Modernity, community and keep-fit exercise: the role of organisational settings

Por: Kari Steen-johnsen.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

The capacity to create social bonds is often regarded as a characteristic of voluntary sports organisations.This paper examines the sense of community created within a commercial training centre and a voluntary sports club. It asks two questions: 1) What forms of community are embedded in the two organisations? 2) Which aspects of these organisations influence the establishment of different forms of community?

Methods

The study is a qualitative case study of a voluntary sports club and a commercial training centre, both localised in the same neighbourhood in a large Norwegian city. Methods include participant observation, 17 interviews with practitioners and 7 with leaders/instructors in the organisations, and document studies. Practitioners are between 28 and 67 years of age, including 12 women and 5 men.

Results

1) Starting from a typology coined by Enjolras (1), the study identifies four types of community within the two organisational settings, which are: "traditional community", "loose network community", "loose expressive community" and "consumer community". These are distinguished by the strength of the social bonds and by their basis, either in shared norms/values or in shared expressivity (built on aesthetics/emotion) (2). While traditional community is only found in the sports club, and consumer community only at the training centre, both organisations display "loose network community" (built on norms) and "loose expressive community". 2) The study concludes that the training activities in themselves are important in shaping either normativity or expressivity as a basis for community. Also, the expectations included in definitions of membership play a role in shaping normativity as a basis for community, and in creating stronger or weaker bonds.

Discussion/Conclusions

The study concludes that there is a differentiation of community forms within both the voluntary and the commercial sports organisation. This may be explained by a differentiation both in terms of activities offered and in the definitions of terms of membership within the organisations. The study thus suggests that specific features of the organisations are more relevant to explain differences in community than the voluntary-commercial split.

References

[1]. Enjolras, B. (2003). Unpublished paper.
[2]. Cf. Beck, U. et al. (1994). Reflexive Modernization. Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. Cambridge. Polity Press.

 

 

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