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Early sociological research describes risk sports as a form of resistance to structural aspects of highly industrialized societies. Recent scholarship, however, suggests that conventional social forces operating on the demographic group (young, White, professional, middle-class males) from which most athletes originate actually motivate risk sports participation. This study contributes to the literature by seeking to explain risk athletes’ characteristic class status, a dynamic largely neglected by previous studies. Drawing on Bourdieu’s analysis of the relationship between sport and social class, I suggest that risk sports appeal particularly to members of the professional middle class because of such sports’ capacity to simultaneously satisfy and provide a temporary escape from a class habitus demanding continual progress through disciplined labor and deferred gratification.
The author is with Feather River College, Department of Anthropology, 570 Golden Eagle Avenue, Quincy CA.