EXERCISE AND QUALITY OF LIFE
Review article
Volume 2, No. 1, 2010, 37-44
UDC 316.7:796.01
SPORT AS CULTURAL PHENOMENON
Dragan Kokovi„*
Faculty of Philosophy
University of Novi Sad
Abstract
Culture as industry is an indisputable fact which has expanded due to developmental
requirements and trends of capitalism, as well as high technological contents which unavoidably
tend to extend their productive and distributive forms to all areas of the society. Technological
order is an evil destiny which negates the traditional concept of culture, and ìwhich will
resurrect in the form of industryî. Criticism of culture industry assumes criticism of one way of
production of social life. Culture loses its actual emancipation power since the system uses it for
its own aims and includes it into its own circle; it gets submerged but comes to surface again as a
regenerated industry. Thus the way of production enters the stage of constitution and regulation
of the structure as a whole.
Keywords: culture industry, consciousness industry, everyday life, sport, cultural modulation of
spirit
Culture, goods estetics and sport
Quality of culture is often suspended by the market system. ìGoods estheticsî gets
increasing importance as a powerful means for placement of products of the mass culture in
which sport occupies a significant place.
Culture loses its actual emancipation power because the system uses it for its own aims
and includes it into its circle; it gets submerged but appears on the surface again as a regenerated
form of industry. Thus the way of production enters the stage of constitution and regulation of
the structure and development as a whole (Kokovi„, 2005).
Capital has ìsneakedî between the man and his authentic needs. Urge for satisfaction
becomes a trigger of capital reproduction, during which certain mechanisms are put to motion:
from a complex of needs, an interesting segment is usually isolated, ìwhich may be sold through
goods, and whose occurrence and language of signs get stuck in the selected segment of needs as
a ìkey to a lock ì (Haug, 1978, p. 98).
* Corresponding author. Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, 21000 Novi Sad, Dr Zorana -inði„a 2, e-
mail: kokovic@ff.uns.ac.rs
© 2010 Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Novi Sad, Serbia
37
D. Kokovi
In consumer society, everything gets esthetic dimension. Analysts of the ìculture
industryî have shown how unexpected and unobserved goods structure has penetrated the
contents of a work of art. This is victory of industrialization over art (ìpurposeness without
aimî), neverending conquering and colonization of the last domain of the non-critical, pure
game, by one world in which each aim gets instrumentalised while the aims get increasingly
barren. Instrumentalized culture gets the simplest form ñ instrument-aim.
Consumer celebrations uncover the weakest side of reproductive art. Intention to transfer
new knowledge no longer exists, nor is there any intention to create a new reality, but there is a
need to launch products on the market. If the procedure of goods esthetics can be encompassed
by the concept of ìtechnocracy of sensualityî and consumer world as a seemingly human world,
then it can be stated that true esthetics stays within the field of the human freedom and self-
accomplishment. Its abuse is possible only at the level of ìesthetic consumer valueî, i.e. within a
particular contemporary character of esthetics.
The process of mutual, although not free of conflict, economical and social influence,
created by specialized esthetic production, is marked by concepts of culture industry and goods
esthetics. Cultural production has started to follow the laws of production of goods.
Transformation of cultural production and its functioning according to the laws of production of
goods provides ideological background of cultural products: they undergo standardization and
offer germs of authentic needs of free and developed personality.
Cultural production and culture industry tend to fit an individual in the governing system
ìwithout residuesî (Kokovi„, 2002, p. 176).
Time acceleration and capital circulation
-
Cultural-industrial production of goods serves the purpose of taking immediate power
over the invested capital in the field of production of cultural goods.
-
Apart from other technical and economical manifestations, production of cultural goods
in the form of advertisements and esthetically created advertising material
(logos,
materials, slogans, designs) serves the purpose of accelerating time and circulation of the
capital invested in industry of consumer goods for formation of monopolistic positions
on the market.
