sport

Bourdieu (1988) Program for a Sociology of Sport

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SoCioIogy of Sport Journal, 1988, 5, 153-161

Program for a Sociology of Sport
Pierre Bourdieu Collbge de France

One of the obstacles to a scientific sociology of sport is due to the fact that sociologists of sport are in a way doubly dominated, both in the world of sociologists and in the world of sport. Since it would take too long to develop this somewhat blunt proposition, I will proceed, in the manner of the prophets, by way of a parable. In a recent discussion with one of my American sociologist friends, Aaron Cicourel, I learned that the great black athletes, who, in the United States, are often enrolled in such prestigious universities as Stanford, live in a sort of golden ghetto, because right-wing people do not talk very willingly with blacks while left-wing people do not talk very willingly with athletes. If one reflects on this and develops this paradigm, one might find in it the principle of the special difficulties that the sociology of sport encounters: scorned by sociologists, it is despised by sportspersons. The logic of the social division of labor tends to reproduce itself in the division of scientific labor. Thus there are, on the one hand, those who know sport very well on a practical level but do not know how to talk about it and, on the other hand, those who know sport very poorly on a practical level and who could talk about it, but disdain doing so, or do so without rhyme or reason. In order to be able to constitute a sociology of sport, one must first realize that a particular sport cannot be analyzed independently of the totality of sporting practices; one must conceptualize the space of sporting practices as a system within which each element receives its distinctive value. In other words, to understand a sport, whatever it may be, one must locate its position in the space of sports. The latter can be constructed by using sets of indicators such as, on the one hand, the distribution of practitioners according to their position in social space, the distribution of the different federations according to their number of members, their assets, the social characteristics of their directors, etc., or, on the other hand, the type of relation to the body that each sport favors or demands, whether it involves direct contact, body-to-body struggle, as in wrestling or Ameri-

Earlier versions of this paper were presented to the 8th ICSS Symposium, Paris, and the International Conference on the Olympics and Cultural Exchange, Seoul. Originally published in Pierre Bourdieu, Choses Dites, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1987. English translation by John MacAloon and Alan D. Savage.

the importance of body-to-body fighting.. induces a rugged and direct bodily contact. the correspondence. Indeed. Everywhere golf creates distance: with regard to the nonparticipants. as in tennis. " "body-to-body . the space of the finely analyzed different modalities of the practice of different sports." "gracious" goes beyond the playing-field of sports and the antagonism between two contact sports. distanced. excludes all contact. more precisely. which is a true homology. The history of sporting practices cannot be but a structural his- . This cannot be done. as in golf. This must be done in order to avoid the errors due to directly connecting a sport and a group. one immediately grasps the preferential relationship which obtains today between wrestling and the members of the working classes or between aikido and the new petty bourgeoisie.) These are things that one understands all too quickly. such as between wrestling or soccer and workers. or of special equipment. if only because one could easily show that workers are far from being the most represented among soccer players. the determining element of the system of preferences is here the relation to the body. harmoniously arranged. the distances that exist between positions." "direct. as Jean-Paul Clement clearly shows in the case of wrestling. (In the French space of sports. If one understands so easily the opposition between wrestling and aikido. But that is not enough and can even lead to a realist and substantialist vision both of each sport and of the whole of the corresponding practitioners. Thus. even through a ball. for example. they are also the most aestheticized. and fighting on the ground is nonexistent. " "virile. which is associated with a social position and with a primeval experience of the physical and social world. inasmuch as violence is always more euphernized in them. or between judo and employees. while in aikido the contact is fleeting. where its practice takes place. stressed by the nudity of the opponents. As I tried to show in the opening address to the Seventh Congress of HISPA. insofar as one of the factors that determine them is the desire to preserve. In point of fact. as suggested by ordinary intuition. and of the relation between the two. and form and forms prevail over force and function. And the very changes of these practices themselves can only be understood in this logic. or only allows it through the mediation of a ball. that is. and preferences of a definite social category. as in fencing.154 Bourdieu can football. by the very logic of a confrontationwhich excludes all direct contact. it is quite possible that such relationships may not be observed in other national spaces of sports. as I just did. at the level of these practices. between a sport and a social position. It is in the relationship between these two spaces that the relevant properties of each sporting practice are defined. In short. by the reserved space. The work of the sociologist consists of identifying the socially pertinent properties that make for an affinity between a given sport and the interests." "light. to the degree of engagement of the body. or. and with regard to the opponents. Social distance is very easily retranslated in the logic of sports. and the space of social positions. This space of sports must then be related to the social space of which it is an expression. For reasons discussed below. This relation to the body is one inseparable from the whole relation to the world: the most distinctive practices are also those that ensure the most distanced relationship with the opponent. tastes. it is because the opposition between "earthy. or on the contrary.'' "distanced. is established between the space of sporting practices. one must be careful not to establish a direct relation. ' ' etc. and ''airy.

