“Spontaneous Self Discipline” and “Disciplined Spontaneity”: Notes on C.L.R. James’s Dialectics in/and Beyond a Boundary


This paper explores C.L.R. James’s use of dialectical thinking and analysis in his famous work on cricket, reading Beyond a Boundary through his Notes on Dialectics. For James, the dialectic of sport, of organized games, is the dialectic of organization and spontaneity, repetition and improvisation, chaos and control. Thus, he argues, in sport and games, we find glimpses of the organization—not in the form of yet another vanguardist micro-sect, but in disciplined and concentrated spontaneity—that will overcome the bureaucracy that oppresses and stultifies the proletariat and which will in turn free us all. What other kinds of research questions does this point us towards as scholars of both sports and society? What else does dialectical thinking reveal about the development of sport, across scales, as a practice, culture, and industry?


Brendan O'Connor
Student, PhD, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2023 Special Focus—The Impact of Professional Sport on Community


CLR James, Dialectics, Discipline, Spontaneity, Organization, Hegel, Cricket

Digital Media


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