A victory for Spain is a victory for neoliberalism
While in terms of the nations the teams represent Germany vs. Greece was often talked about as a clash of neoliberals against their victims, from a purely football point of view it seems clear to me that the Spanish team are the standard-bearers for neoliberalism. Spain have perfected the style of play that is most in tune with the ongoing neoliberalization of football. The passing style of play is made increasingly attractive by the rules changes which discourage aggression in tackling (as can be seen by the results when the Netherlands tried to play a more physical style of football in the World Cup final in 2010), and these rule changes reflect the increasing amount of money involved in football: even a brief loss of playing time due to injury represents a considerable financial cost to a club. Of course it’s also true that Spain’s success with this style of play is a result of the exceptional talent of their players; it’s interesting that in recent years descriptions of Spain’s football have tended towards terms like “businesslike,” rather than the rapturous descriptions of the beauty of their play that was common a few years ago, but the most important point is that these two things are not incompatible. In flexibly-specialized postfordist capitalism, to be businesslike is to be virtuosic, making the sensible and sober business investment one in “human capital”; it’s not a coincidence that Spain draws most of its players from Real Madrid and Barcelona, which are the two highest-revenue football clubs in the world.
The difficulty is that there’s no national team you can point to as an alternative to Spain’s neoliberalism; TINA, all the other teams are attempting to play the same neoliberal game as Spain, but are simply doing it less well.
I finally got round to watching the last two Harry Potter films last week; taken together, they make a pretty good four-and-a-half hour film, although the first film is probably better (the design of the Ministry of Magic is especially good). I thought this sequence was particularly impressive. It became very clear with the publication of the fifth book that Harry Potter is an attack on the crypto-fascism of neoliberalism, and New Labour in particular, but the visuals here, it seems to me, add something that isn’t in the books: don’t the streams of smoke hanging quietly in the sky that represent the Death Eaters bring to mind images of the white phosphorous bombardment of Fallujah? It’s a valuable reminder of the other legacy of Tony Blair’s government.
Conspiracy theories usually dramatize one of the problems of right-wing anti-statism, which is that the government is simultaneously held to be incompetent and menacingly competent. The Lone Gunmen here demonstrate the usual response to this, which is to split the government into two so that the incompatible critiques can be applied to the different elements (although this doesn’t actually solve the problem - if a shadow government was capable of conspiratorial rule, surely such a shadow government could also, in principle, run a universal healthcare system). The X-Files, though, puts an interestingly neoliberal twist on conspiracy theories. As becomes apparent, the shadow government is not all powerful, quite the opposite; the Syndicate is constantly on the defensive attempting to manage an alien conspiracy that spins wildly out of its control. In the last couple of seasons, the Syndicate is destroyed, and the villains instead become a decentralized body of conspirators whose purposes are completely opaque.