A sociology of horse-racing in Britain : a study of the social significance and organisation of British horse-racing
This thesis presents a sociological analysis of the organisation and significance of thoroughbred horse-racing in Britain. It focuses on both the internal world of racing and the relationship between racing and the wider society. It argues that such an approach is necessary for an appreciation of the full meaning of horse-racing as a social institution. The study finds two major points of articulation between racing and wider social processes: first in terms of the role of racing in elite sociability and structuration; and second in terms of its location in working class culture, particularly as it is mediated through the working class betting tradition. The precise linkages, continuities and changes within these areas are explored in order both to amplify and qualify the conventional observation of a coalescence of interests in racing between otherwise sharply differentiated social strata. The analysis points to the conclusion that while the symbolic legacy of this observation may be strong, the evidence for this symmetry and its pervasiveness is now more tenuous and its implications for the general process of class identification heavily circumscribed. The analysis of the discrete world of horse-racing concentrates first upon the social production of the racehorse as reflected through the position of the stable worker. Evidence is presented which both casts doubt on received images of this process and indicates some erosion of the distinctive cultural output of racing which has customarily attracted a benign curiosity in outsiders. Secondly, attention is focused on developments in the control and administration of racing. In particular, the emergent role of the state in this process is shown to have reverberated through both the production and regulatory sectors of the industry, provoking a profound dislocation in the exercise of power. Such intervention is also demonstrated to have reacted upon the production and consumption of betting, precisely the activity which provided the original rationale for intervention in racing. While there are important elements of continuity in the organisation of racing, the thesis expresses the view that racing has passed over a watershed in the last two decades which in time may prove to have eroded its distinctive contribution to British society.