FROM RITUAL TO RECORD: The Nature of Modern Sports by Allen Guttmann

FROM RITUAL TO RECORD: The Nature of Modern Sports

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An ambitious but daunting inquiry into the sociology of modern sports, which Guttmann sharply differentiates from ancient Greek, Mayan-Aztec, and medieval athletic games, cultic rituals, and folk play. Nothing if not venturesome, he tries first a Marxist, then a Weberian prism in his interpretation. The former he finds generally unsatisfactory, out of whack with the subjective, felt realities of athletic contests. Marxist charges that sports alienate the athlete from his performance and turn him into a cog in the team machinery; encourage militarism and nationalism; and serve as (one of) the opiates of the masses who might otherwise turn their energies to revolution--such charges, Guttmann feels, won't wash. The Weberian model is much more satisfactory, and Guttmann proceeds to detail its elements: modern sports are secular, rationalized, and dependent on large bureaucratic organizations, on quantification, and the quest for records. Though he considers it foolish to attempt to correlate the rise of organized sports with Protestantism (the Puritans were notoriously hostile) or capitalism, Guttmann sees the spread of soccer, tennis, golf, etc., as intimately connected to the ""slow development of an empirical, experimental, mathematical Weltanschauung."" This is one reason that the game of baseball, uniquely American and hopelessly ""pastoral,"" will, in his view, continue to decline. Few sports fans will read this dense study--Guttmann ranges freely from American historians to French anthropologists--but academics may persevere and be rewarded with enough arresting aperÇus to compensate for the shoe-string thesis.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0231133413
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press