Sport, Theory and Social Problems: A Critical Introduction (Paperback) book cover

Sport, Theory and Social Problems

A Critical Introduction

By Eric Anderson, Adam White

© 2010 – Routledge

184 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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About the Book

  • What impact does sport have on the lives of ordinary people?
  • How does sport help to perpetuate inequalities in society?
  • What can social theory tell us about the role of sport in society? 

At their origin competitive sports were institutionalized in Western cultures for the privilege of white, heterosexual men. Over time sport has become more open to categories of people traditionally marginalized in society: women; those from lower social classes; gay men; people of colour; and those differently abled. However, focusing solely on increased social inclusion in sport masks significant problems with both the culture and structure of sport. This critical textbook examines social exclusion in sport and analyzes the socio-negative attributes associated with competitive, institutionalized sport, for all who play.

Focusing on sport at non-elite levels, this book explores the lives of everyday citizens who play and examines how inequality and social deviance are structured into the social and sporting system. Each chapter uses a key social theory to address a particular social problem in sport, such as learned obedience to authority; the acceptance of pain and injury; the adoption of hyper-masculine, homophobic and sexist attitudes; the teaching of in-group/out-group; and the use of sport as a false mechanism for social mobility. By concentrating on real sport, and through the use of startling vignettes illustrating the experiences of real people, this textbook develops the critical senses, social conscience and theoretical understanding of all students of sport and anybody for whom sport is part of their everyday life.


"This is a long overdue book. Anderson uses his astute analytical skills to tell us about the sports we play as everyday, amateur athletes. In well written chapters, he explains why we value those sports and how they influence our identities, ideas, and actions. Most important, he opens our eyes to problems that deserve our attention as we seek exciting experiences in competitive sports organized in our schools and communities. Students will learn to critically reflect on the sports that they or their friends care so much about." – Jay Coakley, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Colorado

"Most of us accept uncritically that sport has positive consequences for participants and society. It does, but there is another reality as well. This book challenges the conventional beliefs about sport by examining critically the negative side of sport. Through the creative application of social theory and empirical research, Eric Anderson shows the role of sport in justifying power relationships, promoting male hegemony, marginalizing women, reproducing stereotypes, and elevating violence." –D. Stanley Eitzen, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Colorado State University

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Why we Overly-Value Organized, Competitive Teamsports 2. Teaching Obedience to Authority and thus Complicity with Abuse 3. Learning to Accept, Inflict and Enjoy Violence and Injury 4. Sports use in the Maintenance of Class 5. Sport’s use in Stratifying Men 6. Sport’s use in Marginalizing Women 7. Sport’s Use in Excluding, Reproducing Stereotypes, and Othering 8. Changing Sport

About the Authors

Eric Anderson is an American sociologist at the University of Bath, UK. He is well known for his research on sport, masculinities, sexualities, and homophobia. He has authored several books and peer-reviewed articles, including the award-winning In the Game: Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Men's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Minority Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Violence in Society
SPORTS & RECREATION / Sociology of Sports