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The globalization of baseball? : a figurational analysis

By Daniel. Bloyce

Abstract

This thesis examines the extent of the diffusion of baseball across the world. Tracing the diffusion of baseball, and the diverse receptions the game has encountered on foreign soils, holds out the prospect of offering many insights into the global spread of sport and our understanding of the processes of globalization in general. By examining different responses to baseball, and developing our empirical knowledge on the extent of its diffusion, we will be in a position to draw more reliable and valid conclusions than have, thus far, been offered in relation to the global diffusion of baseball specifically, and globalization processes more generally. The thesis endeavours to determine the extent to which baseball can be regarded as a global sport. This objective will involve charting the development of baseball in America, its diffusion to other countries and the different receptions the game has received on foreign soil, via a series of national case studies\ud Given the magnitude of global diffusion processes it is hardly surprising that its study has attracted the attention of academics from a number of disciplines and orientations. This particular thesis tests the figurational approach, assessing the adequacy of this approach in being able to make sense of the global baseball figuration. It does this by first providing an outline for the incipient modernization, and subsequent sportization, of baseball in America. Then a cross-sectional analysis of the diffusion and development of baseball in various countries throughout the world is presented, for the most part via a critical analysis of secondary source material. In order to supplement the secondary source material, questionnaires were sent to all national governing bodies for baseball across the world (109 in total). The principal focus of the empirical aspects of this thesis is on the development of baseball in England. Extensive documentary analysis of archival newspaper sources was carried out in the National Newspaper Library, Colindale, London. Alongside this, several oral history interviews were conducted with baseball players who had played in this country before the 1950s. Furthermore, interviews were conducted with administrators involved in the running and promotion of the game in this country. Analysing the diffusion of baseball around the world, and the different responses to attempts to develop the game, and subsequently analysing in much greater depth the developments and responses to baseball in England, enables us to engage in more informed comparative analysis.\ud On the basis of this thesis it is concluded that the argument that baseball is a 'global sport', is a highly exaggerated view of baseball's global profile. The fact of the matter is baseball has only enjoyed sustained periods of success in a handful of countries in Asia and Latin America. Furthermore, it is argued that the theoretical premises of figurational sociology are both sensitising and illuminating; and provide a more object-adequate analysis of the global baseball figuration than other theoretical approaches allow. In this respect, the central figurational concept of dynamic and differential power relationships is key to developing our understanding of the global baseball figuration, and globalization more generally. The concept of lengthening chains of interdependency is a far more illuminating, and therefore more useful, way of conceptualising the process by which baseball has undergone diffusion, than concepts such as Americanization, American cultural hegemony, imperialism, or, indeed, globalization

Topics: Social aspects, Globalization, Baseball
Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/4753

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