‘One big happy family, just don’t put a foot wrong’ – Laurie Penny on the Olympics

Famous black power and anti-war protest by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.

Writing in the Independent, Laurie Penny, author of Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent, sounds a discordant note in the chorus of praise for the Olympics, raising the issue of the exploitation of migrant labour:

This week, it was revealed that cleaners from a variety of countries have been put up in temporary slums, paying £550 per month for the privilege of sleeping 10 to a room in flooded portable housing. If the Olympics are a festival of global prosperity in microcosm, they are an unnervingly accurate one, right down to the underpaid, precarious workers shipped in to do the rotten jobs. And that’s the big secret of contemporary capitalism – much as it serves states to posture about border control and indulge in anti-immigration rhetoric, modern economies cannot function without the movement of cheap labour, usually illegally, across borders.

These are nervous, vicious times, and the 2012 Olympics has become, perhaps unwillingly, the quintessence of this anxious age: weaponised, patrolled by unaccountable private security and openly suspicious of the migrants upon whom it depends. Those terrifying mascots dressed as palace guards and police officers, watching the regimented fun with their unblinking panopticon eyes, couldn’t be more perfectly pitched: this is shaping up to be an international pageant of paranoia.

Visit the Independent to read the article in full.

For a fascinating study of the reality of life for ‘transnational sport migrants’ (i.e. the majority of sports men and women who aren’t as famous as David Beckham or Usain Bolt), based on twelve years of ethnographic research, we highly recommend Thomas F. Carter’s In Foreign Fields: the Politics and Experiences of Transnational Sport Migration. And for good measure, we also recommend John Holloway’s inspiring blast against the rule of money and corporations, Crack Capitalism.

We’ve also been enjoying the work of the Brandalism crew, who have been busy adding their own spin to some of the Olympic billboards, and other corporate advertising.

Penny Red

Notes from the New Age of Dissent

Laurie Penny. Foreword by Warren Ellis

Selected writings from a prominent voice of the new activist left. Reflections on being young, broke and angry in the twenty-first century.

“Cuts, sexism and riots, Laurie Penny’s fresh and angry voice captures the moment and the important issues – highly recommended.” – Polly Toynbee

“Penny is re-inventing the language of dissent, delivering verbal taser-barbs to the left and right, and causing apoplexy among the old men in cardigans who run the British blogosphere.” – Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC’s Newsnight

£12.99 only £11.50 on the Pluto site

In Foreign Fields

The Politics and Experiences of Transnational Sport Migration

Thomas F. Carter

Examines the lives of transnational sport migrants: players, journalists, coaches and administrators who toil far away from the sporting limelight.

“This is a remarkable book. Carter explodes facile assumptions about the mobility of sports players across playing fields and national boundaries. Combining vivid prose with shrewd analysis, he follows the lives and labour of both elite and lesser-known players. In doing so, he remakes the social scientific study of globalizing sport, while challenging its scandalous neglect in the discipline of anthropology.” – Simon Coleman, Chancellor Jackman Chaired Professor, University of Toronto, and co-editor of The Discipline of Leisure

“Based on more than a decade of ethnographic research in a wide variety of locations, this book make an enormous contribution to the anthropological study of sport and also to the social scientific understanding of sport more generally. In addition to vividly describing and forensically examining the lives of sport migrants as they ply their trade in ‘foreign fields’, Thomas Carter convincingly attacks his fellow anthropologists for their relative failure to appreciate the socio-cultural significance of sport. Even if they now take heed, however, Carter will remain their master for many years to come.” – Alan Bairner, Professor of Sport and Social Theory at Loughborough University, author of Sport, Nationalism, and Globalization (2001)

£21.99 only £19.50 on the Pluto site

Crack Capitalism

John Holloway

A groundbreaking guide to moving beyond capitalism, which shows that radical change can only come from exploiting ‘cracks’ in the system.

“infectiously optimistic” – Guardian

£17.99 only £16.00 on the Pluto site

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