-
There is an increasing effect of audiovisual media, not only radio and television but also
other recent media (Internet, Facebook, etc.).
-
Through mediation of the production, the capital succeeds in developing ìnew needsî
which tend to become artificial and non-authentic. Due to this, culture industry brings
about resistance of those being affected as well as of culture critics (L. Winckler).
-
Culture in the sense of industry is a ìsign of historical bankruptcyî, and a sign of a
global rationalization being constituted according to the rhythm of the goods reality. It
no longer mediates reality and it is not a criticism of this reality.
-
Culture industry implies a triumphal and definite rejection of culture as an autonomous
and intellectual production, and culture as a human activity in the final instance. There is
a cultural profit which functions according to standards of a direct economical benefit,
just like any other profit. Economical network is primary for determination of culture
industry; industry and factory tend to impose a world of their own.
-
The concepts of ìpriceî, ìsurplus valueî, ìmarketî, and ìprofitî, as applied to products
of culture, manifest analytically the relations of homogeneity of culture and industry;
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ìCulture industryî and sports industry
methodologically, they indicate the path to be followed in order to learn the ways in
which a capitalist organization tends to encompass every aspect and level of reality until
it becomes a universe. Cultural products are infinitely multiplied producing free-time
contents.
-
Representatives and creators of culture industry point out that their intention is not
technocratic but democratic power, but that they plan to include multitude of participants
in distribution of income from cultural products. Rationalization of work organization
should be matched by simultaneous rationalization of organization of culture. Mass
communication becomes a precious instrument of rationalization and democratic
integration; it gets the status of industrial organization and becomes imposed as an
element of a market being increasingly less different from the market of goods. Today
one can buy toothpaste, books, musical tapes, compact disks, etc.
-
Culture industry does not only produce new forms and new contents but it also
encapsulates and distributes the contents of traditional culture. Mass culture becomes a
reality culture and gets the general form of capitalistic work organization. Means of mass
communication are technical media of cultural transformation. Reduction of the two
fields of culture and industry to a single entity which is characterized by increasingly
homogenous functions and aims leaves behind all controversies related to the ìtwo
culturesî taking away any sense from the theses tending to present culture as a therapy
against the ìdiseaseî of technological civilization.
Culture in the form of industry is no longer a crystallized form which can be found on the
library shelves of business companies, but it is the form of living work and a condition of
productivity.
Negation of traditional concept of culture ñ industrial modeling of
spirit
Culture viewed as industry is an undisputable fact whose expansion is due to
developmental requirements and capitalism trends, as well as high technological contents which
necessarily tends to extend the production and distribution forms to all segments of the society.
Technological order is an evil destiny negating the traditional concept of culture, which is,
however, bound to resurrect in the form of industryî.
Criticism of a culture industry assumes the criticism of one way of production of social
life.
The issue dealt with at present is industrial modeling of spirit. A question is raised in
terms of the manís axiomatic presence in the field of consciousness which used to be thought of
as inaccessible fortress against onslaughts of industry. Consciousness used to be conditioned in
different ways even earlier, but it is only at the level of industrial scales, that the social
phenomenon of management and conditioning of consciousness has become a problem.
Even though the concept is happily selected, industrial modeling of spirit would like to
remind the consciousness, even though being false one, of the fact that it can be reproduced and
that it is controlled ìin an industrial mannerî, but not that it is also created in such a manner. It is
created in the mutual dialogue of people. Industrial modeling is not a production of any kind; it
only gets multiplied and distributed to the consumer.
According to Hans Encensberger
(Industry of consciousness), four conditions are
indispensable for creation and appearance of an industrially formed spirit:
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D. Kokovi
1) Rationalism in the broadest sense of the word is philosophical precondition of any
industrialization of thinking; it is directed to industrialized man just in the moment when
it makes him dependant;
2) Political precondition of industrial modeling of spirit is proclaiming
(although not
realized) of the manís rights, especially equality and freedom (so called equality trend);
3) Economical i.e. primitive accumulation precedes development; it is only when an
industrial raw material is built up and when the mass production of consumer goods gets
secured, that industry of consciousness and thinking can be developed;
4) Economical processes of industrialization bring technological conditions without which
spirit cannot be industrially modeled
(principles, techniques, radio, film, television,
internet, etc.). (Encesberger, 1980, p. 10-11).
