Eric Hobsbawm: Says soccer explains the world of global capitalism

Historians in the News

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.” ...

Read entire article at Times (UK)

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