Christophe Granger: Rule Matters: On Sport, Violence, and the Law. [Abstract]

In Quest for Excitement, co-authored with Eric Dunning, and in particular in “An Essay on Sport and Violence,” Norbert Elias posed with great acuity the question of the interdependent relationship between the development of sporting games and the evolution of sporting rules. As well as being at the heart of the permanent tension between order and disorder, by remedying the malfunctioning of the activity, these rules, Elias explains, participate in the process of sportization by making it possible to release within the activity a certain degree of violence (blows, jostling, injuries, contact, etc.) that has become intolerable in the rest of human activities. Sporting rules thus have their place in the process of civilization/de-civilization that the sociologist is interested in. But while Elias explains what these rules do, he does not say from where they derive the power to do so. It is to this question that this text turns: how do the private rules that the players in sports have set for themselves acquire the regulatory force that usually belongs to public rules? How is it possible for there to be a space in society where participants can indulge in a certain amount of violence without abandoning the principle of the universality of rules guaranteed by law? To tackle this problem, the article looks in detail at the case of France between 1900 and 1940. Based on three court cases that mobilised legal and sporting actors in this specific historical context, the aim was to show that, in order to fulfil the function attributed to them by Elias, sporting rules had to be subjected to a process of recognition of their normative force through the law. Exploring Elias’s theory in this light allows us to identify the contribution of law to the process of civilisation/de-civilisation in the case of sport.

Order this Article
Access via EBSCO for Registered Users (coming soon)
All about this Special Issue: "Law and (De)Civilization"