Power and Global Sport: Zones of Prestige, Emulation and Resistance

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Get my own profile Cited by View all All Since Citations h-index 47 28 iindex Professor of Sociology of Sport, Loughborough University. Articles Cited by. International Review for the Sociology of Sport 33 1 , , International review for the sociology of sport 34 1 , , Journal of Sport and Social Issues 20 3 , , Journal of Sport and Social Issues 24 1 , , Journal of sport and social issues 28 4 , , Articles 1—20 Show more. Help Privacy Terms. Power and global sport: Zones of prestige, emulation and resistance JA Maguire Sport in Society 14 , , Related Information.

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Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? Enter your email address below and we will send you your username. Forgot your password? Debunking western-based world-views has thus proved a powerful corrective in making sense of the longer-term and contemporary aspects of globalisation. Yet such an approach also brings with it certain conceptual blind spots. Examination of sportisation processes, for example, can provide a powerful paradigmatic study of broader global phenomena. In addition, an examination of the forms, dimensions, and contexts of inter-civilisational encounters is required.

Power and global sport: zones of prestige, emulation and resistance

The term civilisation can be understood both in a singular and a plural sense. It is possible to equate the term solely with modernity, and to link it with the emergence of a globalised techno-scientific civilisation. The products of techno-scientific civilisation can also be embraced, while the products and ideas of specific cultures can be resisted or rejected. Considered in this light, global civilisation has no fixed territoriality. Such an approach fruitfully alerts us to the globalised nature of techno-science.

In addition, its very spread enables us to grasp the dynamics at work. World music along with dance may have the potentiality for people to embrace global and local forms, but the diversity of musical forms, as with ludic culture more generally, is also under threat. Such sentiments return us to questions that show that the primary effect of globalisation is to extend, or contract, emotional identification between the members of different societies.

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Considered in this light, the task for studies of global sport should include an assessment of whether sport assists in the building of friendship between people and nations, and in so doing and as part of broader global civilising processes such studies should generate some degree of emotional identification between members of different societies and civilisations. Global sport may well also fuel decivilising counter thrusts. The world problem of football hooliganism provides a good example. Another example would include how and in what ways brutal body contact sports such as American football, ice hockey and different codes of rugby are played and reported.

One of the tasks in examining global sport is to gauge its effects in a detailed cross-cultural fashion — exploring established and outsider groups and nations in the global civilisational hierarchy. That task remains to be done. Then again, perhaps world music and dance have a greater potentiality to sow the seeds for more intense global identifications?

They are not, that is to say, concerned with competition at their roots. Stress also needs to be placed on the plurality of civilisations, noting the nature and extent of their interdependence, while also establishing their distinctive and formative features. Understood in this way, civilisations are total phenomena: they entail economics, politics, and culture, which in various combinational syntheses move civilisations and their contacts with others in different directions.

The study of these civilising processes, at local, national, and global levels facilitates the generation and testing of hypotheses regarding comparative and historical aspects of human development. The study of play, games and sports provides a context in which work of this kind could be undertaken Galtung ; Huizinga Before considering the dynamics, nodal points, and power relations of these inter-civilisational exchanges, it remains necessary to map out the internal structures of civilisations.

In ideal-typical terms, Arnason identifies several civilisational blocs: Chinese, East Asian, Indian, Islamic, Byzantine and Western Christian; however, this does not exhaust the possible range. The cultural codes of these civilisations have both overlapping features as well as distinctive elements. Arnason is less concerned with the specifics, and focuses more on providing a provisional model of the common properties of civilisations.

Participants in different civilisations, then, have distinctive cultural orientations and interpretations of the world.

In addition to such cultural codes, the institutional constellations of civilisations — the frameworks of political and economic life — need examination. Civilisations also express representative ideologies in texts, and in the embodied strategies and self-images of elites. The study of play, games, and sports can highlight these embodied strategies — the high status habitus of British gentlemen was clearly evident in their games and pastimes played on the fields of empire.


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Studies of the diffusion to and differential adoption of polo and rugby union in places like Argentina and Japan provide important clues to the processes at work and, in some instances, highlight countervailing trends at work. Civilisational complexes can encompass whole families of societies Arnason Such complexes clearly have long-term temporal dimensions, stretching across successive generations and societal formations.

