Thursday, 28 February 2019

Structural Functionalism and Marxism in Sport


Hi Everyone

I hope you are all well

This next blog post is from one of my sports studies assignments back when I did my undergraduate degree in Applied Sport Science. I co - wrote this work with my good friend Callum Wilkinson.

Enjoy and please comment below what you think about it :) lets get to it!!!



Introduction 

Theories, such as structural functionalism and Marxism, also known as conflict theory, endeavour to understand the social and cultural contexts in which sport exists. They provide a way of understanding how sports in society promote social justice, expose and challenge the exploitive use of power, and empower people so that they might resist and transform oppressive social conditions. (Coakley, 2007). The two theories discussed can provide an understanding and different perspective between the relationship of sport and society, when applied to a certain context.

Structural functionalism, based on the work of Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons, is a theory that views society as a complex system that has independent parts, such as economy, legal system and health care, all of which need to work together to promote solidarity and stability in society (Macionis, Gerber, 2010).  A good analogy by Herbert Spencer presents these independent parts of society as ‘organs’ that have to operate toward the proper functioning of the ‘body’ which provides a stable system (Urry, 2000).  One of the key characteristics of structural functionalism is that it views society as constantly striving to be at a state of equilibrium, which suggests there is an inherent drive within human societies to cohere or stick together (Gingrich, 1999). This indicates that if one institution of society changes, then other institutions will strive to adapt and accommodate that change in an effort to maintain this equilibrium.



http://slideplayer.com/slide/778215/3/images/16/Structural-Functionalism.jpg 



The Marxism theory, based on the work of Karl Marx, focuses on the ways that sports and society are shaped by economic forces and used by economically powerful people to increase their wealth and influence (Coakley, 2007). Marx viewed society as having two main classes, with the wealthy part of society (Bourgeoisie) owning the means of production, and having the power to manipulate the working class (Proletariat). This inequality would have to be accepted as a natural part of social life. The main goal of conflict theory is similar to that of functionalism; it strives to develop a general theory that explains the organization and operation of all societies (Coakley, 2007)


 Strengths and Weaknesses of the two theories

There are a number of strengths with the structural functionalism theory; one of these is that if one area of society was to change or potentially breakdown then another will adjust for this. These social systems are characterized by self-equilibrating mechanisms, which work towards the maintenance of social stability (Malcolm 2008). As a result of this societies can be seen to be highly interconnected and be viewed on as having a functional unity. From a functionalist viewpoint, sport is seen to help maintain individual and social balance, the opportunity for individual self-expression, or for national and cultural preference. Sport is seen as an important social institution, which reflects the many complex relationships and interactions in wider society (Bell, 2009). However, from a Marxist point of view, sport would be used as a political tool, whereby the athletes would not have been political activists, but the state they represented would have been (Bell, 2009). These governments used their athletes to propel their ideologies and to make political statements. A prime example of this is the East German program during the 1980’s of systematically doping their athletes. This was in the pursuit of gaining top medal table positions within international competition, and to be noticed as a new and powerful nation.

Although this is clearly not an ethical way to go about winning, it has proven to be an effective tool in propelling countries political motives to the world. It is always a small section of society whom holds the power and can be seen when we review how sport was used by various governments to make political statements.

Functionalism views sport in a much more optimistic light. It is based around self-equilibrating mechanisms which help to bring individuals, from varying backgrounds, together to work towards a common goal and provide opportunities to develop social cohesion (Hak, 2007). For example, an aspiring NFL (National football league) player from a poor background can feel he can be part of a team as he will share a common goal amongst other players within the sport. He does not need to feel ‘out of place’ or any different from other players on the team. As a result of this it will teach necessary qualities for modern day society, such as, teamwork, sportsmanship, honesty and integrity which are essential for the maintenance of social order. This is why competitive sports prefer the functionalist viewpoint as it emphasizes the functions of sports, and supports the conclusions that sports are a source of inspiration for individuals and societies (Coakley, 2007). From this theory, it can be argued that an individual from a low economic background can be provided with the opportunity to rise to the top of social hierarchy. 

One of the main weaknesses of the functionalism theory is that sport can mirror society in profound ways, and that it not necessarily has a positive effect and experience for all. This can be identified through racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as greed, exploitation and alienation, which are all persistent problems within sport (Bell 2009). It assumes that integration and harmony are common through society and that it is a normal state of affairs, whilst also assuming that the needs of different groups within society are the same as the needs of society itself (Malcolm 2008). It is evident that this is not the case as sport organisations, for example, continue to be segregated along sexual/gender lines. Another point of weaknesses to this theory is that it does not acknowledge that sports are social constructions. It over states the positive consequences of sports and it ignores that sport serves the needs of some people more than others (Coakley, 2007).

