Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: May 18, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971935 | Print ISBN: 9781412966702 | Online ISBN: 9781412971935| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Human society does not exist as an undifferentiated mass, but is divided into classes, ethnicities, status groups, and lifestyles. Social distinction is a sociological term signifying the processes through which these individual and group identities are formed. Play is related to social distinction in two interrelated contexts. Sociologists since Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) have observed that individual and group choices concerning the selection of leisure activities, such as pastimes or sports, are constitutive and reflective of class and status positions. In the contemporary field of cultural studies, the social categories of gender, sexuality, and ethnic or racial groups are also understood to be constructed, in part, through leisure. As such, the study of the way social distinctions are made through forms of play is thought to provide insight into the processes and structures organizing society. In a second context, the concept of play is used as a central metaphor in understanding ...