the tennis of small municipal clubs. the effects of which will be documented by monographs devoted to particular sports. whose nominal unity hides the fact that. which can be understood only by knowing what the structure was at a given point in time. one finds ways of playing that are as different as cross-country skiing. I mean simply that sporting consumptions-if one wants to call them such-cannot be studied independently of food consumptions. The object of the story here is the history of these transformations of the structure. of the ways of practicing it. one of the difficulties in the analysis of sporting practices resides in the fact that the nominal unity (of tennis. and downhill skiing are in their own domain. Also concealed is the fact that this dispersion increases when the growth in the number of practitioners (which can result solely from a greater incidence of practice among those categories that already practice) is accompanied by a social diversification of the practitioners. If I do not know that perturbations on Uranus are determined by Neptune. soccer) that statistics assume (including the best and the most recent ones. age. skiing. this structural framework can. more precisely. for a time. such as tennis. on the structure of the distrbution of wrestlers.) So much for the first point. remain . Such is the case with tennis. but one must not forget that this space is the site of forces that do not act on it alone. (This means that the opposition between structure and change. more or less pronounced depending on the sport. taking into account the systematic transformationsproduced. for example. When one keeps in mind the structural logic within which each of the practices is defined. such as those of the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs) conceals a dispersion. mountain touring. played in jeans and Adidas on hard surfaces. or leisure consumptions in general. under the same name. what must the concrete scientific approach be? Does the work of the researcher consist merely in delineating this space by relying. (One would also find a world of differences at the level of the style of the players. or. rugbymen..) In short. has very little in common with the tennis in white outfits and pleated skirts which was the rule some 20 years ago and still endures in select clubs. between the space of products offered at a given moment and the space of dispositions (associated with the position occupied in social space and which are likely to be expressed in other consumptions in connection to another space of supply). or occupation? In fact. the priority of priorities is the construction of the structure of the space of sporting practices. It is inserted into a universe of practices and of consumptions that are themselves structured and constituted in a system. is completely fictitious. between statics and dynamics. and one cannot understand change except on the basis of knowledge of the structure. etc. It is entirely justified to treat sporting practices as a relatively autonomous space.Program for a Sociology of Sport 155 tory. The sporting practices apt to be recorded by a statistical survey can be described as the outcome of the relation between a supply and a demand. in their relation to competition and to training. I will believe that I understand what happens on Uranus. etc. For example. Incidentally. boxers. The second point is that the space of sports is not a self-contained universe. while in reality I will only understand the effects of Neptune. for example. by the emergence of a new sport (California sports) or the popularization of an existing sport. by sex.