It would be wrong, however, to think that the application of this approach is confined to the study of long-term processes. Contemporary globalisation and inter-civilisational relations can be understood in the same terms. It is also important to note that, within these overall complexes, regional figurations arise and relatively distinctive patterns, and countervailing tendencies have and do emerge.

Though the British had an empire on which the sun was said never to set, its various outposts were forging quite distinct cultural codes, institutional arrangements, and ideologies. The developments in Australian and Indian sporting cultures are examples of these dynamics at work. While these features help in understanding the internal structures of civilisations, it is also necessary to highlight the characteristics of what has been termed the civilisation of modernity and the modernity of civilisations Tiryakian, Eisenstadt , for example, detects several characteristics, including: the use of advanced technologies that compress distance and alleviate traditional diseases of humankind; the expression of a wide variety of lifestyles and patterns of individuation; decentred zones of prestige; and extensive contacts and interactions, virtual and physical, that occur between and within regions.

While it is not clear what values underpin this global civilisation of modernity, it is no longer the exclusive domain of the west, or even of westerners experiencing the civilisation of the other. Despite this, the west may still be said to have triumphed because so much — but not all — of its civilisation moved beyond its British, European or Western homelands and became established as an integral part of the civilisation of modernity.

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Power and Global Sport

Though the Beijing Olympics witnessed the triumph of China, their success occurred in a context of modern Western sports. Examination of the internal structures of civilisations provides a necessary but not sufficient analysis of global civilisational processes. This must be interwoven with the study of inter-civilisational encounters. Unidirectional, mono-causal explanations, focusing on the role of capital or Americanisation, do not do full justice to the heterogeneity of these inter-civilisational encounters.

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In making sense of encounters of this kind, as with global consumer culture more generally, the analysis has to deal with questions of production and consumption. The relative hegemony of the West has ensured that the production of its civilisational wares have globalised over the past two centuries and more. As a result of the colonisation strategies of the established designed to impose their culture or co-opt that of the other , and the emulation and imitation of actions by outsiders seeking to close the status gap , there has been a tendency towards civilisations overlapping.

That is, the contrasts between them have become more muted.

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Such processes are at work between western and non-Western civilisations; they are also present in relations between outsider civilisations. Inter-civilisational encounters are multi-dimensional; a global mosaic of power struggles, within and between established-outsider groups, at local, regional and global levels is at work. These crossovers and fusions involve the co-adoption of similar skills and techniques, the development of ever-denser communication networks, and structures of consciousness, at practical and discursive levels Arnason, The diffusion of western ludic body culture and the sporting habitus can be understood in such terms.


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This diminishing of contrasts is only one side of the coin. There has also occurred an increase in the varieties of identities, styles, products and practices. Such a process is again underpinned by a complex power geometry involving established-outsider relations. That is, the representatives of more powerful civilisations wish not only to colonise other cultures, but also ensure that their own styles and practices are distinctive enough to reaffirm their group charisma and sense of civilised high status and taste.

Power struggles within established groups also prompt the incorporation of aspects of other cultures and civilisations into the established civilisational form. By contrast, the representatives of less powerful civilisations seek to resist colonisation and the civilisational assumptions, styles and practices of others. In doing so, they, too, restyle their own behaviour, customs and ideas, and reaffirm outsider civilisational traditions in a more intense way. There are, however, other dynamics at work in the production and consumption of new varieties. A process of crossover, fusion and creolisation of cultures and civilisations is taking place.

In making this case, my analysis returns to a point previously made; civilisations are not fixed, closed, or isolated entities — they have a long-term history as well as contemporary features. Established groups are able to develop both a collective we-image, based on a sense of civilisational superiority and group charisma, as well as a they-image, in which outsiders and their play and games are viewed with disdain and mistrust.

Outsiders and their civilisation are stigmatised as inferior, and their practices as childlike and unsophisticated — colonial views of Africans and African ludic culture is a case in point Mangan With the shift towards greater interdependency, and the decrease of contrasts, however, a functional democratisation process is at work.