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Sport as a Means of Responding to Social Problems: Rationales of Government, Welfare and Social Change
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Social Work. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Idrott som en lösning på sociala problem : Rationaliteter av styrning, välfärd och social förändring (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Sport has been increasingly recognized in social policy as a means of steering social change and as a method for responding to diverse social problems. The present study examines how rationales of social change are formed through ‘sport as a means of responding to social problems’. Four research questions are posed: (1) How is it that sport can be thought of and articulated as a means of responding to social problems? (2) How are sport practices assumed to operate as a means of responding to social problems? (3) How are social problems represented when sport is promoted as a means of response? (4) What conduct, subjectivity and citizen competences are shaped within this regime of practice? The study focuses on the government of subjects’ conduct, the formation of community and delineation of domains subjected to social change. The gradual shifts in the governmental rationality of the Swedish welfare state provide a framework for the study. Two kinds of empirical material are investigated. Initially, scientific knowledge is analysed; after this, a sport-based intervention, conducted in cooperation between a social entrepreneur, municipality and local sport clubs, is examined. In relation to scientific discourse, research on sport for social objectives would benefit from more theoretically driven constructionist perspectives related to welfare state transformations. In scientific discourse, rationales of social change in sport are conceived of as individual attainment of skills, competences and powers that are presumably transferable to other social spheres. Such discourse represents problems as individual problems. With respect to the sport-based intervention, individual change is promoted by representatives of the social entrepreneur in terms of providing subjects with motivational powers, which are shaped by role models and applied in “choosing the right track”. By representing problems as risks, avoidance is formed as an individual opportunity. This positions subjects as being responsible for their own welfare and inclusion. Municipal policy makers view the intervention as a way to form community and social cohesion in response to tensions in society. They present sport (and the social entrepreneur) as a way to mobilize and activate civil society – which is associated with the potency of voluntarism, authentic leadership and personal relations based on common identity. Consequently, responsibility for responding to social problems is spread and elements of de-professionalized social work are imposed. To conclude, sport is conceptualized as a means of responding to social problems because sport practices are associated with individual agency and with an active civil society and moral community. The technologies and rationality of social change point out ‘the self’, ‘the community’ and ‘the place’ as locations where social change is possible, rather than the whole of society. For instance, the technologies of social change are based on activation and responsibilization of ‘the self’ and of ‘the community’. These rationales of social change are based on a critique of welfarist governmentality and of the idea of governing from ‘the social’ point of view. Arguably, such discourse obscures more profound social reform. The study provides some empirical explorations illustrating how a range of tendencies and mutations in the governmental rationality of the welfare state and of social work are  manifested in ‘sport as a means of responding to social problems’.

Abstract [sv]