in short. which alone can allow us to reconcile the general and synoptic view demanded by the construction of the structure of the whole and the close. without risking losing myself in the details. limited to his own labor power. but on the basis of a construction which determines the choice of objects and of relevant features. The antagonism between the grand macrosociological vision and the microscopic view of a microsociology. The fact remains that these investigations will be radically different. judo. such as the subspace of contact sports. and to conduct. Being pressed for time. I will be able. for instance. by the way. Now here is a very general principle of method. One thus must try-at the risk of running counter to the positivist expectations which everything. even if it remains largely empty. to scrutinize.). possibly. a study of the structural effects by grasping wrestling. of their practical constructions. Rather than being content with knowing in depth a small sector of reality of which one ignores. is dissolved along with all the oppositions that take the form of "epistemological couples" (between theory and empiricism. This theoretical framework (here. At least it is clear that this provisional outline. elsewhere. and that the very empirical investigations it guides will contribute to filling it. etc. one must proceed in the manner of the academic architects who presented a charcoal sketch of the entire building in which the part elaborated in detail was situated. wl cause me to choose my objects in a different way and thus to maximize il the interest of monographs. and aikido as three points of a same subspace of forces. which is the condition of an adequate construction of the objects of specific empirical research. to the extent allowed by the aggregate statistics which are available and especially by the limits of these statistics and of the codes by which they are constructed. which seems to me to be the very condition of scientific work. to choose to study a subspace in this space. modest. being able to study only three sports. peremptory. and perhaps apparently contradictory character of what I just said. . from what they would have been in the absence of such a framework. the notion of a field of power). and precise contribution than to build grand. that is. needs to be filled in. I am aware of the somewhat abrupt. If. judo. I am using the notion of space of sports. and aikido. Nonetheless. with no funding. in their very intention. by an isolated researcher. at this level. and I have hypotheses concerning the axes around which this space is organized. I believe that I have given sufficient guidance on what can be a method aiming at establishing a dialectic between the general and the particular. or between the construction of objective structures and the depiction of the subjective representations of agents. imperfect as it may be. as Jean-Paul Clement did. superficial constructions")-to construct a summary description of the totality of the space under consideration. for want of asking it.156 Bourdieu roughly defined. as soon as one has succeeded in achieving what seems to me to be the craft par excellence of the researcher: investing a theoretical problem of far-reaching implications in an empirical object that is well constructed and controllable with the means at hand. the idea of the space of sports. idiographic view. I will be in a position to choose to maximize the profit of my scientific investments by choosing three points very dispersed in this space. even if it provides mostly caution and programmatic orientations. seems to vindicate ("better to make a small. and to film contests to measure how much time one spends lying on the ground in wrestling. Or I will be able. for example. how it is situated in the space from which it was abstracted and what its functioning might owe to this position. I will be able to measure all that can be measured.

in a 20-year interval. in the form of aset of sports likely to be practiced (or watched).are relationally and structurally determined. I keep saying again and again that structures are nothing other than the objectified product of historical struggles such as can be apprehended at a given moment in time. the program of bodily practices designated by the word "rugby" is not the same in the 1930s. notably the possibilities and especially the impossibilities that they offer for the expression of different bodily dispositions). as a dimension of the system of dispositions (habitus). through modal participants. and a space of dispositions to practice. And the world of sporting practices that the statistical survey photographs at a certain moment is only the-resultant of the relationship between a supply. the Welsh miners and the farmers. Thus. On the other hand. and. Thus Vivaldi received. the supply. which can even be officially excluded from it. as are the positions to which they correspond. in objectivity and in representations. first. that is. it has remained identical. and which are defined in the particularity of their specification." "that's for eggheads. structural properties as these are defined in relation to the totality of the other programs of sporting practices simultaneously offered. or employees of Romans. by their intrinsic." conceived as to empirical analysis. For example. with a position in the social space. at a given moment. but which are fully realized at a given moment only by taking on the properties of appropriation conferred upon them by their dominant association. produced by all previous history. the demand. I believe. in reality as in representation. a space of sporting dispositions which. etc.) and a demand. is a very general model which governs the most diverse consumption practices. a space of possible practices. inscribed in dispositions. in 1950. give or take a few rule changes). This. the differential distribution of sporting practices is the result of relating two homologous spaces. equipment. technical definition. there is a space of sports understood as program of sporting practices that are characterized. the whole set of "models" of the practices (rules. on the side of demand. and in 1980 (even though in its f o i d ." etc. Toulon. completely . there is. The supply itself. or Wziers). On the supply side. endowed with socially constituted dispositions of a in the 1930s. in the 1980s. Second. small shopkeepers. they are characterized by their relational. It is marked. by the appropriations of which it was the object and by the specifications (for instance.Program for a Sociology of Sport 157 But I must dispel the impression of objectivist realism that could be given by my adumbration-of a "st~cturalframework. At every moment this effect of social appropriation causes each of the "realities" offered under a name of sport to be objectively marked by a set of properties that are not part of the purely technical definition.). and which guide practices and choices (among other things by giving an objective foundation to of the type "that's so petty bourgeois. as it is given at a definite moment. the students of Paris University Club and of Sporting Bordeaux University Club or of Oxford and Cambridge. is already the product of a long series of relations between models of practice and dispositions to practice. the "violence") it received in the concrete "realization" performed by agents form (for example. by the present state of supply (which is instrumental in producing the need for it by providing the effective possibility of its realization) and also by the selling out of the supply at the previous stage. specialized institutions. technical properties (that is.

