Sport as State Legitimator in Cuba

Cuban hero Teofilo Stevenson boxing at the 1976 Olympics

State Legitimacy is a big topic.  Yesterday, the good people at the University acceded to my request for external reader status, giving me access to the University subscriptions to online journals.  I didn’t have a ready made list of journals to download (remote access is unfortunately not available to “external readers”) so I sat down and began searching on some of the keywords.  “State Legitimacy” was first; then “Nation State”.  Lots of results, lots of articles, including one particularly interesting piece on Cuba’s efforts to bolster State Legitimacy based on sports.  As the abstract explains,

A crucial element of the legitimating discourse of the Cuban state, domestically and internationally, has been the relative success of its sports teams in international competition. As symbols of the strength of the state and one of the few remaining “successes” of the Revolution, Cuban sports performances remain vital symbolic capital for current and future administrations.

This is not quite the same thing as I had referred to earlier in describing alternate personal allegiances to sporting associations – such as Barcelona FC – but it does appear to help in branding the state.  I’ll blog on the article in more detail later.

I retain a problem of scope.  Measuring legitimacy is one thing, but there’s no thesis in that.  Is it about branding?  Is it about corporatism? Is it about national identity? Another interesting subject could be the legitimacy of the European Union, an institution that acknowledges its democratic deficit and finds itself these days lurching from crisis to crisis, both economic and political.  It’s been an astonishing project, the EU, with remarkable success.  But many problems remain.  The crisis she finds herself in presently could be the catalyst for something extraordinary, a leap forward in terms of political integration.  If it is, and the chances are admittedly slim, then the immediate imperative will be to copper fasten the legitimate structures of European Government.

There is no issue in having a very large scope, it will just need to be subdivided.  And perhaps there are several theses side by side – one or two may fall away, and that is ok as well.  Much work – and reading – needed.


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