Understanding Labor as a Concept for the Study of Sport

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Rob BeamishQueen’s University

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William J. Morgan has recently argued that the existing critical analyses of sport are in error because they cannot take into account the peculiar logic of sporting action. Although there are a number of points in Morgan’s argument with which one could take issue, in this paper I examine only one—his erroneously narrow reading of the concept of labor in Marx’s work. In the course of my argument, I show first that Marx’s conception of “labor in general” is not the narrow conception Morgan presents it as. I indicate how Marx’s conception of labor is indebted to Hegel’s Phänomenologie des Geistes and has a broadly creative dimension to it. Second, labor, as the source of use-values, is not necessarily the rational, instrumental activity Morgan implies, and sport labor within the political economy is not that much different from other forms of entertainment labor. Finally, I argue that Morgan’s claim that alienation is linked to solely those forms of praxis which become dehumanized through the increased instrumental rationality of capital is also an erroneously narrow reading of the conception.

Direct all correspondence to Rob Beamish, Dept. of Sociology or School of Physical Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont., Canada K7L 1N3.
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