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capillary power


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(sociology)

The capacity of power to circulate throughout a society. In his discussion of the nature of power in Sport, Power and Culture (1986) John Hargreaves recognized the different forms that power relations might take: physical violence used, or threatened, to obtain compliance; economic sanctions and other types of coercion; assertion of authority; powers of persuasion of respective individuals and groups. But there is no single kind of power, or power relation: ‘Power in societies like ours is diffused and circulates throughout the social body. It is precisely this “capillary” quality that has enabled power to be expanded so effectively in the modern age, to be applied routinely at appropriate points in the social order, and to be reorganized, refurbished and elaborated periodically.’ As sports are transformed, modernized, adapted, changed, serving one set of interests or another, or a particular alliance of interests in a particular historical moment, it is the capillary movement and circulation of power that must be recognized for any adequate analysis of the relation of the sport culture or institution to the society or culture of which it is a part.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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