a sport is a bit like a piece of music: a score (a rule of play. In fact. is the stake of struggles (due to the program's objective polysemy and its partial indetermination. in the same way a sporting practice which. It is in this logic that "returns" (to Kant. a sport frequently receives two very different meanings at the same time. the dominant meaning. are continually changing meanings. by the disciples of Kant and Spinoza of the time. At any given movement. to French boxing. the right way to practice the practice offered by the objectivized program of practice in question (or. Kant. by the objectivized program of interpretation or performance). they lend themselves to a diversity of utilizations and are characterized at each moment by the dominant use that is being made of them. In fact.opposed social evaluations. rationalist. it encompasses the major interpretations given of it. going from the status of a musicologist's "rediscovery" to that of background music ("muzak") for department stores. to antique instruments. simply by their intrinsic properties.) but subject to competing interpretations (and a whole array of sedirnented past interpretations). thereby allowing for very different. More precisely. etc. against the . in its social truth. more unconsciously than consciously. who are themselves defined by their objective or subjective relation to the disciples of the preceding period and their interpretations. "intrinsic" definition. etc. which make it liable to several uses) between people who oppose one another on the true use. wrestling. In fact. You must be wondering what I'm trying to get at. implicit. as each generation of commentators reverses the interpretation of the preceding generation). when he or she proposes "his" or "her" interpretation. or judo. the objectivized program of sporting practices designated by a term such as running or swimming. the theme of finitude) to the cosmopolitan. and of the socially constituted dispositions that they import into the field. It is in reaction to this indivisible complex of a Kant appropriated by Kantians who project onto Kant their social characteristics-and not only by their interpretations of him-that Heidegger opposes a metaphysical. by unleashing the violence that was excluded from a sport by the imperative of "fair play. rests no doubt in the reaction of newcomers. in its technical.) need to be analyzed. and even Marx. Spinoza or Kant for example. just as the social meaning of a philosophical work can thus be reversed (and most of the great works. a philosophical author. a new type of sporting practice can be built with the elements of the dominant program of sporting practices which had been left in a virtual. uses. In this situation." precisely because it is defined in opposition to this dominant meaning. rugby. those of Descartes. in the case of a philosophical or musical work. as well as by the originators or advocates of other philosophies. I said that the dominant meaning can change. the proper use. and a philosophical text unquestionably define. the limits of their possible social uses. is never reduced to the intrinsic truth of his work. whose logic of distinction alone is insufficient to explain them. can also change meanings. quasi-existentialist Kant (with. can change. Even if a sport. the social meaning attached to a sporting practice by its dominant social users (numerically or socially). or even tennis. or repressed state-for example. a musical work. The mainspring of these reversals. and progressive Kant of the neoKantians. universalist. always presents a great elasticity. for example. that is. In what is offered to perception. That is what each new performer confronts. even opposed.

