Assessing the sociology of sport: on the capacities and limits of using sport to promote social change

John Sugden

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On the 50th anniversary of the ISSA andIRSS, former IRSS Editor John Sugden, one of the foremost scholars to advance a critical sociology of sport and to apply its tenets to Sport for Development (SDP) programmes, reflects on a key question about how the sociology of sport has and can inform social and political activism that engages sport. Noting a ‘new orthodoxy that dominates the SDP sector’, there is a pressing need for a more critical sociology of sport in engaging strategies, and understanding the limits, of sport in the service of conflict reduction and peace making in divided societies. Building on the tenets of Wright Mills and his notion of ‘the sociological imagination’ and the work of Brewer connecting it to the ending of violence, Sugden calls on the sociology of sport community to bring critical engagement to the advancement and refinement of using sport as a mechanism to bring about changes in social relations and in the reduction of conflict in divided societies. While it is noted that sport cannot be a panacea for development and conflict reduction, it can play an important role in practical interventions aided by a critical sociology of sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-611
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2015


  • applied sociology
  • conflict reduction
  • social change
  • sport and peace
  • Sport for Development


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