The Import/Export of the Body Athletic

The sportocratic economy reaches its current lofty heights as the broader economy shifts its primary orientation from manufacturing to service. As large swathes of the workforce in advanced economies become (primarily sedentary) information- and knowledge-intensive service workers, a vacuum is created in sport, in which there is a need for fit, muscular bodies to produce the movements required for professional contest manufacture.

Some of these bodies come from the lower economic classes in the advanced economy, perhaps lacking access to the tools, information and knowledge that are required for upward mobility in the new service economy; a rare few come from the middle and upper classes, notably from those sports requiring substantial capital expenditures in order to compete. But increasingly these jobs are being "exported" to developing economies in Latin America, China, Africa and elsewhere — an "outsourcing" of body movement, per se. This is perhaps best exemplified in the global migration for labour talent in soccer, but also may be seen in basketball, baseball, hockey, rugby, cricket, etc.

But these jobs aren't literally exported or outsourced. Resample:

[T]he United States is finding an increasing number of manufacturing jobs move overseas to locales where the labour costs are lower, and has for some time. What is relatively new, however, is the growing number of blue and white collar information jobs that are moving, via the Internet, to Europe and Singapore and developing nations such as China and India. … [T]hese departures have created a vacuum in American production, which exerts a tremendous pull towards the only manufacturing sector that cannot be outsourced — the cultural production of American spectacle. In the professional sports world, the United States is a net importer of labour. This warrants mention.

To borrow from Hardt and Negri, however, we should not see this as evidence of a linear "stages of economic development" thesis manifest in sport. To the contrary, the influence of information/knowledge is pervasive in the production of these athletic bodies, with sporting academies being created in developing economies that offer resources in athletic and coaching science far beyond what was available to the American athlete 50 or 60 years ago. Furthermore, for countries featuring an admixture of economic production, such as China, the sale of one commodity form to a foreign market may act as a prerequisite for another form to exist — the body movement of Yao Ming is exported to the United States/NBA/Houston Rockets, only then to have processed Yao informational products re-imported from the United States/NBA/Houston Rockets, which are then sold to China's burgeoning consumer economy directly via paid services or indirectly via advertising for other consumer goods.


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