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Ideology doesn’t just happen: Sports and neoliberalism.

Research on sports in society is discouraged by essentialist beliefs that define sport as a fixed, innate expression of human impulses. This has undermined an awareness of sports as cultural practices and forms of social organization that are commonly used to reaffirm national and global processes of neoliberalization. This paper clarifies the contemporary meaning of neoliberalism and suggests that it is closely associated with the emergence and support of elite, organized, competitive, commercial form of sports. In turn, these sports often are promoted and represented to establish, reaffirm, and reproduce neoliberal ideas and beliefs. Despite resistance, neoliberalism continues to gain acceptance among people worldwide because of the wide array of strategies used by its proponents. Although the most visible strategies focus on economic and political policies, the long term success of those policies depends on embedding neoliberal ideas and beliefs in the cultural and social spheres of life. Therefore, effective resistance and the establishment of viable alternatives requires strategies based on a full understanding of the cultural and social as well as the economic and political manifestations of neoliberalism. Part of this strategy involves efforts to reclaim physical activities and sports as part of the public sphere and alter funding priorities to support physical activities in forms other than elite, organized, competitive sports. Strategies for producing such changes are identified.