Sunday, 1 July 2007

England's Barmy Army

This is a draft only. If by some rare chance someone actually stumbles across this missive which was transmitted from the outermost rim of the information galaxy, please do not cite without my permission. A substantially different version is awaiting news on possible publication. There was also a problem putting this on the blog with respect to reproduction of Endnotes.


Key words · English identity · individualisation · interaction ritual theory

The genesis of this article was a felt need to conceptually build upon Parry and Malcolm’s study of the group of English cricket supporters known as the Barmy Army. In particular greater attention is warranted with respect to the nationalistic ethos of this group. The thesis is therefore advanced that the deviancy of the Barmy Army attests to the broader difficulty faced by individuals of negotiating the scale of common understandings under conditions of functionally differentiated globalisation. The limitations of postmodern approaches to conceptualising identity are then discussed in order to introduce and apply Randall Collins’s interaction ritual theory to the Barmy Army. Consequently what requires renewal is the mandate of the sociology of sport to distinguish levels of "emotional energy" generated in different social stratas. This approach illustrates the need for identity reconstruction along the rational critical lines of a public sphere and a civic nationalism. The conclusion argues that the absence of such mediation explains the "spectral" character of affective groups such as the Barmy Army, who can accordingly be understood as neotribal dwellers of the "world society" described by Niklas Luhmann.

For those seeking evidence of the globalisation of sport and its stimulus of new expressions of national identity, Parry and Malcolm present a prima facie fascinating case study (Parry and Malcolm 2004). They are concerned to demonstrate the garnering of considerable media attention and the exertion of a surprising amount of power over the established custodians of the game, by a comparatively new, and relatively disorganised, group. For all of the associated virtues of this study though, and there are many, Parry and Malcolm are forthcoming in their admission that a more inclusive analysis would have attempted to situate the supporting style of the Barmy Army with respect to emergent forms of English identity (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 91). There is an additional equally significant, related component, albeit unacknowledged as missing from their study, and that is the affective dimension of the Barmy Army’s style of support. Some effort must be expended then to make up for these shortfalls in Parry and Malcolm’s approach.
But as already indicated, such a reconstructive exercise is motivated at base by something more than pedantry, given that it might also highlight broader issues to do with the media and globalisation. In this context, the relevant questions have to do with whether there is any justification for portraying globalisation as a singular developmental process. If there is not, then the question arises as to whether there is anything unique about England’s path of sociohistorical development playing a prominent role in attempts to negotiate present day difficulties. It might be expected that, in the interest of galvanising their patriotic style of support, the Barmy Army would appeal to this heritage against their opponents. This would thus involve understanding who one is by comparing oneself in proximal relation to others. To anticipate somewhat, this primary concern with identity immediately becomes apparent to anyone who has ever seen and heard the Barmy Army in operation, irrespective of whether this is experienced by attending a match, watching a television broadcast, or tuning in by radio, or the internet. This can chiefly be attributed to their loud, repetitive, organised chanting:

Everywhere we go
The people want to know
Who we are?
Where we come from?
We are the Army, the Barmy Army
…The Mighty Mighty England

If this registers as a public declaration of identity, then what kind of identity is being staged and appealed to? Are merely rhetorical questions being asked? Do they have any answers? It is postmodern thinkers who have argued most forcefully along such lines that the project of constructing an identity has become problematic to the point where it is an anachronism, an empty ritual. Given these potential credibility problems for the Barmy Army, it is worth considering how postmodernism might more generally engage the issue of finding and defending an English national identity. Sociological detractors of postmodern cultural studies have long complained that celebrations of emancipation from the alleged uniformity of modernisation processes have simply unleashed a tyranny of difference in its place. According to this sociological reading then, postmodern identity politics easily equates to Balkanisation (Mestrovic 1994). Building on such an approach might involve a demonstration of how any chauvinistic aspects of the Barmy Army’s style of support could be attributed to both devolution and the prospect of a European federalism.
