Livsbaner gennem et felt: En analyse af eliteidraetsudøveres sociale mobilitet og rekonversioner af kapital i det sociale rum

Translated title of the contribution: Trajectories through a field: An analysis of top level athletes' social mobility and reconversions of capital in the social space.

Martin D Munk

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The thesis deals with a theoretical outline of the theory of reconversions in the light of the social space, with an analysis of top level athletes' mobility and strategies of reconversions in their trajectories through the relative autonomous field of sports. Some disciplines in this field have much autonomy, others less, and are positioned according to a state of distribution of the specific capital, accumulated in the consequence of previous struggles. Trajectories and classes are not reproduced in a mechanical way, there are specific effects in those. By the concept of strategies of reconversions it is possible to determine central societal processes according to transformations and reproductions of the social world. They are defined as practices by which social groups endeavour to keep 'on the road' or even change position. In that sense social life is about struggles and converting capital. The thesis builds upon investigations of sports. In an enquete, 1990, I examined whether cycling could be characterized as a field, and included 220 schemes. In 1993, I studied athletes' trajectories through sports, and how these athletes left sports, including 538 athletes distributed on 25 disciplines in the main analysis. Some of those were interviewed, and material about achievements in international championships and the Danish population were applied. I compared central tables with French sociologists in 1994-1996. I have used correspondence analysis according to a French interpretation. The important thing with this type of analysis is that modalities with small frequencies do not get lost, and there is a possibility of using supplementary modalities and individuals. The main thing is to analyse objective relational oppositions. Correspondence analysis is used together with sociological analysis, which is more sensitive towards empirical material and thereby closer to actually social processes. Two aspects in the transitions between the field of sports and the social space are important: the relative short period of time in sports and the objective possibilities after the time in sports. It is clear that the small conversion-rate of capital into a permanent job in sports (after the active period) is closely related to the fact that Denmark is a society with private organized institutions of sports and clubs grounded upon voluntary work, and no state institutions. This is contrary to the United States and France. Fifteen per cent obtain a job in the field, and it primarily concerns athletes from 'upper' and 'middle' classes (academics, teachers and directors) and agents with large volume of sports capital. What seems to be important is the structural homology between the social space and the way in which athletes find their pathways from the field to other places in the social space; capital can be converted on certain conditions. The great amount of movements regarding sons and daughters of self-employed to working class conditions and to positions like teachers reflect a general tendency in society. The correspondence analysis shows two main positions over time, dealing with agents who pass through and spend some time of the trajectory in the field of sports. On one side there is a vocational pole with origin among dominated classes, and on the other side an academic pole primarily with origin among dominating classes. Furthermore the analysis point at a dichotomy between objective opportunities for a professional career in badminton, golf, tennis etc. and no possibilities in curling, orienteering, shooting etc. There is an effect of gravitation/struggle from the field of sports, with the possibility of converting sports capital, but the strategies of reconversions and mobility depend also on the structural homology between the field and the social space mediated by trajectories, and the structure of society.
Translated title of the contributionTrajectories through a field: An analysis of top level athletes' social mobility and reconversions of capital in the social space.
Original languageDanish
Awarding Institution
  • Sociology
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1999 Mar 5
ISBN (Print)91-89078-72-1
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 1999-03-05
Time: 10:15
Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, Lund University
External reviewer(s)
Name: Roos, J.P.
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Helsinki University

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • Trajectories
  • field of sports
  • athletes
  • sports capital
  • social space
  • strategies of reconversions
  • structural homology
  • Sociology
  • social mobility
  • correspondence analysis.
  • 'classes'


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