Industry based on the task of spirit modeling always gives something to its consumers
that must be taken away from them. It is criticized for elimination of true cultural values and for
conquering key instances of modern society.
Disappearings of realiable patterns ñ commercialization and
colonization of sport
Everyday life is increasingly interwoven with the feeling that ìpermanent and reliable
things miraculously go down and vanish from the manís lifeî. Such a feeling has probably never
been so strong and widespread. It is believed that accelerated production has caused positive
evaluation of speed of immediate accessibility of goods (instant food, fast food, and similar
satisfactions). After that, mass production has had effects on evaluation of diversified selection
of goods. Metaphorically speaking, house of birth is transformed to the department store, and a
widely used syntagm is launched, use and throw away. The things being thrown away are values,
lifestyles, sustainable relations, people, houses, places, things, and generally accepted models of
living and activity.
ëCulture industryí, ëindustry of amusementí, ësports industryí, ëstadium ideologyí are
examples of justification of the existing conditions in sport. The way of using free time is the
best indicator of different forms of alienation. Concepts such as: exploitation, market, profit,
business, production of goods and money, industry, etc. are increasingly met in analyses of free
time and sport. From working, these categories are necessarily transferred to free time, which
loses its freedom due to being subdued to capital power.
Control over free time and sport in this sphere is taken over by others; sport becomes
industry, which is organized according to work standards, while their utilization is determined by
industry. Contemporary living world is experienced as a division of time to working time and
relaxing time. However, an aspiration towards idleness, i.e. time during which nothing is to be
done fast, gets transformed to pseudo-greed.
Monotony, sleepy and dull consciousness last longer in free time since they cannot find
counter-forms to the previous way of living. Free time is no longer the space in which the man
finds his own self as it is only the time that has to be eliminated in any way possible. Sports
events and spectacles mostly serve this purpose.
ìWith increasing family disintegration, with transformation of private life to free time,
and free time to limited activities being controlled to the very end, internal life disappears from
satisfaction of sports stadiums, cinemas, bestsellers, and radio. Culture has assumed capitalist
characteristics long before it was replaced by such manipulating pleasure. People resort to the
world of private conceptions and they organize their thoughts in a new way at the moment when
40
ìCulture industryî and sports industry
time has come to organize reality. Ö So-called entertainment, which has inherited art, is only a
means of recovery, such as swimming and football. Popularity has nothing in common with
specific content or truth of artistic products. In democratic countries, this is no longer the
matter governed by intellectuals, but the matter of fun industry (emphasized by K.D.).
Popularity manifests in unreserved consensus of people about everything fun industry believes
they like. In totalitarian orders, popularity is decided upon by direct and indirect propaganda,
which is essentially indifferent towards truth.î (Horkheimer, 1982).
To talk about free time devoted to sport means to have in mind the audience or recreative
sport. Professional and top sport become increasingly work-oriented.
Out of all ëmass entertainmentsí, sport seems to be the most attractive one. It reproduces,
among other things, an overall unsparingness and complete uncertainty of everyday living. The
ìbarerî life becomes, the greater the aspiration for freedom which cannot be realized in any
way, due to the fact that freedom is not given in advance and that it must be reached only later.
