Compare and contrast the structural-functionalist and social conflict perspectives in analysing sports.

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The structural-functionalist perspective of sports would examine the role that sports play in the interconnectedness of society. For example, sports teams draw people together and help create a sense of identity—whether that identity is related to a school, college, or town. In addition, sports on the professional level create jobs...

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The structural-functionalist perspective of sports would examine the role that sports play in the interconnectedness of society. For example, sports teams draw people together and help create a sense of identity—whether that identity is related to a school, college, or town. In addition, sports on the professional level create jobs in media and other areas that provide income for people.

A conflict perspective, on the other hand, might look at the ways in which sports function to perpetuate inequality in the society. Professional sports offer the opportunity for a very, very limited number of people to ascend the class ladder. While most people can't better their situation by becoming professional athletes, the promise of professional sports is a lure for many poor people and seems to promise them the opportunity for betterment. In addition, watching and playing sports function to siphon off the aggression that the lower class might direct towards the upper class. The structural-functionalist perspective looks at the interrelatedness of societal institutions, while the conflict perspective looks at the tensions between different classes in the society.

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Structural functionalism holds that every aspect of our society has a certain function.  All parts of our society help to keep our society stable and cohesive.  By contrast, social conflict theory holds that social institutions like sports are used by the dominant groups in our society to hold the lower groups down.

A functionalist might say, for example, that sports teaches important lessons that people in our society need.  It teaches perseverance and teamwork and discipline.  By contrast, a conflict theorist might say that sports are used by the dominant class as an "opiate."  Sports are used to provide an outlet for the aggressions and frustrations of the masses so they do not rise up against those who unfairly dominate them.

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