On the other hand, prominent figures in cultural studies, such as Stuart Hall for example, have generally preferred to emphasise how postmodernisation leads to an ironic situation, where previously marginalised subaltern identities can now feel centred. Reflecting on his own dual Jamaican/British identity, Hall reflects on how the former colonised subjects of the British Empire were taught to feel British, with the result that today they feel increasingly drawn to returning "home". It is only those, he argues, whom had formerly felt centred, that are disturbed by these more recent developments (Hall 1991). Again, with a little imagination, the Barmy Army could be implicated in the negative terms Hall suggests, especially when reference is made to their predominantly white male membership. Cultural studies practitioners may thereby feel entitled to ask pointedly, why bother trying to recentre such a relatively privileged group in the public attention space? Such scepticism might in principle even be extended to a perceived ulterior motive of self-interest manifest in the Barmy Army’s involvement in charitable, or even anti-racist, causes (Frankenberg 1993).
Provocative as these different takes on postmodernisation may be, their primary concern remains, at least as presented here, the internal negotiation between a more exclusive "English" identity and a more inclusive sense of "Britishness". Hence they would seem to have limited utility when applied to a group such as the Barmy Army, which devotes considerable energy to announcing its presence to foreign opponents. Moreover, there is little specific in the way of reference to media and spectatorship, which could be suggestive of anything particularly postmodern about globalisation and identification processes. The most obvious postmodern corrective to this lack is Baudrillard. Although a full engagement with his texts is not required here, a brief mention can be afforded insofar as they foreground the organising metaphor of the spectral in this article, as well as a rationale for the introduction of Luhmann and Collins. These connections will become particularly clear with respect to Baudrillard’s reference to fashion.
In any case, Baudrillard’s basic departure point has to do with the speculative economy that emerged throughout the course of the eighties and nineties. According to him, the end of the gold standard, which had acted as the referent for fixed value, facilitates a radical untethering of exchange value. Consequently the electronic media and the economy become virtually indistinguishable; everything becomes a sign that is commutable with anything else. This "metaphysics of the code" is most apparent, for Baudrillard, in the world of fashion, which is dependent on the continuous recycling, recombination, and abolition of the old. What haunts fashion then is not merely outdated styles, but rather the neither precisely present nor absent more profound past. Such spectres, in a postmodern world, are the residue of a mourning process for something now irretrievable (Baudrillard 1993: 87-88). Without wishing to embrace all of the hyperbole and cynicism such a full-blown postmodern account can potentially entail, the position to be adopted here is that it retains some explanatory power with respect to the fraught relationships between national identity and globalisation processes. Such concerns are clearly relevant to understanding the sociological significance of the Barmy Army. When it comes to introducing the component of a sociology of emotions, something like Baudrillard’s spectral mourning must therefore be featured, with the difference that it will be treated more in terms of the distinctive combination of anger and humour that is demonstrably characteristic of the Barmy Army’s presence.
Luhmann’s theory of globalisation, which he prefers to call "world society", bears only a superficial comparison with Baudrillard’s musings on "the metaphysics of the code", in light of his refusal to endorse a postmodern characterisation of our current situation (Luhmann 1995). The telling difference has to do in part with how Luhmann does not accept the possibility of only one overarching code. Reading him alongside Baudrillard suits our purposes, in that postmodern arguments can be more satisfactorily rendered in sociological terms as the product of increasing differentiation. Luhmann’s theory describes the operational closure of function systems in terms of their basic codes, including, among others: spending/earning (economy), pass/fail (education), legal/illegal. This also presumes a contrast with conditions of stratified differentiation, given that there is no overarching hierarchy to unify the function systems. So, while there can be what Luhmann calls "structural couplings" between subsystems, what happens in either the legal or political systems, for example, is no longer correlated in the same way as before to what happens in the economy. Moeller has offered some serviceable examples that illustrate Luhmann’s thesis. If individuals cannot be referenced by a singular subsystem, then a registered poor person, for instance, has the same voting rights as a rich one. A capable lawyer will not necessarily be a successful investor in the stock exchange. An aristocrat cannot necessarily win a court case or become a politician simply by reminding others of their status (Moeller 2006: 47). Luhmann’s argument here is not premised on any naïve assumption that people have somehow become more equal under functional differentiation, but simply that social systems have. He acknowledges the harsh reality that exclusion from one system leads to exclusion from another. A person without money will be excluded from the economy, from healthcare, the legal system, education, the arts, sports, and so forth. To have no passport is to be excluded from the legal system. As he has it then, the inclusiveness of functional differentiation is therefore paradoxical because it presupposes exclusion (Luhmann 1997).
