Conditions for Internationalism as a Standard for the Olympics: A Social Constructivist View on Conception and Rationality in the World of the International Olympic Academy

The main aim of the research in the proposed study is the survey and explanation of “internationalism” as a human behavior in tension between normative conception and rationalist interests. The intention of the research project is focused on the question how people from the widest varying cultures (this study takes all the major cultures in the world into account), and with different socializations of “internationalism,” live in and experience a relatively nonpolitical environment—here, the International Olympic Academy (IOA). At the core of the proposed study is the investigation and explanation of “internationalism” as a social construction of the IOA rather than as an academic discourse on, e.g., historic or pedagogic definitions and interpretations of internationalism. The research project’s investigation is directed in particular at the conditions for “internationalism,” which is constructed either as an Olympic standard or as a rational interest or calculation. The question of the social construction of “internationalism” as standard conception and calculated interest is moreover strongly connected on the level of behavior with the philosophical and anthropological observation of people. Is the “internationalism” of the IOA predominantly standard or is it rationally motivated? Formulated abstractly: Are humans capable of normative behavior in their actions or is everything ultimately based on a rational calculativeness? As already mentioned, this question also has a basis in the philosophical debate on the “nature of humans,” or the “conditio humana” (see Plessner 2003).

In relation to an ever more globalized world, greater international (labor) mobility, more intense communication flows (via the Internet, but also by means of the networked economic system), “internationalism” is of great relevance as a research topic. This research also aims to identify intercultural strategies for negotiating different situations.

In addition, an economic account (rationale/choice/theory) is linked, keeping interdisciplinarity and pluralistic theory in mind, with a sociological account (social constructivism) in order to be able to offer a deriviation of internationalism according to action theories of human behavior.

The concrete aims include the identification of:

  • How “internationalism” is socially constructed by the members of the International Olympic Academy (IOA). That is, is “internationalism” similar for everyone, or can subtypes be identified? If so what roles do culture and religion (of the home country) play in the IOA members’ constructions of “internationalism”? What role is played by Olympic culture, what role is played by rational interest, and what role is played by culturally inflected values and norms?
  • How enduring is the “internationalism” experienced at the Academy?
  • How deeply anchored is “internationalism” and how is it expressed, once having left the “ideal world” of the International Olympic Academy?
  • How do the relationships between rational and value-based interactions change in situations where there is increased pressure to act?

The research interests are directed especially at the conditions of intercultural exchanges between participants of the IOA sessions as well as at “internationalism” as an element of the Olympic conception that is supposed to overcome borders and mask conflicts. This project therefore studies the social construction and interpretation of “internationalism” as an attitudinal component on the one hand, and on the other hand as the pragmatic outcome of internationalism in everyday life that switches given varying pressures to act and situated frameworks—such as found in sports competition—between standard and rational calculation.

Term of Project: July 2008-Ongoing

Project Members:
Prof. Holger Preuss (Economics of Sport, Sociology of Sport)
Dr. Norbert Schütte (Sociology of Sport)

Cooperation Partners:
Prof. Benoît Séguin (University of Ottawa, Canada; Faculty of Health Sciences)
Prof. Lamartine DaCosta (University of Gama Filho, Rio de Janeiro)
Prof. Shin-Pyo Kang (Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, Inje University, South Korea)