street theater. are sport shows such as the NFL Monday night) is progressively constituted. the old Marx). or even a style. by the effect of appropriation. of judo itself. when the space of "possible~''is very constrained (for example. 30 years ago. a field within which specific interests develop (hnked to competition. led him to the young Marx. etc. such as realism. I would have also liked to say something. from a synchronic perspective. if only cursorily. specific balances of power. for example. find an expression in different positions-takings. competitive. by forgetting that the same dispositions could. tennis) or by a philosopher's or a composer's name or by a name of a genre. in short. It seems. that the dispositions associated with the different positions in social space. even if. for example. of the constitution of this relatively autonomous field: namely. the continual expansion . seems to be directly related to the dispositions inscribed in the occupants of a definite social position (as. that the same object offered could be appropriated by agents endowed with very diverse dispositions. and thus marked by the social characteristics of these agents. always find an outlet. It can be said.Program for a Sociology of Sport 159 socially marked complex which constitutes a sport. among many others. at every moment. the young Mam vs. If. between "realism" and the dominated. but socially realized. such and such a program designated by a name of a sport (wrestling. in relation to different spaces of supply. petty bourgeois qualities-I am speaking obviously of socially appropriatedjudo-would have asked pretty much the same thing. Nor is it forbidden to think that the same person (but it would not have been the same) who finds today in aikido a way of escaping judo. minute oppositions that organize a given field at a certain time. I will limit myself to mentioning one consequence. though sometimes only in the unrecognizable form of the specific. Furthermore. such as opera. symbolism. to establish direct links between social positions and aesthetic stances. semantic elasticity is never infinite (one need only think of golf or wrestling). horsemanship. operetta. in the relation between wrestling or rugby and the dominated). etc. as an objectivized program of practice. embodied by socially marked agents. recurrent in the history of art. I believe. it is as if anybody could appropriate any program and as if any program could be appropriated by anybody. choices are not distributed randomly among the different possibilities offered. about the whole program of research implied in the idea that a field of specialists in the production of sporting goods and services (among which. structurally opposed dispositions tied to the opposed positions in this space.) In fact. a diachronic perspective can provide a different representation. It is not forbidden to think that the same dispositions that led Heidegger to a "conservative-revolutionary" form of thought could have. the relation between dispositions and stance-takings @risesde position) is very obscure because the dispositions that can directly project their structure of demands in more open. oppositions which are irnperceptible for those who do not possess the appropriate categories of perception. and in particular. in relation to another space of philosophical supply. for example. then.).. in its objectively skimpy. less codified worlds must in this case limit themselves to negative choices or last resorts. (This sound "relativism" has at least the virtue of putting us on guard against the tendency. or a philosophical work.

Very often one can only say. the evolution of professional practice depends more and more upon the logic internal to the field of the specialists. at a subconscious level without having the words to say them. There are a great many things that we understand only with our bodies. one of those areas in which the problem of the relationships between theory and practice. This has repercussions. for example. one is often. in time. when one is not a specialist in verbal explication. and with it. It is remarkable that a similar process is observed in other areas." It has often been remarked . I think that sport is. arises in a most acute form. at the stage of dance in the 19th century. understand how it can correct its movement? The problems raised by the teaching of bodily practices seem to me to comprise a number of theoretical questions of utmost importance. Some physical education teachers have tried to analyze what it means. And sporting pedagogy is perhaps that area par excellence in which to consider an issue that one generally confronts in the realm of politics: the problem of the awakening of consciousness (prise de conscience). with dance. often forgotten in theories of intelligence. "Look. the victory. I will end here since the time allotted to me has almost run out. and also between language and the body. The silence of sportspersons I evoked in my introduction is partly due to the fact that. someone's body. while the nonspecialists are relegated to the rank of a public less and less capable of the kind of appreciation that practice gives. In contradistinction to folk dancing. notably that of dance. who are reduced little by little to the role of spectators. and therefore masters of dance are led to accent technical virtuosity and to undertake a work of explication and codification. there are things one doesn't know how to say. upon the very functioning of the field of the specialists (such as the quest for victory at all costs. which is often associated with ritual functions. among other things. from body to body as one might say. the diffusion made possible by television brings in more and more spectators bereft of all practical competency and who care more about the extrinsic aspects of practice. How does one make somebody. professional dancers begin to appear who perform in salons before people who practice dance themselves and can still appreciate it as connoisseurs. through the sanction (financial or other) handed down by the audience. the progressive constitution of a relatively autonomous field reserved for professionals comes with a dispossession of lay people. practical communication. that is. then. There is a particular mode of understanding. and are learned by means of a silent. insofar as the social sciences endeavor to construct theories of actions that are for the most part generated at a subconscious level. requires possession of a specific knowledge (one must know time and step). the rise of violence).160 Bourdieu of the gap between professionals and amateurs. From then on. with professionals who perform in front of amateurs who still practice or have practiced. But. court dancing. which goes hand in hand with the development of spectator sports totally separated from ordinary sport. I began by mentioning the effects in the scientific field of the division of labor between theoreticians and practitioners. Starting in the 19th century. do as I do. which consists of understanding with one's body. which becomes show. and sport practices are among those practices in which comprehension is (essentially) corporeal. In sport matters. In both cases. there is a total separation between great dancers and spectators who do not practice dance and are limited to a passive comprehension. I will present the last point in a few seconds. in the best of cases. such as the result. for a coach or a music professor to order the body.