With respect to the genesis of world society, Luhmann maintains consistency by arguing in a comparable vein that functional differences are indifferent to ethnic [and indeed racial] differences. All can be tolerated on the proviso that they do not attempt to impede functionalism. It becomes a question for him then of determining whether "the political state forced upon all regions of earth" is in keeping with regional particularities, or whether a neglect of their importance "stimulates the search for personal and social…identities" (Luhmann 1997: 79). Read in light of contemporary developments, Luhmann’s earlier claim that "political subsystems" differ from science or the economy, in that they are integrated by common territorial frontiers, looks increasingly dated (Luhmann 1982).
Such theoretical relativisation of political subsystems offers an important means of vindicating Kumar’s celebrated study of English identity (Kumar 2003). As per other contemporary commentators of varying political hues (c.f. Scruton 2001), one may surmise part of the stimulus for Kumar’s work as residing in England’s impending integration into the European Union, and with it, the devolution of the United Kingdom. There is a general consensus that this situation has created unparalleled difficulties for certain long-standing conceptions of English patriotism. By emphasising the so-called "Whig" historiography as an organising trope of English identity, Kumar is able to build his case of how England has attempted to distinguish itself from Europe on the basis that its modernity rested on the rule of parliaments. For example, the absence of a standing army, with a consequent reliance on naval power for national defence, became expressive of abhorrence for a perceived centralised and truculent Catholic despotism, to be found in Europe. At stake therefore is essentially the maintenance of an ideal of autonomy, an ideal that is inextricably bound to the conception of English moral worth. As we shall see later though, paradoxes accrue around such an ideal, to the extent that it implies the emptying out of an essence, thereby becoming irreducible to any mundane national level. It could be more accurately understood thus as a form of "spectral" nationalism (Cheah 1999), insofar as it aspired to the construction of a world civilisation, a cosmopolitan project. Indeed, on this reading, England is accustomed to defining itself in terms closer to Luhmann’s thesis of world society, than contemporary nationalism as such (Kumar 2003: 180-207).
In light of all this, the central problems which the Barmy Army can be seen as negotiating are the following: what happens when the realisation of a world society means such a project can no longer be credibly understood as something "directed" by England? Or rather, in Luhmann’s terms, once other nations have developed to the extent that they become an autonomous subsystem in a global system, there can by definition be no centralised component steering all other activities. This emptying out of a centre, referred to here as "spectralisation", becomes paradoxically the "essence" of differentiation. How then can English national identity distinguish itself from the spectralisation that has traditionally defined it? When read as a counter-reaction to the unfolding process of world society that Luhmann (and Kumar) describes, the purpose of the nationalism embraced by the Barmy Army becomes the allaying of further functional differentiation, through the promotion of reintegration. Were this proven to be the case, the suggestion would be that the underlying function of the Barmy Army is compensatory, and that this in turn implies a pattern of membership that is generally exclusionary of participation in other collectives. Accordingly, a certain "sound and fury signifying nothing" is both staged and evoked in the form of interaction ritual that characterises the controversial activities of this deviant group of English cricket supporters. Rendered in a style bereft of substance, the Barmy Army can thus only paradoxically be construed as ritualistically drawing attention to "itself" through highly visual and vocal means. While this description may be seen as offering further ratification of the spectrality featured in the aforementioned more postmodern works of Baudrillard et al, what qualifies this comparison is an additional capacity of remaining amenable to empirical sociological investigation.