Adding to this the fact that it is increasingly difficult to differentiate false and manipulating
needs from authentic, human ones, there is a greater possibility that the manís essence is realized
through trivial contents. The man pays high price for his free time, not only economically but
also morally and psychologically. It costs a lot to ëkillí oneís free time by means of fun industry
(film, television, deceptive fashion, sport, etc.). In this manner, the man who used to sell his
work only (labour force), thanks to a new industry, starts to sell his free time too. In fact, he
returns or should return the payment he received for his work. ëLife consumptioní becomes self-
consumption of oneís own life at the same time. This provoked researchers to conclude that
people sell their own life in parts every day, in order to buy them back in the evening or at the
end of the week for fun, sport and entertainment. The circle is obviously closed, but the man is
the only loser. The life we live is the best witness of such development and spirit of time
(Rusconi, 1973, p. 143).
Critical analisis of sport industry
Critical sociology has always dealt with the issue of critical consideration of different
aspects of social and intellectual life. Most papers created in this tradition takes the form of a
criticism, and their ultimate goal was to discover the basic nature of social processes as precisely
as possible. Critical sociology does not study sport in order to describe its basic characteristics,
but to understand the particular society as much as possible by pointing out its functions.
Sociologists of such an orientation believe that sociology insufficiently criticizes the
society and that it gave up obligations of helping other people in subordinate position. Especially
criticized issues are sociological tendencies to reduce everything which is human to social
variables. When sociologists are directed to the society alone, and not on individuals within the
society, they ignore their interaction. This is a fundamental issue being attacked by critical
sociology, along with reminding ourselves that sociology must not become an integral part of the
existing society, but criticism and fertile ground for its renewal.
Critical sociology has always shown high interest in culture and cultural needs. By
redirecting traditional Marxist interests, critical sociology has concentrated on ìsuperstructureî,
and not on economical ìbaseî, by believing that Marxists have overemphasized the significance
of economical relations, which led to neglecting interests in other fields of social reality,
especially culture. When culture is in question, critical sociologists are worried about two things:
falseness, since they believe that cultural needs are packed up and mass-produced in advance,
and on the other hand, they point to repressive and stupefying effects of so-called ìculture
industryî, ìindustry of free timeî, and ìsports industryî.
41
D. Kokovi
Author of the book Sport ñ critical sociology, Richard Giulianotti (2005), starts from an
idea that it is useful to define general characteristics of historical and multicultural influence in
the socio-genesis of modern sports. In this way, it is possible to discover centers of power
relations in the social history of sports, as well as important cultural differences between bases of
modern sports traditions and institutions. The author points out that he intended to present a
ìreasonable selection of sociological experiences, having in mind the interest of potential reading
audience, and especially his disciplined research interest and theoretical obligationsî (p. XV).
Analyzing sport from the aspect of critical sociology, the author starts with analysis of
Emil Durkheimís facts and elements which, even today, make up the weft of sports analysis
(religion, integration, cohesion, social organization in sport). Without ignoring weaknesses of
this approach, Richard Giulianotti shows that even contemporary functionalistic sociology can
be of some help in analyses of social solidarity, rituals, religiousness, and sport disorganisation
(Parsons, Merton), even though it underestimates the role of social conflicts. It is especially
emphasized that Irvin Gofman presents an interesting development of Durkheimís sociology.
This looks unusual since Durkheimís approach is to a great extent macrosociological, whereas
Goffman dealt primarily with microrealisations ñ social interpersonal relations. The concept of
sacred Goffman has redirected towards the level of the individual within modern society.
Max Weber represents an unavoidable figure in sociology. Trends of his sociology are
unavoidable in explanation of meaning and rationalization in sport. Model of rationalization is
disputed by critical sociology due to evident fact that the man is instrumentalized in
contemporary sport, and reduced to ìhomo metrumî and pure ìphysicalnessî. Modern process of
rationalization in sport can be intensified just as it can be disputed even stronger at the same
time.
Marxist and neo-Marxist point of view has served the author to analyze sport within the
context of criticism of capitalism, within the sport-work relationship, alienation and sport, and
ideologization of sport. Special attention is devoted to neo-Marxists and Frankfurt school, which
has always been focused on criticism of mass culture and sport. In addition, it has also tackled
sports issues, industrial production, goods status, professionalization and corruption in sports.
