I attended a Shakespeare lecture yesterday in which my lecturer gave a Marxist reading of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. According to Karl Marx, a German philosopher, individuals in society are shaped by their ‘mode of production‘, or the unity of the productive forces and the relations of production. Marx believes that this combination of labour, materials instruments etc. with the social structures which regulate the relations between humans in the production of goods affects how an individual exists with society: what they are depends on what they produce, and how they produce it.
Whilst I listened to this theory being applied to the play, I was reminded of an interview I saw on Goals on Sunday before the Liverpool v Manchester United game a couple of weeks ago. Gus Poyet, manager of Brighton FC and Uruguayan national appeared on the sofa on the show and was involved in the discussion of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez‘ apparent handball against Mansfield Town the week before. (See clip here)
Luis Suarez is a controversial figure: you love him or you hate him. Supporting Liverpool means that I’m naturally a big fan of Luis, and think he is a fantastic player. However, in 2011 he was charged by the FA over racist remarks made towards Patrice Evra and in 2010 was banned for seven games by the Dutch FA for biting PSV Eindhoven‘s Otman Bakkal. The Liverpool striker is also frequently accused of diving and attempting to influence officials with theatrical displays following a tackle, most notably by Everton manager David Moyes, whose dugout Suarez ‘dived’ in front of in celebration following his goal against the Blues in October last year.
During the Goals on Sunday interview Poyet was vocal in support of his fellow countryman, claiming that people in this country don’t necessarily understand why foreign players like Suarez are so dramatic following a challenge on the football pitch. Poyet suggested that the culture in South America, and countries like Spain or Portugal affects the way in which their nationals play football. He says that in these countries the players are brought up in a way which teaches them to do ANYTHING necessary in order to win a football game.
Poyet revealed that as a player he himself found the playing in England to be a real culture shock. Whilst playing in Spain, Poyet said he would have done anything if it meant he would win the game. He moved to England in 1997 after signing for Chelsea, and says that it took him a while to adjust to the way in which our culture works. Pending his move, Poyet was warned by his former Zaragoza teammate Nayim about the expectations of English society about how football should be played. Poyet said on the show, ‘Nayim said to me “don’t try to do this, don’t try to do that, don’t score a goal with your hand, don’t go down if you’re not fouled,’ and I said ‘am I going to another planet?”
I can see where Poyet is coming from. If a player dives in the Premiership there is usually an uproar, whether that be in the media, on social networks, or in conversations in the pub. Turn the television over to La Liga, and diving appears to be slightly more commonplace. Poyet himself finished the interview by saying, “I go to Spain every now and then to watch my team, Zaragoza,” said Poyet. “When I see someone dive I say ‘come on, stand up’ – and then I realise I used to do the same a few years ago!”
Perhaps this idea could be linked to Marxist ideas about the mode of production. Football is Luis Suarez’ career, or his productive force. In order to express himself, he combines what he does with how he does it, or in other words he combines football with the way in which his society believes football should be played. This combination leads to the way in which Suarez exists in society, and it affects the way in which he is shaped as a person. In Uruguay, Suarez is probably perceived differently to the way he is in England. People in Uruguay are affected by the same form of economic organisation, or mode of production, as Suarez is himself. A carpenter in Uruguay might also be brought up with the same cultural belief that he or she must do whatever is necessary in order to be successful in their job. In England, people are brought up with different ideas about how they should live or how they should conduct themselves in their work, and may not understand why players like Suarez act in the way that they do.
I am not offering these ideas as a way of condoning Suarez’ actions, nor am I saying that everyone in South America would racially abuse another person to help gain three virtual points. I am simply presenting what could begin to explain why Suarez may act the way he does. Maybe he is not categorically racist, or violent, or a cheat, but is instead competitive, acting in the way his society has conditioned him to do. After all, according to Marxist theorists there is no such thing as individual identity, and no single person is independent from social existence. Or perhaps I’ve missed the point, and need to brush up on my Marxist theory!