On Bowling, Boxing, and Social Capital


With a focus on bowling and boxing in the US, this paper examines the ostensible relationship between sport and social capital. In a critical engagement with Robert Putnam’s thinking about bridging social capital, the study scrutinizes and ultimately rejects Putnam’s arguments about the causal relationship between sport participation and the diversification of community and democratization of society. Neither bowling nor boxing can be said to cultivate bridging social relationships and connections in any straightforward way. Hence the argument calls into question the transcendent bridging power of participation in sport—be it a team sport like bowling or an individual sport such as boxing. The relationship between sport and the social is complex and nuanced, especially in the case of boxing, as the study suggests. Indeed, I argue that boxing clubs in particular are best understood not as loci of social capital production but rather sites of cross-cutting sociation.


Joseph D Lewandowski
Professor, English and Philosophy, The University of Central Missouri, Missouri, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2023 Special Focus—The Impact of Professional Sport on Community


Social Capital, Community, Ethnicity, Class, Culture, Democracy, Boxing, Bowling

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