Sport as a means of responding to social problems: Knowledge and praxis in the intersection of social policy and sport policy

In Swedish

David Ekholm
Linköping University


In this text, sport as a means of responding to social problems’ are discussed, focusing on how this practice and knowledge intertwined have emerged in the history of the present. By means of identifying and describing the phenomenon’s contemporary appearance this is reflected upon, focusing on three sports-based interventions conducted in a socio-economic vulnerable area, and from there, tracing the genealogy and conditions of possibility in relation to specific characteristics of Swedish sport and social policy. By looking at statements from representatives of the interventions, three concurrent conditions of possibility are traced: (1) an advanced critique of traditional welfarist social policy, spotlighting individual risk-awareness and the rise of activation politics, (2) formalized expectations on the social utility of sport practices as a trend in Swedish sport policy, (3) a continuity within Swedish community work emphasising empowerment pedagogy, community within the civil society and area-based interventions. This provides a refined understanding of a contemporary sport practice, attuned to the specific features of Swedish sport and social policy, in a field notably influenced by international research. The article highlights how some certain conditions on the intersection between sport policy and social policy enables this particular regime of practice to emerge in contemporary society.


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DAVID EKHOLM holds a Ph.D. in Social Work and postdoc position at the Center for Municipality Studies, Linköping University. His research is about how social work appears in new forms in relation to a changing social policy. He is particularly concerned with social activities where sport is used as a tool for managing social exclusion among young people, conducted in collaboration between public actors and civil society.


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