An amateur (French amateur "lover of", from Old French and ultimately from Latin amatorem nom. amator, "lover") is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science without formal training, also referred to as an autodidact.
Amateurism can be seen in both a negative and positive light. Since amateurs often do not have formal training, some amateur work may be considered sub-par. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball, baseball or football are regarded as having a lower level of ability than professional athletes. On the other hand, an amateur may be in a position to approach a subject with an open mind (as a result of the lack of formal training) and in a financially disinterested manner. An amateur who dabbles in a field out of casual interest rather than as a profession or serious interest, or who possesses a general but superficial interest in any art or a branch of knowledge, is often referred to as a dilettante.
The lack of financial benefit can also be seen as a sign of commitment to an activity; and until the 1970s the Olympic rules required that competitors be amateurs. Receiving payment to participate in an event disqualified an athlete from that event, as in the case of Jim Thorpe. In the Olympics, this rule remains in place for boxing.
Many amateurs make valuable contributions in the field of computer programming through the open source movement. Amateur dramatics is the performance of plays or musical theater, often to high standards, but lacking the budgets of professional West End or Broadway performances. Astronomy, history, linguistics, and the natural sciences are among the myriad fields that have benefited from the activities of amateurs. Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel were amateur scientists who never held a position in their field of study. William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci were considered amateur artists and autodidacts in their fields of study.
The stigmatization of amateurs as fools for contributing to society simply for the love of it can be explained by the amateur’s non-conformity to the ideological structure of consumption (Goffman, 1963; Stebbins, 1992). Amateurs are serious about the work they do, providing outstanding examples of contributions to society (Stebbins, 1992). But whereas professionals obtain licenses as their “measurability of the excellence of service provided” (Stebbins, 1992, p. 21), amateurs break taboos by loving their work. From here, it can be argued that, to the extent amateurs threaten the professional industry by providing free services, the professional industry has an interest in making its counterpart amateur activity shameful.
Famous quotes containing the word amateur:
“The true gardener then brushes over the ground with slow and gentle hand, to liberate a space for breath round some favourite; but he is not thinking about destruction except incidentally. It is only the amateur like myself who becomes obsessed and rejoices with a sadistic pleasure in weeds that are big and bad enough to pull, and at last, almost forgetting the flowers altogether, turns into a Reformer.”
—Freya Stark (18931993)
“I have been reporting club meetings for four years and I am tired of hearing reviews of the books I was brought up on. I am tired of amateur performances at occasions announced to be for purposes either of enjoyment or improvement. I am tired of suffering under the pretense of acquiring culture. I am tired of hearing the word culture used so wantonly. I am tired of essays that let no guilty author escape quotation.”
—Josephine Woodward, U.S. author. As quoted in Everyone Was Brave, ch. 3, by William L. ONeill (1969)