Randall Collins meets the Barmy Army OR Interaction Ritual Theory meets Functional Differentiation

Indeed, with this latter consideration foremost in mind, the conceptual approach of Randall Collins can justifiably be introduced at this point. His defining theoretical innovation has to do with an awareness of how our differentiated modernity no longer makes it tenable for sociologists to uncritically apply Durkheim’s canonical insights into how individuals generate moral solidarity with the collective through participation in rituals (Durkheim 1912). As Collins successfully demonstrates, the chief recurring problem faced today when applying Durkheim’s theories "straight off the shelf", is how easily their default setting reverts to a crude functionalism, in which ritual is all about stifling conflict in the interest of maintaining the moral solidarity of a macro social order. To proceed in this fashion, Collins cautions, is to underestimate the extent to which social life could be more fittingly understood as a negotiated order between differentiated subsystems. What interests Collins in this context then is less the possibility of uncovering some synthesising remedy for differentiation, in the manner disparagingly associated with the discourse of nationalism, than the reworking of ritual theory through the microsociological perspective, most notably Goffman (Goffman 1967). Rather than rendering the notion of ritual meaningless, Collins hopes instead via this theoretical combination to ascertain the role played by a kind of affective attachment. In particular, Collins sketches a theoretical model, corroborated by considerable empirical observation and analysis, capable of delineating the extent of either the success or failure of an interaction ritual, in accordance with its generation of what he calls "emotional energy" and "mutual entrainment". By working up to the macro-level through the micro first, Collins is thus able to free sociologists from the conceptual weaknesses associated with some of the postmodern approaches that we have discussed. That is to say, Collins is not interested in remaining beholden to some mysterious master "code" written in the sky, which ends up paradoxically becoming as equally totalising as the "modernist" prejudice it was supposedly defining itself against. Acting thus with a much freer hand, Collins hopes to demonstrate how people pass through a horizontally distributed network of interaction rituals, in which membership symbols are no longer organised around the stratified model of the pre-modern patrilineal household (Collins 2005: 7-32).
Before clarifying the importance of this latter point, some effort can be expended to further chronicle the effects of world society in relation to the thesis Collins is developing. Individuals are no longer, here applying Luhmann’s terminology to Collins’s analysis, subject to the gaze of a central observer capable of locating individuals in a fixed social order. Lash has previously made a comparable point, which also evokes Baudrillard’s commentary on fashion, through his observations of the observers of English football matches in the interwar period. Lash notes how prior to the burgeoning consumer boom, one could observe in photographs of the spectator stands a limited range of [male] clothing, predominantly in the form of cloth caps and heavy plain coats. But this changed significantly once a more individualised consumer culture became widely disseminated. A shift takes place from mass-ness to specialisation, from function to style (Lash 1990: 39). People were increasingly led to believe that they could more readily choose to identify as "working class" only while at work, with access to a consumer lifestyle offering the promise of becoming something else in their leisure time. Of course, this can hold equally in reverse; the middle and upper class founding members of the Barmy Army can choose to import some of the social mores of the traditionally working class football spectators into their leisure time, whilst securing increased mobility for such activities through their professionally accredited occupations, as is more consistent with their class background (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 79).
Collins proves himself highly adept for those interested in contextualising the conduct of the Barmy Army in relationship to these social transformations. Lest there be any misunderstanding though, as per Luhmann’s analysis of world society, Collins is not claiming that the fluid patterns of movement between different interaction rituals and their associated membership symbols have somehow done away with the hierarchical interpersonal relationships and their codified situational deference. Such codes retain their familiarity most especially today in the workplace. He is willing to claim though that it is the relative strength of people’s emotional energy, as determined by the network of interaction rituals they pass through, that has an important role as to whether they are prepared to struggle in material markets, inclusive of basic survival in conditions of severe material deprivation (Collins 2005: 141-182).
While Collins uses the microsociological tradition to explain some of these disparities, he is also keen to qualify the Durkheimian position by using the trope of the observer. As he would have it, given the specialisation of organisations into networks in a differentiated society, personal reputations are afforded little opportunity for attracting transituational deference by way of affectively charged public emblems of membership. The closest to an exception to this rule that Collins is able to identify is the celebrities that are by-products of a ubiquitous media culture. Afterall, Collins reasons, this might be expected insofar as the media facilitate a recurrent focus of attention that is accessible to something like a majority of society. It follows that with shared concentrated attention comes the possibility of mutual entrainment, and consequently the bringing together of a community around an interaction ritual, albeit a ritual that risks serving no other purpose than the experience of heightened emotion. However, Collins is insistent that even here it remains the case that something other than transituational deference is at stake:
Celebrity deference is less hierarchical than participatory; they are treated less like aristocracy than like a totemic animal in a tribal religion. The analogy is fitting since totemism is the religion of internally egalitarian groups, and the modern public is egalitarian. Given that media stars are the only humans who can serve as sacred objects, emblems of the collective consciousness of any considerable part of society, it is no wonder then that ordinary individuals attempt to appropriate for themselves a portion of this mana or emblematic force, through the sympathetic magic of wearing clothing similar to that worn by celebrities, or bearing their sympathetic mark (Collins 2005: 279).
