Thursday, February 24, 2011

Musings on American Parochialism

Americans have had a long hate affair with socialism, communism, and anarchism, one that goes back to the nineteenth century. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 socialism and communism were generally conflated by most Americans. This is rather ironic since the Bolsheviks claimed, much like Roman Catholics, Orthodox Chrisians, and a host of Protestant Christian groups, that there brand of socialism was the only true brand of true socialism. Many Americans apparently took Lenin's claims to heart.

Most Americans really aren't familiar with the various permutations of socialism. They don't distinguish between Christian socialism, communal socialism, scientific socialism, and democratic socialism. And I am not sure they understand how important democratic socialism has been in "old" Europe and in Israel.

I suspect that for most Americans today socialism equals big government, big taxes, and big redistribution of taxes. And since they have an eric the half a bees’ knowledge of human history they don't recognise the fact that bureaucracy is not a monopoly of socialism or communism and that it is, as Weber points out, a product of modernity. Modern states, in general, have grown since the 19th century just as modern business big scale enterprises, corporations, which are bureaucracies in all senses, have grown since the 17th century.

Large-scale capitalism, of course, is grounded in a bigger is better mentality. Large-scale capitalism inevitably breeds bigger though not necessarily better bureaucracies since modern capitalism tends toward cartellisation and monopolisation. They, in other words, tend to become ever bigger and bigger bureaucracies as a result of practises inherent within capitalist enterprises, particularly big capitalist enterprises.

Football gets entangled in this American parocialism. American sports are a reflection of American parochialism and tribalism. Most Americans, particularly those of a particular age, see football as other, as a game old Europe and other countries play. They see it as boring and slow, an interesting characterisation since football is a 90 minute game played in 90 minutes or so while US football is a sixty minute game played over three and a half hours. Americans see their games as exciting and fast paced. Not surprisingly Americans see American film and TV in a similar way and criticize art cinema and television as "slow" and “boring”.

In terms of sports the US isn’t really competitive (yet) in three of the world’s global or almost global sports, football, rugby, and cricket. Hence they live in a sports world where they equate achievement in sports they invented and by and large dominate as world conquest (“World Series”, “Super Bowl”).

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