Authorís major remark concerning Marxist and neo-Marxist attitudes is given in terms of
economical reductionalism ìwhich does not explain everythingî. This is why the significance of
cultural studies is pointed out, since sociologists have ìhardly scratched the surface of issues
related to reflexive and social critical elements of sportî (Giulianotti, 2005, p. 42).
According to the authorís opinion, cultural studies represent the most effective theoretical
and research paradigm within studies of sport. They direct attention to cultural strategies which
occur between dominant groups that create official culture and subordinate groups bearing sub-
cultural and counter-cultural trends including sport too.
The mentioned groups take the form of a symbolic or actual protest. Cultural theories
devote special attention to hegemony and resistance. Resistance is a key concept in cultural
studies, and it is expressed through general denial of sports brand status, especially in those cases
when competition or the right to compete is defined by money or market compensations.
However, the position of cultural studies is less efficient in explanation of subculture of
resistance, which is characterized by ìactive acceptance of brand status representing a disguised
business in sports industryî.
Cultural studies have significantly helped the sociology of sport, since sociologists of this
orientation have started to exploit anthropological topics more intensively, such as the issues of
cultural identity and pluralism of lifestyles. However, it should be noted that cultural studies can
sometimes underestimate structural inequalities and exaggerate ìresistantî aspects of everyday
cultural practice.
42
ìCulture industryî and sports industry
Critical sociology could not avoid the issues of races and intolerance in sport, ranging
from the social Darwinism to genetics. Callous racial politics and ideology in sport is criticized.
Sport must have a mechanism to counteract cultural prejudices and intolerance in sport. Such
efforts assume facing with the nature of racial logic, per se, if a firm normative redefinition of
sport is desired in terms of a cultural field free of racism, prejudices, and ethnic intolerance.
Gender identity and gender sexuality in sport is a chapter dealing with an idea of creating
a male-dominated world, however, the issue of women in sport is also dealt with, including
analysis of sexuality and political transformation. Politics of sport is studied through gender
analysis and pro-feminist politics. Author of this study notices that an ìopen gameî of
homosexual cultural policies and sport has also begun. Concluding remarks present a concise
analysis of the measures of political equality in sport, in which ìless attention should be paid to
sports reproducing male powerî.
Sociologies of sport rarely deal with sports areas and evaluation of topophilia (love of
place) and topophobia, in which environment has negative emotional significance. The concept
of ìpatinaî is also introduced, which helps explaining how old sports stadiums get additional
value for spectators. In fact, patina represents signs pointing to the value acquired by an object in
the course of time. Sports environment is treated as an ìenclosed areaî for mega-events,
including football hooliganism too, which is analyzed in this book within the framework of
Eliasís ideas of the ìprocess of civilizationî. It can be noticed that Eliasís explanations of
football hooliganism ìseem somewhat rawî. They assume the simplest possible forming
positions by insisting on ìill-mannered behaviour i.e. relatively uncivilized habitus of a hooligan
belonging to lower working classî.
The author finishes the critical consideration of sport by analysis of postmodern culture
which is confronted with a dilemma: production or deception, just like sport itself. Apart from
good results, sports competitors must deceive audience by play and style via gambling; modern
people reestablish deceptive prodigal principles of luck and destiny. In deceptive cultures,
ìmental picture has advantage over reality. Hyper-reality refers to the world saturated by media,
which is false and more real than ìthe real oneî, and it creates dizzy real and yet stimulated
experiencesî. We live in time when everything is simulation except the simulation itself, in
which the difference between reality and its representation disappears. In extreme cases sports
events are illusions. Hyper-reality is a ìcatastrophe of the modernî, in which social action is
dead, whereas sociology is old-fashioned and doomed because its fundamental categories are
old-fashioned ñ power, class, social relations, etc. Relations between media simulation and new
forms of social consciousness and identity become visible and significant.