At least when taken at first glance, the work of Collins is not very promising with respect to provision of the required analytical tools for differentiating the Barmy Army from any other group of fans who may likewise simply be following their own national sports team. On such a relatively abstract reading, a member of the Barmy Army acts interchangeably with any other fan, irrespective of either country of origin or sports code, by appropriating a portion of mana through emphasis in their supporting style on the national identity they share with the players on the field. This assumption would be false, however, or at best misleading, when it comes to understanding how the Barmy Army quite self-consciously situates itself in relation to both players and fans of opposing teams, most notably Australians. It could be said then, with Collins, that the Barmy Army is well versed in participatory celebrity deference with respect to the members of the English cricket team. But this deferential attitude does not extend in any truly meaningful sense to a regard for their opposition. On the contrary, here may seemingly be found an exemplary case of a reversal of the sociohistorical trend Collins has identified. In a manner that has received little or no academic attention, the supporter’s style of the Barmy Army attains its distinctiveness in no small part by making a concerted effort to dominate their opposition by continually drawing attention to themselves. The contrivance of becoming a commodified "spectacle", as highlighted by Parry and Malcolm, should certainly not be excluded apriori from consideration (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 89). But it can be suggested here that it is a very particular kind of dominance that may be discerned.
Most especially when England’s team are playing Australia, it might be said that the undercurrent of Barmy Army humour manifests itself as a melancholy desire to restore a former interdiction, and, in this sense, this desire could be characterised as paradoxically anti-modern. Plainly stated, the apparent basis of the humour is a desire to restore transituational deference in a public space where this is no longer possible. Awareness of the paradoxical management techniques deployed in such situations crosscut the social sciences. Perhaps most visibly in psychoanalysis, jokes are nothing less than the expression of an unconscious wish that would be perceived as socially unacceptable in any other form (Freud 1963). One can choose to ignore the logical development of such psychoanalytical arguments into a form of crowd psychology, without, however, disregarding the constitutive antagonism upon which this sense of humour is demonstratively predicated. Consider, for example, how the obsessive references to Australia’s history as a penal colony in Barmy Army banter demonstrate an intuitive foothold on the normative ideal of modern individualism, which holds that any failure to have attained autonomy can be construed as a failure to have become modern. Such a failure is by definition to have remained subject to transituational deference towards others. Irrespective of whether at base it is intended as an insult or a joke, its efficacy is entirely dependent upon the complicity of its intended targets, which must recognise the desirability of the ideal as a mark of their exclusion. Curiously, the readymade transferability of this strategy across a modern differentiated England has been implicitly recognised outside academic circles, inclusive of the cultural journalism of a British comedian, who boldly asserts humour of this type to be a defining attribute of English national identity. Whilst lacking scholarly corroboration of the anecdotal evidence Gill accumulates, his account retains some points of interest for present purposes, not least because his commentary draws upon some vivid observations of spectator behaviour at English football matches. Worthy of note in this context is how the same reference deployed by the Barmy Army against their opponents during the Ashes tour, namely failure to acquire modern autonomy, features as a resurgent source of humour:

"Europeans can’t understand the English inability to move on, to get over it. But that’s the point. .. It’s supposed to provoke that reaction and this is the fundamental difference between the English sense of humour and that of almost everyone else... Football terraces are really, really funny and really, really horrible both at the same time. It’s the volume and the power, the huge wattage of anger, sharpened with a malevolent wit…At rich Chelsea, plumbers and kitchen-fitters look over the pitch at Liverpool fans and sing, "Sign on, sign on, with hope in your heart ’cos you’ll never work again." They wave bulging London wallets at lads down from the northeast and shout "Loadsamoney". Or they just do cosmic a cappella scat-swearing" (emphasis mine) (Gill 2005).