These examples are evident throughout many sports, especially ones which require physical power, such as the NFL. It does not help us to understand how women in society are disadvantaged when sports are organized in ways that legitimize the use of physical strength (Coakley, 2007). Race is also a major factor within the NFL. There is a racial divide in the south which is apparent in the pre-game walks of the players to the stadium.  It is clear to see that the fans are predominantly white, while the players are often black. While this is not a negative aspect to the sport, as the players are usually treated as ‘gods’ by the fans, it clearly shows a divide in race, where the athletes are viewed on as objects with one clear goal of winning the game for their team.  In contrast to this, it has also been shown that college football, and other team sports, can help to erase these divides of the rich and poor, whites and blacks. They are all striving for one goal which creates a community amongst them.
The NFL, and college football, reflects the way in which society exists today and reinforces the Marxism viewpoint. This is evident as it is all about winning, sometimes at any cost. It is about conquest of opponent’s territory and opponents themselves, about a strict division of labor and the ‘survival of the fittest’. Thus the game itself embodies some important elements of the dominant ideology of our society (Selbo, 2008). Marx’s theory is further exemplified, as you can interpret that the athletes are treated more like workers, instead of humans, as they are largely controlled and manipulated by their coach. For example, the coach will tell them when to eat, when to sleep and have a very controlling influence over there training. This results in the individual losing their identity, which means player become slaves that can be bought and sold to the highest bidder.

Although much more positive, structural functionalism stresses consensus over conflict; it has a harmonistic view which unfortunately is unrealistic (Malcolm, 2008). Within professional NFL, or any team sport, it is clear that not everyone within the structure will hold the same values, and will not all work for the same common goal. For example, there will be people within a team competing for wealth, power and resources, which will inevitably result in creating disagreement and conflict.  Sport, of its very nature, is divisive and differentiating rather than integrative and unifying in relation to its own and the wider community (Tomlinson 2007). It is evident that sport thrives on dividing winners from losers and elite performers from amateurs. Furthermore, sport creates divisions and conflicts within communities. Football is a prime example of this, whereby certain communities will support one team, whilst another community will be fierce rivals to this team.  This divide is so intense that it creates a passion that fans have for their teams which can go as far as dividing families (Selbo, 2008). This rivalry creates a ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, which results in young fans growing up hating the other side but not knowing why as they are being led on by the older generation. Even though the sport of NFL can bring people together under certain conditions, it has unfortunately been shown that sport has come to pit race against race, men against women, city against city, class against class and coach against player. (Deford, 1998).

The conflict theory will support this notion that there is a clear divide between winners and losers, race and gender, but also a clear divide in social structure. This can be seen throughout stadiums as they are very much structured along the lines of economic class and social status (Selbo, 2008). For example, the lower level seats will obviously be much more expensive than those in the upper deck, and only accessible to those who are considered the upper class. There is also a division in class by the simple fact that some people can afford tickets to a football game, but many cannot.

The sport of NFL, or sports in general, can be seen as a ‘Religion’ to some individuals. According to Marx, religion was an ‘opiate to the masses’ (Selbo, 2008). Marx is describing here that the ideology of a culture is not neutral in regard to the various constituencies in that society (Selbo, 2008). This Ideology tends to support or justify the unequal distribution of goods and wealth, it therefore tends to justify the superior position of the ‘haves’ over the ‘have not’s (Selbo, 2008). In relation to the NFL, it is the individuals in charge of the distribution of the sport that can exploit the spectators, and also the players, in order to generate more money for themselves and sponsors.


https://www.gamblingsites.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/NFL-football-money.png 



Conclusion

These theories provide a framework that can be used when making decisions within life, and thinking about sports in society.  They both focus on societal needs and how sports are related to the satisfaction of those needs. The Functionalist theory is a very optimistic one, which only offers positive explanations for consequences associated with sports and sport involvement. It is therefore based around the assumption that there are no conflicts of interest between groups within society (Coakley, 2007). This theory is favourable to people with power, as it is based on the assumption that society is organized for the equal benefit of all people. This discourages any change, as the system operates effectively, and does not jeopardize the wealthy part of society’s privilege and influence.  The Marxism theory, which is at the other end of the spectrum, offers up a much more pessimistic, but realistic view of sport and society. It clearly identifies economic exploitation in sports and identifies factors related to class relations. However, this theory overemphasizes social class and economic factors in society and does not recognise how sport can be used as a tool of resistance against oppression (Coakley, 2007).

Functionalism is useful for understanding consensus while conflict theory is appropriate for understanding conflict and coercion. Both functionalism and conflict theory share the weakness of being able to explain only portions of social life (Ritzer & Goodman, 2003).  Despite this, and other negative aspects, social theories are beneficial when exploring controversies and issues within sport, they provide a way of better understanding the social world and become more informed in modern day issues within society.


