Discipline and Excel: Techniques of the Self and Body and the Logic of Competing

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 Research Institute for Olympic Sports
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In the practical discourse of sport the focus is on the individual athlete as the autonomous and independent locus of action. This discourse is deconstructed from a, poststructuralist perspective. It is argued that in sport the disciplinary techniques of the body and self, as depicted by Michel Foucault, are both an instrument and an effect of competing. Disciplinary and normalizing practices such as bodily exercises or filling in a training diary are instruments for athletes to transcend their current performance, which is the core of the logic of competing. Furthermore, disciplining is the outcome of this “rationale” to excel. Giddens’s notion of structure is used to explicate the structure of competing. Yet his Cartesian conception of agents as knowledgeable is qualified, that is, within the practices of training and the structure of competing, some consequences of these practices escape athletes’ intention. The constitution of athletes’ subjectivity and even the consequences of the process of competing may be beyond their control.

Juha Heikkala is with the Research Institute for Olympic Sports, University Campus, Rautpohjankatu 6, 40700 Jyväskylä, Finland.

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