De senaste åren har idrott alltmer kommit att betraktas som ett socialpolitiskt verktyg med förväntningar om att åstadkomma social förändring och bidra till att lösa sociala problem. I den här avhandlingen undersöks hur den sociala förändringens rationalitet formas i relation till idén om ’idrott som en lösning på sociala problem’. Detta görs genom fyra frågeställningar: (1) Hur har idrott blivit möjligt att betrakta som en lösning på sociala problem? (2) Hur förmodas idrott i praktiken fungera som en lösning på sociala problem? (3) Hur representeras sociala problem när idrott lyfts fram som en lösning? (4) Vilken typ av uppförande, subjektivitet och medborgerliga färdigheter fostras genom att använda idrott som en lösning på social problem? Särskilt fokuseras på styrning av individers uppförande, skapande av gemenskap och sammanhållning samt gränsskapande kring vilka domäner som kan utsättas för förändring. Undersökningarna relateras till mer övergripande förändringar i den svenska välfärdsstatens styrningsrationalitet. Två empiriska material har undersökts: dels den vetenskapliga diskursen, dels olika företrädares beskrivningar av en idrottsbaserad välfärdsintervention för unga i risk för problem och exkludering, en verksamhet som sker i samverkan mellan en social entreprenör, kommun och föreningsliv. Avhandlingen pekar på vikten av teoretiskt driven forskning med konstruktionistiska perspektiv relaterade till välfärdsstatens och socialpolitikens förändring. I den vetenskapliga diskursen lyfts social förändring fram med avseende på individuell förändring genom tillägnande av färdigheter som antas kunna användas även i andra sociala sammanhang. Denna förståelse iscensätter de adresserade problemen som individuella problem. I idrottsledarnas beskrivningar av den sociala interventionen kan ungdomar motiveras individuellt, bygga självförtroende och självkänsla, genom att identifiera sig med positiva förebilder och ledare. Detta blir viktigt för att kunna ”välja rätt väg i livet”. Genom att framställa problem som risker blir de möjliga för individen att undvika. Detta positionerar ungdomarna som själva ansvariga för sin välfärd och inkludering. I politikernas beskrivningar lyfts idrotten fram som ett sätt att skapa gemenskap och sammanhållning som ett svar på spänningar och oro. Genom idrotten (och den sociala entreprenören) kan man mobilisera civilsamhällets föreningsliv vilket associeras med frivillighet, autentiskt ledarskap samt personliga och moraliska band baserade på gemensam identitet. Därmed kan ansvaret för att hantera sociala problem spridas mellan olika aktörer, något som även kan bidra till informalisering och de-professionalisering av det sociala  arbetet. Sammanfattningsvis kan idrott konceptualiseras som en lösning på sociala problem därför att dess praktiker associeras med individuell aktivering samt med ett aktivt civilsamhälle som bygger på moralisk fostran och gemenskap. Den sociala förändringens teknologier och rationalitet pekar ut ‘självet’, ‘gemenskapen’ och ‘platsen’ som de domäner där förändring bedöms vara möjlig. Den sociala förändringens rationalitet bygger på aktivering och ansvarsgörande av ‘självet’ och ‘gemenskapen’. Styrningsrationaliteten bygger på en långtgående kritik av välfärdsstatens sätt att styra där samhället i sin helhet betraktas som målpunkt. Genom sådan diskurs skyms mer genomgående samhällsförändringar. Avhandlingen utforskar empiriskt och illustrerar hur en rad tendenser och mutationer i välfärdsstatens styrningsrationalitet och i det sociala arbetet kommer till uttryck genom ‘idrott som en lösning på sociala problem’.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. , 172 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 687
Keyword [en]
Social work, social policy, social inclusion, youth, subject formation, citizenship, civil society, community, governmental rationality
Keyword [sv]
Socialt arbete, socialpolitik, social inkludering, ungdom, fostran, medborgarskap, civilsamhälle, gemenskap, styrningsrationalitet
National Category
Social Work Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Communication Studies Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-130783DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-130783ISBN: 9789176857250 (Print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-130783DiVA: diva2:954819
Public defence
2016-09-30, K1, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-08-23 Created: 2016-08-23 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Research on Sport as a Means of Crime Prevention in a Swedish Welfare Context: A Literature Review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Research on Sport as a Means of Crime Prevention in a Swedish Welfare Context: A Literature Review
2013 (English)In: Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, ISSN 2000-088X, Vol. 4, 91-120 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article reviews Swedish research literature on sport as a means to realize social objectives related to crime prevention, contextualized by international literature on the subject. The article examines how Swedish research on sport as a means of crime prevention can be understood in light of international research regarding research questions, theoretical approaches, and content. Utilizing content analysis with inductive category development, the article describes current Swedish and international research, identifies certain characteristics in Swedish research, as well as underlying assumptions. Besides a thorough description acknowledging discrepancies between scientific knowledge in literature and a common sense notion in society about sport as a means of crime prevention, the article highlights five results. First, Swedish research shows great similarities with international research regarding content. Second, previous research is greatly concerned with empirically driven approaches. Third, Swedish research is nonexplicit in terms of crime prevention as a social objective and considers social objectives a potential effect of, rather than a premise for, sport practices. Fourth, Swedish research is focused on primary and secondary prevention. Fifth, there is general lack of Swedish research on sport as a means of crime prevention. In conclusion, the article considers future possible directions in research with respect to characteristics in the traditionally upheld Swedish welfare state regime.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö University, 2013
Keyword
crime reduction, social problem, social work, sport, welfare, youth, leisure, deviancy
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-99435 (URN)
Available from: 2013-10-18 Created: 2013-10-18 Last updated: 2016-08-23Bibliographically approved
2. Sport and crime prevention: Individuality and transferability in research
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sport and crime prevention: Individuality and transferability in research
2013 (English)In: Journal of Sport for Development, ISSN 2330-0574, Vol. 1, no 2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Researchers have examined sport practices as a means of crime prevention. The article reviews the international body of literature on this subject from a social constructionist perspective. By exploring the idea of sport as a means of crime prevention, the article considers what is described on the subject and how these descriptions are articulated. Through a content analysis, the article aims to develop categories and provide an analytical discussion of the findings. The descriptive analysis reveals that, although researchers are most notably critical of putting faith in sport for social objectives, there is research that affirms the role of sport in crime prevention. When sport is upheld as a means of crime prevention, two modes of prevention are emphasised, called the averting-mode and the social change-mode. The discussion focuses primarily on how the dominant social change-mode is articulated and how this social change becomes a meaningful concept as portrayed in discourses on individuality and transferability. The importance and potential consequences of framing crime as a social problem and of framing sport as a solution in response are also discussed. Finally, the article sets out the direction for further research on sport as a means of crime prevention.

Keyword
Anti-social behaviour, Social problem, Social work, Welfare, Youth
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-102954 (URN)
Available from: 2014-01-08 Created: 2014-01-08 Last updated: 2016-08-23Bibliographically approved

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