Soccer and Politics

Found this today on William Easterly’s blog, trying to analogize between the growing parity in international soccer and globalization.  The post is by a grad student in economics, using the recent success of Egypt in the Confed Cup to illustrate the “Brain Circulation” theory (as opposed to the Brain Drain theory), and the U.S. success to illustrate functional differentiation.  (If you want a clearer description, follow the link).

This reminded me of an idea for a study I had awhile back.  I was thinking about the salience of national vs. ethnic identities, and I got to wondering about the role of sports in this dynamic.  A few years ago there was a book published called “How Soccer Explains the World” that argued that globalization was revitalizing sub-national ethnic identities, promising a 21st century of irredentist pressures and ethnic strife.  But then you have an incident like we saw in 2006 where a civil war was STOPPED in Cote d’Ivoire during the World Cup so everyone could focus on supporting the national team.

I got to wondering whether there was any discernible effect of sports success on the salience of national identity.  I’m not sure how one would do this though.  One possibility would be to add a variable for the World Cup appearances into the Political Instability Task Force’s model of State Failure, but state failure isn’t exactly right for the DV.  There are a couple questions in the World Values Survey concerning views of governmental legitimacy, but that data only goes back to 1990.  Another possibility could be a more focused study on Spain, and see how Catalans and Basques feel about their status when the Spanish national team is doing well.

But that’s just spitballing.  Can anyone else think of a way that a person could test this?  And what would the control variables be?


About Jake Wobig

I teach international relations and comparative politics at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina
This entry was posted in Comparative Politics, Ethnic Conflict, Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.

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