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Sports and the Individual

There are several social theories related to sports and the individual: functionalist theory, conflict theory, interactionist theory, critical theories, feminist theories, and figurational theory (ôTheories of Society and Sportö). Each of these social theories gives a different perspective of sports and their effect on the individual.

The functionalist theory asserts that sports promote social integration and individual development, with ôeliteö sports programs serving as role models for the young (ôTheories of Society and Sportö). This theory has inherent weaknesses, namely that it ôoverstates the positive consequences of sport in societyö and overlooks the fact that not all social groups benefit equally from sports (ôTheories of Society and Sportö). It does make a valid point in seeing participation in sports as a way of developing cooperation and collaboration skills.

The conflict theory assumes that ôsociety is determined by economic relationsö and that ôsports promote capitalismö (ôTheories of Society and Sportö). This is a Marxist theory that sees sports for profit as a form of exploitation that takes advantage of class inequalities in both athletes and spectators but sees advantage is sports that are not played for profit (ôTheories of Society and Sportö). This theory is rather narrow, in that it fails to consider any other basis for social life than that which is ôeconomically determined,ö and it ignores all of the positive aspects of sports like empowerment and socialization (ôTheories of Society and Sportö).

The interactionist theory suggests that ôsociety is created through social interaction,ö and sees sports as a symbolic process that people invest with meaning and symbolism (ôTheories of Society and Sportö). This theory uses ôinterpretive research methodsö to investigate the social processes involved in becoming and being an athlete and how peopleÆs identitie


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Sports and the Individual. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:12, August 15, 2020, from