References
  1. Bell, B. (2009). Sport Studies. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd
  2. Coakley, J. (2007). Sports in society: Issues and Controversies. 9th edition. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
  3. Gingrich, P. (1999). Uregina.ca. http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/n2f99.htm (Accessed: 29th October 2013)
  4. Hak, D. (2007). ‘Stark and Finke or Durkheim on Conversion and (Re-)Affiliation: An Outline of a Structural Functionalist Rebuttal to Stark and Finke’. Social compass. 54 (2), pp. 295-312
  5. Macionis, J. & Gerber, L. (2010). Sociology. Canada: Pearson Canada Inc
  6. Malcolm, D. (2008). The SAGE Dictionary of Sports Studies. London: SAGE publications Ltd
  7. Ritzer, G & Goodman, D. (2003) Sociological theory. New York: McGraw-Hill
  8. Selbo, B, (2008). Sport as the “Opiate of the Masses”: College Football in the American South. Philosophy & Religion Faculty Publications. Paper 1. Available at: http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/phil_rel_fac_pub/1/. (Accessed: 5th November 2013)
  9. Tomlinson, A. (2007). The Sports studies reader. Oxon: Routledge
  10. Urry, J. (2000). Sociology beyond societies. Oxon: Routledge

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Thanks for reading 
Kind regards
Andrew 


About the Author 
I have a BSc (Hons) in Applied Sport Science and a Merit in my MSc in Sport and Exercise Science (both from Teesside University). Building on my MSc result, I passed my PGCE at Teesside as will this academic year (graduate July 2018). 

I am now employed by Teesside Students Union as President Activities for 2018/19 Academic Year. My long term goal is to become a Sport Science and/or Sport and Exercise Lecturer. I am also keen to contribute to academia via continued research in a quest for new knowledge.

My passion is for Sport Science which has led to additional interests incorporating Sports Psychology, Body Dysmorphia, AAS, Doping and Strength and Conditioning. Within these respective fields, I have a passion for Strength Training, Fitness Testing, Periodisation and Tapering. I write for numerous websites across the UK and Ireland including my own blog Strength is Never a Weakness. 





I had my own business for providing training plans for teams and athletes. I was one of the Irish National Coaches for Powerlifting, and have attained two 3rd places at the first World University Championships in Belarus in July 2016. 

I would like to do a PhD to contribute new knowledge to academia whilst expanding my own areas of interest.

Feel free to email me or call me as I am always looking for the next challenge. 


Contact details below; 

Facebook: Andrew Richardson (search for)
 
Facebook Page: @StrengthisNeveraWeakness
Twitter: @arichie17 


Instagram: @arichiepowerlifting


Snapchat: @andypowerlifter 
Email: Andrew.Richardson@tees.ac.uk


Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-richardson-b0039278 



Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Esports January 2019 Monthly Review


My Top 10 Esports News Stories of  January 2019




10. Top 10 Most-Watched Twitch Content, January 2019. 




9. Mercedes-Benz and FC Köln purchase stake in SK Gaming



Image Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/53/FC_Cologne_logo.svg/1200px-FC_Cologne_logo.svg.png 






8. Blizzard reveals the plans for WoW Esports in 2019






7. Raise awareness on esports, says India’s first internationally acclaimed gamer






6. German Olympics boss says “esports don’t exist”





5. 10 REASONS TO GET EXCITED ABOUT UK ESPORTS IN 2019

Image Credit: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/--1bH9dQuXeI/UOi2fr5UI7I/AAAAAAAAEpI/iL1gCr29NTE/s1600/Flag+of+Great+Britain+English+Flags+(7).jpg







4. Qualified Teams for the FIFA eClub World Cup!


Image Credit: http://oyster.ignimgs.com/wordpress/stg.ign.com/2017/10/FIFA_EWORLD_CUP_2018.jpg






3. Motorsport and Esport teams join in eNascar Peak AntiFreeze racing Series






2. KFC to hold a Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 battle royale tournament






1. Farming Simulator 'plants' to grow its own competitive esports league!



Image Credit: http://www.fsmods17.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/what-fans-think-about-new-farming-simulator-17-2.jpg 






----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks for reading 

Kind regards

Andrew 

About the Author 
I have a BSc (Hons) in Applied Sport Science and a Merit in my MSc in Sport and Exercise Science (both from Teesside University). Building on my MSc result, I passed my PGCE at Teesside as will this academic year (graduate July 2018). 

I am now employed by Teesside Students Union as President Activities for 2018/19 Academic Year. My long term goal is to become a Sport Science and/or Sport and Exercise Lecturer. I am also keen to contribute to academia via continued research in a quest for new knowledge.

My passion is for Sport Science which has led to additional interests incorporating Sports Psychology, Body Dysmorphia, AAS, Doping and Strength and Conditioning. Within these respective fields, I have a passion for Strength Training, Fitness Testing, Periodisation and Tapering. I write for numerous websites across the UK and Ireland including my own blog Strength is Never a Weakness. 




I had my own business for providing training plans for teams and athletes. I was one of the Irish National Coaches for Powerlifting, and have attained two 3rd places at the first World University Championships in Belarus in July 2016. 

I would like to do a PhD to contribute new knowledge to academia whilst expanding my own areas of interest.

Feel free to email me or call me as I am always looking for the next challenge. 


Contact details below; 

Facebook: Andrew Richardson (search for)
 
Facebook Page: @StrengthisNeveraWeakness

Twitter: @arichie17 

Instagram: @arichiepowerlifting

Snapchat: @andypowerlifter 

Email: Andrew.Richardson@tees.ac.uk

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-richardson-b0039278