There is more that needs to be said about the significance of the ideal of autonomy and its relationship to English nationalism, and this topic will be further discussed at a later point. Suffice it to add here, there may well be an informing spirit of cultural stereotyping in Gill’s attempted reproduction of his participant observation. But given that stereotypes are mobilised in such instances as a source of humour, it is plausible to talk about them in the overarching context of an examination of the Barmy Army. Afterall, trading in stereotypes is the stock in trade of the Barmy Army’s sense of humour, which is deployed to silence their opposition, or, less credibly, charm them. This fact leaves the door open to further examination of whether the members of the Barmy Army themselves revert to stereotypical characteristics as a defensive reaction against some sense that their "identity" is falling under threat. The beginnings of an answer to this question may lie in first developing an appreciation of how the Barmy Army could be defined as "paradoxically anti-modern", and the path to follow has to do with the distinction Collins draws between the two forms of what he calls E and D-power, and their respective situational deployment. After introducing these terms and applying them to the changing pattern of English cricket spectatorship, some criteria will be sketched in the Conclusion for measuring the disjunction between the emotional energy generated in such groups and the typology of organisations, among which can be counted social movements. Once this comparison has been completed, some conclusions can be drawn regarding the centrality of functional differentiation over structural differentiation in explaining any discrepancies between the two categories.
Collins offers considerable guidance when it comes to theoretically reconstructing the characterisation of cricket as an expression of English moral worth. Consistent with his emphasis on how functional differentiation has assumed priority over class categorical identities, he associates what he calls E-power with the former, and D-power with the latter. According to Collins, D-power equates to deference power, or order giving power, and involves a capacity to make others "give way in the immediate situation". E-power, or efficacy power, is a power to make results happen; Collins describes it as generally macro, it is long-distance or transituational, and its orders and intentions are transmitted through a social network. An important point to note is that E-power can exist in micro situations, subject to the result been carried out under the direct supervision of the order-giver, whereby there would be an empirical coinciding of D and E-power. But Collins seems to imply that growing functional differentiation has made D-power increasingly formal or ritualistic. Afterall, to acquiesce in the immediate presence of a superior is not necessarily to imply that orders will be faithfully carried out. Seemingly in recognition of this fact, Collins gives examples of how managers have increasingly traded D-power for the indirect control of E-power, such as altering the physical environment of the workplace, and its means of communication and information (Collins 2005: 284-288).
When understood as a by-product of the English colonial system, the nineteenth century ideal of English moral worth emerges as a technology of social and cultural power, which operated through the articulation of D and E-power on the cricket oval. By observing the regulation of the behaviour of the game’s participants by umpires and the players’ own internalisation of codes of sportsmanship, English spectators could logically translate such D-power into the terms of E-power, insofar as this could provide assurances that the "Empire of Good Intentions" was concomitantly bringing a higher order of civilisation to those populations abroad subject to its dominion (Schama 2002). Were vociferous opposition to be encountered, irrespective of whether it emanated from players on the field or spectators, such disturbances merely offered confirmation of the kind of moral underdevelopment that required further reform through the [putatively] fair and impartial exercise of power.

The Key to Understanding the Interaction Rituals of the Barmy Army: the Retreat of D and E-Power to the Cricket Pitch

If this ideal of English moral worth held that reserve, (or "affective control" if preferred), was expressive of moral authority, than it is not difficult to assess its effectiveness as an instrument of D-power with respect to its generalisation outside of its original context. What is significant is how D-power is dependent upon making others react to it. The capacity to act, which is nothing less than the power to exert authority over others, is accordingly dependent upon indifference to their emotional demands. In his study Authority, Richard Sennett offers anecdotal evidence of what could be construed as this kind of situational dominance. In Sennett’s example, an employee anxiously anticipates a meeting with his boss, in which he plans to announce his imminent resignation from his position. In so doing, his furtive hope is that his boss will attempt to dissuade him from making such a decision, thereby demonstrating his indispensability, which may extend to offering better incentives for the employee to stay. For the stratagem to work then, the person occupying the higher social position would have to openly signal an emotional vulnerability to someone occupying a lower rung on the status hierarchy. But were he to do so, Sennett argues, his authority would be immediately jeopardised. Somewhat predictably then, the employee’s plans quickly go awry, as he is met with a steady succession of indifferent responses from his boss. Suffice to say, by the end of the meeting a complete reversal of expectations has taken place, as it is the employee who is placed in the position of having to escalate his emotional level in an attempt to provoke his employer. Indeed, Sennett goes on to argue, the non-committal responses finally ensure that it is the employee who feels wracked with guilt for raising the issue, and, moreover, he has consequently become more emotionally dependent upon the authority figure than he had previously been (Sennett 1980: 84-99).
