Gambling Ain’t What It Used To Be: The Instrumentalization of Gambling and Late Modern Culture


  • James Cosgrave Dept. of Sociology, Trent University Durham



Gambling, Instrumentalization, Rationalization, Weber, Habermas


This article addresses significant cultural macro-processes shaping legalized gambling as a mass consumer market, which also serve various state and private industry ends. The processes examined here are “instrumentalization” and rationalization, explored through the seminal formulations of Max Weber and developed further in the work of Jurgen Habermas. Instrumentalization relates to Weber’s concepts of rationalization and instrumental rationality, as well as to Habermas’s distinction between the “system” and “lifeworld”. While the phenomenon of instrumentalization is approached largely from a macro-perspective, it is understood to have effects on the lifeworld, on social action, and the formation of (gambling) subjectivities. The discussion of instrumentalization and rationalization, as broad cultural processes, contributes to the genealogy of gambling in (late) modern culture. It also serves to develop a particular theoretical trajectory within critical gambling studies and indicates themes that could be opened up for further analysis.

Author Biography

James Cosgrave, Dept. of Sociology, Trent University Durham

James Cosgrave’s (Deptartment of Sociology, Trent University Durham, Oshawa, Ontario) research interests include the sociology of gambling, the state’s involvement in the legitimation and expansion of gambling markets, and gambling regulation. His recent publications include:

“Where Isn’t the Action?” Critical Gambling Studies Spring 2020 1 (1): 1-11. “Celebrating the Contingent: The Modern Lottery as Collective Representation in Late Capitalism.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 2021 46 (2): 121-146, and “Gambling Games, Money, and Late Capitalism.” In The Casino, Card and Betting Games ReaderCommunities, Cultures, and Play. ‘Play Beyond the Computer’, Volume I. ed. Mark R. Johnson. London UK; New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. Pp. 19-38. 




How to Cite

Cosgrave, J. (2022). Gambling Ain’t What It Used To Be: The Instrumentalization of Gambling and Late Modern Culture. Critical Gambling Studies, 3(1), 12–23.



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