Sport and Social Mobility: Crossing Boundaries

Ramón Spaaij

Routledge, New York and London, 2011
207 pp., ISBN 978 0415 8508 03 (paperback), ISBN 978 0415 8748 85 (hardback)

Can sport serve as a vehicle for social mobility for those who experience socioeconomic disadvantage? How and to what extent are different forms of capital created, accrued and put to work by means of sport participation? Sport and Social Mobility: Crossing Boundaries takes up these questions through a critical examination of the ways in which sport facilitates or inhibits upward social mobility. Drawing on four case studies, the book provides a rich sociological analysis of people’s lived experiences of sport in diverse social, cultural and political contexts, ranging from sport-for-development programs in Brazil and the Netherlands to rural communities and the Somali diaspora in Australia. The first international comparison of and critical reflection on the relationship between social mobility and participation in non-professional sport, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in sport’s potential for social inclusion.

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Russian language edition published in 2014 in the Russian International Olympic University series.


"The quality of the discussion of the mechanisms behind social mobility lends this book to uses beyond the sociology of sport. Indeed, it is one of the clearest discussions of social mobility, and also of social and other capitals"

– Journal of Sociology

"[Spaaij’s] analysis maintains important perspective, recognizing that sport is but one social institution available to support social mobility and that sport can secure inequalities and exclusions as much as challenge them. ... The text offers novel and timely ethnographic data. ... This approach is particularly useful and insightful given recent calls in the literature to embrace the diversity of programs and policies within the broader field of SDP. ... These kinds of conclusions do a service to the literature by resisting the tendency to essentialize the contributions of sport to social and community development. Spaaij’s ethnography shows sport to be just one social experience or structure among many that affect the development of social capital and the achievement of social mobility."

– Sociology of Sport Journal

"A welcomed, progressive addition ... provides an interesting and much needed authentic insight into the complexities of contemporary sport-for-development projects"

– International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics