Sport and Civilisation : violence Mastered : from the Lack of a Definition for Violence to the Illusory Pacifying Role of Modern Sports Article - 2014

Dominique Bodin, Luc Robène

International Journal of the History of Sport, 2014, pp. 1939-1955. ISSN 0952-3367


Following the seminal works of Norbert Elias, with regard to the ‘civilising process’, modern sports are generally considered by the scientific community as being, on the one hand, a privileged means that has long facilitated and contributed to ‘the control and learning of the self-control of impulses’ and, on the other, as a political device, which has facilitated, by penetrating into the private sphere in a restrained and play-oriented fashion, the state’s monopoly of violence. They are also considered to have facilitated the socio-genesis of modern states. But is this link so evident that this ‘new’ social configuration can be considered a new tool at the service of violence control ? Acceptance is so strong that one can almost forget the contradictions, at least the questions, which can and should emerge from this proposition. It should in fact face up to criticism on a certain number of concrete points : definition of violence, rejection of the long-term view, sport be strictly considered in the light of the pacification of habits and social control, hooliganism, etc. This introductory article presents a series of reflections which aim to enrich Elias’s theory by underlining both its accuracy and its weak points.

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