From: Baldoni on

The nation state is a crumbling institution, according to Britain's
most illustrious historian, and he believes that football shows why.

Professor Eric Hobsbawm told an audience at The Times Cheltenham
Literature Festival yesterday that football was a “textbook
illustration of the internal contradictions of globalisation in the
period of the nation state”.

A section of his latest book Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism is
devoted to the argument but “this has not been picked up by the critics
except, you will not be surprised to hear, the Brazilian ones”.

Professor Hobsbawm remains, at 90, both revered and reviled for the
lifelong commitment to Marxism that underpinned his classic histories
of the past two centuries: The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital,
The Age of Empire and The Age of Extremes.

However, he is also interested in football, and is intrigued by the way
that the game has mutated into a global business dominated by the

“imperialism of a few capitalist enterprises” such as Manchester United
and Real Madrid.

“Neither the local nor the national identification is what defines the
economy of football today,” he said.

“What defines it is that since globalisation it's been possible for a
consortium of wealthy clubs in a particular set of Western European
countries to build themselves up as global brands which have relatively
little contact with their original local roots and hire people from all
over the world.

“They make money by selling goods, such as T-shirts, by television and
to a diminishing extent by people watching [live] football.”

Logically these clubs would prefer to limit the game to a super-league
of teams playing together irrespective of national leagues and local
loyalties, were it not for one thing: football's marketability is
rooted in nationalism.

“You see it whenever there's a World Cup. What keeps the whole system
going is the fact that football is something noneconomic for a large
number of people who use it to identify themselves and their country.”

As he once wrote: “The imagined community of millions seems more real
in the form of 11 named people.”

For many Cameroonians, for example, the first time that they had a
sense of themselves as members of an independent nation state was when
their team played at the World Cup, Professor Hobsbawm said.

“This is a type of internal contradiction. There was a nice interview
with Arsene Wenger [the manager of Arsenal] the other day which
sketches it out very well. He said: 'I'm not interested in national
teams but I know we have got to have them because that's what keeps the
money coming in'.”

The consequences of this tension between globalised commerce and
national and local loyalties are legion, according to Professor
Hobsbawm. They include a weakening of the traditionally strong but
economically poor national teams such as Brazil, which now export most
of their players to Europe, and the rise of racism in counties such as
Holland and Spain, where fans find themselves torn between pride in
their clubs and prejudice against players from nations long thought of
as inferior who are becoming increasingly prominent in their stadiums.
Like their international football teams, Professor Hobsbawm suggests,
nation states are finding that their strength is being eroded by the
emergence of transnational interests. He questions whether any modern
democracies would be able to field vast conscript armies as they did
routinely in the 20th century.

“The process which turned peasants into Frenchmen and immigrants into
American citizens is reversing.” However, he concluded: “The nation
state is crumbling but we can't do without it. The world is, in some
sense, not fully globalisable. Just as clubs and world football must
coexist, so globalisation must coexist with the national interests
which still have enough leverage to establish themselves.”

Count Baldoni

In hoc signo vinces

From: nigel on
Baldoni wrote:

> For many Cameroonians, for example, the first time that they had a sense
> of themselves as members of an independent nation state was when their
> team played at the World Cup, Professor Hobsbawm said.

Tiem for another world war.

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