It should be clear by now that if Sennett’s scenario is transferred to analysis of the traditionally vociferous "colonial" counterparts to English cricket spectators, the implication would be that they are placing themselves in the Hegelian position of the slave, by desperately striving to provoke any kind of response that could serve as a sign of recognition from their master. By this logic, to be demonstrative in such a fashion amounts to nothing more than an admission of weakness. Paradoxically this would also mean that the most negative provocation is actually indicative of the strongest possible abject dependence. Each form of dependency can thus be understood as basically premised upon an absence of D-power articulated to E-power.
If this short history of the ideal of English moral worth is read through the theory of interaction ritual chains, one might conclude that its declining influence on the game is commensurate with the relativisation of both its associated D and E-power in a modern society dominated by functional differentiation. In these terms, Parry and Malcolm have indirectly argued that the Barmy Army has themselves contributed to the decline of D-power, by self-consciously defining their style of support against the social mores of the traditional English cricket establishment. But a more finely grained analysis by way of Collins would suggest that such an oppositional reading might only be superficially correct. Afterall, a raucous amplification of D-power is perfectly consistent and compatible with the traditional objective of the ideal of English moral worth, which was to ensure the transituational deference of those it viewed as social inferiors. Parry and Malcolm are perhaps closest to the truth in this respect when they comment on how the Barmy Army quite deliberately attempt to perform a liminal role, crossing the boundary between spectator and player, in an effort to directly influence the outcome of the game (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 80). This is an instance of the classic articulation of D and E-power in the manner defined by Collins, as previously stated, "to make others give way in the immediate situation". To argue though, with these authors, that the disruptive presence of the Barmy Army conflicts with the traditional ideal of English moral worth, is to lose sight of how expressions of anger can be wielded by those who see themselves as powerful. With this expectation of entitlement comes an effort to differentiate emotional energy from the kind of frustration experienced by those treated as subordinate, as was detailed in Sennett’s example. Anger instead becomes expressive of a confidence that the emotional energy of others can be lowered, thereby making them "passive followers" (Collins 2005: 126). On a not unrelated note, It becomes quite difficult to portray the "ambiguity" of Barmy Army humour, as again referenced by Parry and Malcolm, as symptomatic of the culture of "New Laddism" alone (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 86-87). The inherent danger here is the tendency of such a reading to obfuscate the degree to which ambiguity was already instrumental to the success of D-power and, as such, was integral to the operant conditioning of English moral worth. Whether in the form of the cool reserve comparable to Sennett’s description, or the "wattage" of spectator anger witnessed by Gill, freedom consists in remaining inaccessible. It is more plausible then to foreground how ambiguity, and even irony, is expressive of unaccountability to anything other than itself. It is these qualities that make it an ideal instrument of power, when understood here to mean the generation of emotional energy on behalf of the discourse of nationalism.
This fact might also explain the otherwise hard to fathom occasional claim of Barmy Army members that it is their sense of ritualised emotional participation that can be prioritised over any other externally imposed criteria of success, a claim which can even be logically extended to declarations of indifference to the actual fortunes of England’s cricket team. As noted in passing by Parry and Malcolm, their stated purpose is, "To love England, to love cricket, to love the players" (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 79). In other words, here is yet another reminder of the coveted modern "autonomy" that is used by the Barmy Army to situate themselves not only within the traditions of cricket, but within a much broader sense of English nationalism. If this argument holds, then it is not too difficult to imagine any indifference on the part of members of the Barmy Army to the sarcastic taunts of opposing fans, such as, for example, one of the favoured catchcries of the group of Australian supporters known as The Fanatics, "Look at the scoreboard", as finding justification on the basis that this is essentially an argument conducted at cross-purposes.
