cultural change

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How cultural forms emerge, and are then influenced, reproduced, or changed is a central question for sports studies scholars combining historical and sociological approaches. Change can be influenced by numerous factors, such as social, economic, religious, and political influences that in turn have been stimulated by historical situations and circumstances. Change rarely occurs overnight, apart from in political coups or unforeseen disasters. It took decades for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to formally recognize professional athletes as participants in the Olympic Games; and the sporting cultures of many countries remain male-dominated in terms of both general participation and high performance. Cultural change may come about through educational policies or policy interventions in the sporting field (Title IX, legislating (1972) against sex discrimination in sport in educational contexts in the USA, is a good example of this), and sometimes on the basis of changes in awareness of issues that can take generations.

Cultural change can be incremental or dramatic, but is usually relatively gradual, as elements of the culture embody the power interests of rival groups and interrelate in tension. In his Marxism and Literature (1977) Raymond Williams noted that a dominant culture is not all-embracingly dominant. It may coexist with a residual culture, or face challenges from an emergent culture. It is useful to think about the Olympic programme of events as an illustration of this point; the modern pentathlon (residual in any seriously cultural sense) and beach volleyball and snowboarding (emergent forms of lifestyle sports) exist alongside the core track-and-field events at the Summer Games and the main skiing events at the Winter Games. Behind these survivals and changes lie complex institutional dynamics and national rivalries. See also cultural contestation; cultural continuity; cultural diffusion.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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