the army. or whether. . sometimes. the most pertinent remarks about dance come less (often) from dancers or even critics than from enlightened amateurs. asylums. and the fact that sport-as all disciplines in all total or totalitarian institutions. Bodily discipline is the instrument par excellence of al forms of "domestication. You will think that I am striding with seven-league boots. as we know since Pascal. reinforces the feeling that reinforces the gesture. The gesture. but also between master and disciple-is entirely oral and visual. that one will best manage to understand the use that most authoritarian regimes make of sports. There is a contradiction." We know. in this logic. it is because obedience consists in large part in belief. ponder the notion of discipline. Now.-is a way of obtaining from the body a form of consent that the mind could refuse. to induce or reinforce the feelings they express. political parties. but I believe that there is a link between the body and what is called in French 1'esprit de corps. By considering this understanding of the body one could possibly contribute to a theory of belief. one could try to study the effects that the introduction of the video camera has had on dance as well as on sport. that is. and belief is what the body (corps) concedes even when the mind (l'espn't) says no. etc. (One could. It would be necessary to analyze along those lines the dialectical relationship that unites bodily postures and the corresponding feelings. mimetic. that I feel very strongly. the methodological manipulation of the body. owing to the limits imposed on my speech by time constraints. or better. which help to somatize the social by symbolizing it. It would have been necessary for me to be able to take a very precise example and to analyze it thoroughly.) Following this approach. it is the theoretically and scientifically correct words that make the body understand best. such as convents. And as Edwin Denby noted about ThCophile Gautier or MallarmC. words that have nothing to do with the adequate description of what one wants to communicate are not better understood by the body. and whether. for l example. how the Jesuits used dance in their pedagogy. according to the paradox of the actor or dancer. industrial firms. This explains the place that all seemingly totalitarian regimes grant to collective corporeal practices.Program for a Sociology of Sport 161 that the books written by great dancers convey almost nothing of that which made the "genius" of their authors. when one speaks to the body with words. you may be under the impression that I have propounded grand theoretical perspectives while my intention was completely the opposite. between what I want to say and the conditions in which I am saying it. which makes it possible to distinguish clearly between score and performance. m e Soldier's Story reminds us of the old popular tradition for which to make someone dance is to possess him. political parties. One question would be to find out whether it is necessaiy to use words in order to make the body understand certain things. This is readily understood when one realizes that dance is the only performing art in which communication-between dancers and public. That is because of the absence of any objectification in adequate written form. etc. for to assume certain positions or postures is.) It is perhaps by considering what is most specific in sport. "Spiritual exercises" are bodily exercises and a good many modern training practices are a form of secular asceticism.-put such a great emphasis on bodily disciplines. the dance with the dancer. (The absence of the equivalent of the score. If most organizations-the Church. prisons. and aim at reinforcing social orchestration through its bodily and collective mimesis. leads to identifying the work with its performance.

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