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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 474

As the full title suggests, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization is a book as much about the phenomenon of globalization as it is about soccer. Foer's central thesis is that many analysts have vastly overstated the influence of globalization around the world. On the one hand, soccer is, without a shadow of the doubt, among the world's most important cultural phenomena. It is the most popular game in much of the world, barring only the United States and India among major nations (and it is making headway in each of these). Billions watch the biggest leagues in Europe, and even more watch the World Cup every four years. Billionaires and oligarchs around the world pour billions of dollars into clubs, and the great clubs are sponsored by massive corporations from the United States and China, among others. There are very few places, in short, that the game does not reach.

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But Foer wants to show that the game has not led to homogenization, nor has it necessarily ameliorated nationalist sentiment, two major arguments for globalization. In his first chapter, which looks at the game in Serbia, Foer shows how the hooligans that supported Serbian club Red Star Belgrade were mobilized to become killing squads during the civil war in the Balkans. He pursues the theme of globalization's interactions with localism and tribalism in each of the following chapters. In the second chapter, he looks at the rivalry between the traditionally Catholic club Glasgow Celtic and their Protestant counterparts, Glasgow Rangers. In the third, he investigates the traditionally Jewish identity of some clubs, including Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur. In the fourth chapter, he looks at the enduring phenomenon of "firms," fan hooligan organizations in Britain and elsewhere that sometimes engage in violent acts. He goes on in chapter five to lament the survival of the "Top Hats," corrupt officials and gangsters associated with Brazilian clubs that Foer argues have severely damaged the Brazilian domestic game. In a chapter entitled "How Soccer Explains the Black Carpathians," he looks at Nigerian players who went to Ukraine to play in that country's domestic league, focusing on the racial discrimination they faced.

Foer reveals the involvement of oil oligarchs in Europe's big clubs in the seventh chapter, and the "charm" of the "bourgeois nationalism" associated with FC Barcelona, a Catalan club that has emerged as a dominant force in European football. He goes on to analyze the tensions between soccer and Islamic fundamentalism, focusing on its potential to liberalize Iran, and concludes with an analysis of how soccer figures in the "culture wars" in the United States. In summary, Foer argues throughout that the potential for globalization (and soccer as one of its main agents) to defuse local animosities on the one hand or to crush local cultures on the other is overstated.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1833

Globalization means different things to different people. To those who favor it, it represents fewer reasons for armed conflicts, more opportunities for escaping the confines of tradition and narrow-mindedness, a higher standard of living, and more access to the good things of life; in short, capitalism and democracy. To those who mistrust it or hate it, it means the submersion of national sovereignty, the extinction of regional cultures, the enrichment of multinational corporations and the bankruptcy of corner stores, the undermining of religion, and the corruption of morality; in short, capitalism and democracy.

Franklin Foer asserts that both the proponents and detractors of globalization have oversold its influence. His proof is soccer. This sport, which everywhere but in the...

(The entire section contains 2307 words.)

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