Not a single contemporary paper in the field of social and economic sciences can be
finished without mentioning globalization. Sport is not an exception. The Author of this study
has endeavoured to explain not only the politics of global sport but also that of ìglocalî sport, as
well as globalization as a means of establishing a compact world and ìintensification of
consciousness in the world as a wholeî. Globalisation-related arguments of critical political
economy and sociology are provided by precise theories dealing with the way neoliberalism not
only encourages but also intensifies global inequalities of people. The concept of ìglocalizationî
is increasingly becoming an important characteristic and determinant of contemporary
globalization. Glocalization describes how local social participants interpret global processes and
pehenomena in order to answer their specific needs or cultural contexts.
Contemporary criticism of sport starts from a hypothesis that todayís world is
dehumanized and degraded and that it does not represent the true essence of the man.
As a recommendation to the readers, I would like to point out that critical sociology has
seriously considered the issue of relationship between sport and society and that it has not given
up it human dimension.
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D. Kokovi
Humanistic values ñ which also refer to sport ñ do not measure according to that which
has been prevented as a negative tendency, but according to what is positive i.e. which has been
made possible, provided, and accomplished. This positive humanistic content, which should be
provided, is pretty diversified and rich as much as human needs themselves. One of these ìnew
human needsî is sport. Humanism and the possibility to humanize the relations in sport can
result from a critical negation of the existing condition and it is contrary to ideological functions
of sport. Humanistic criticism of sport is possible from the aspect of understanding the
possibilities of changed way of production. Each development has got its own logic; capitalistic
one has also got its own, which is being ìcopied and reproduced ñ its towns are reproduced, its
internal controversies, opposites of towns and villages, and finally the way of life. Sport as a
spectacle is modeled by genesis of industrial-urban civilization. It goes hand-in-hand with
ìindustry of entertainmentî, thus becoming consumption of everyday life. This is enabled by
continuous increase of free time and construction of large sports complexes and facilities.
Spectacle has become a dominant form of expression of contemporary way of life. In all
ways of production where there is exploitation, exploiters are forced to offer a spectacle
occasionally as a compensation; on one hand, it is a compensation for crisis of everyday life, and
on the other, it is manifestation of power.
Growth alone cannot result in achieving true humanization of sports relations; it is
necessary to reevaluate all values rationally. It is impossible to change relations in sport (ìradical
change of relations in sportî is a frequently heard slogan), without changing social relations from
which sport is being reproduced. It is difficult to talk about new sports relations within the
framework of preserved social relations, with all their controversial functions. The man has the
need to develop as an active and independent subject, a person capable of action, and a free
being. Freedom of a human personality cannot be defined as an abstraction independent of the
society and relations, since these conditions are not only the limits of activity and freedom but
basic assumption of affirmation of the man as a free and creative being. Humanism has always
analyzed the limits of the possible from the aspect of the manís self-realization. Freedom is the
possibility and power for active participation in changing these conditions and taking active part
in organization of social life.
Sport is inseparable from freedom which is an assumption of creative games. If freedom
is equated with the right to self-specificity of each human being, if the man is believed to be free
as much as he is in agreement with his own self, free of prejudices, tradition, standards, it will be
possible to follow more clearly the development of creative processes by following the path on
which we can recognize ourselves and our potentials, as well as a part of the structure making up
a whole, including possibilities of our own selves.
References
Giulianotti, R. (2005). Sport ñ a critical sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Encesberger, H. M. (1980). NemaËka, NemaËka, izmeðu ostalog. Beograd: BIGZ.
Haug, V. F. (1981). Kritika robne estetike. IIC SSO Srbije: Novi Beograd.
Horkheimer, M. (1982). KritiËka teorija (II). Zagreb: Stvarnost.
Kokovi„, D. (2002). Sociologija kulture. Novi Sad: Akademija umetnosti.
Kokovi„, D. (2005). Pukotine kulture. Novi Sad: Prometej.
Rusconi, G. E. (1973). KritiËka teorija druötva. Zagreb: Stvarnost.
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