Of course, some may still choose to advance a counter argument to this previous point by citing, for example, the political theorist Jon Elster. The implication would be that such feigned indifference actually embodies a familiar adaptive preference formation, whereby "sour grapes" can be converted into "sweet lemons" (Elster 1984). Notwithstanding these superficial differences, what links each position to the ambivalent modern heritage of autonomy is an awareness of metaphysical or social control exerting a great deal of pressure on people, which leads them to look for a realm of free play (Fuller 1993: 208-209). Translated into the terms of the perspective on world society that has been adopted here, the Barmy Army have in effect responded by attempting to import E-power onto the cricket pitch itself, commensurate with an awareness of its horizontal dispersal away from the old systemic model of Empire, which was based on the centre/periphery distinction. As argued earlier, Collins views E-power as the capacity to make results happen in a transituational context (read: over a long-distance). While traditionally there was little need for E-power to visibly coincide with D-power on the cricket pitch, this obviously changes once its relativisation in a global context threatens to make the English ideal of moral worth a rhetorical gesture. Afterall, D-power cannot logically be demanded in a situation of co-presence if there is no E-power off the sports oval legitimating its privilege. Hence the theorisation of world society, when articulated to the work of Collins, can offer an explanation for the Barmy Army’s self-appointed liminal role of attempting to directly influence the performance of players. This point also situates the Barmy Army’s organised repetitive chanting throughout the course of the 2006/2007 Ashes series in Australia, which evoked the more traditional understanding of E-power, by deliberately drawing attention to the higher international currency exchange rate of the English pound in comparison to the Australian dollar. Not coincidentally, one is reminded here as well of Gill’s [earlier cited] account of the supporters of Chelsea Football Club provocatively waving their bulging wallets at the Liverpool FC fans.
On the basis of the evidence adduced so far, it might be said that a ghostly residue of a pre-world society haunts both the Barmy Army and, to the extent that they are subjected to their taunting, their Australian rivals as well. These relationships can seemingly tell us a great deal about how contemporary English identity is negotiated both at home and abroad in the context of international sporting competition. The argument has held that to begin to speak of a modern world society is to immediately evoke the inescapability of ambivalence. Traces of continuity and rupture ensure that past, present and future remain locked in a terse dialogue, which can never be resolved. In order to adequately consolidate this theme, one must clarify the Barmy Army’s relationship with their counterparts in the English cricket establishment. As has been suggested thus far, nationalist discourse has to be periodically renewed or enacted through interaction rituals. It could be described as a kind of "magical" thinking insofar as participation in its rituals integrates individuals into a collective, so that any recognition of this status simultaneously implies awareness that further differentiation remains a resurgent possibility. Whilst sharing with members of the cricket establishment a certain commitment to the ideal of English moral worth, the Barmy Army reach the limit of any sympathetic identification insofar as their counterparts are treated as the product of an older structural differentiation. According to the perspective that is been developed here, for the Barmy Army there is an epochal shift from structural differentiation to a differentiation of operationally closed function systems, from organisation to group, as is implicitly acknowledged by Parry and Malcolm’s description of Barmy Army class membership in terms of its network fluidity and greater identification with media niche marketing (albeit, as they note, predominantly composed of white males between the ages of 20 and 40 years) (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 78-79). The thesis of world society suggests how such developments cannot become expressive of an egalitarian openness arraying itself against commodification and establishment wealth, because their only terms of reference are the loose partnership regulations and the role of the observer in a media culture. As Luhmann has wryly observed, an important function of advertising in world society could almost be described as "charitable", providing, as it does, "people who have no taste with taste". Hence he portrays the shift from stratified differentiation to functional differentiation in the following terms:
This function, which substitutes for taste, is all the more important in that the old connection of social status and taste, taken for granted in the eighteenth century, has today been broken and in the upper social strata in particular there is a need for supplementation due to rapid upward social mobility and unregulated marriage practices (Luhmann 2000: 47 cited in Moeller 2006: 130).
In this instance Luhmann offers further confirmation of Collins’s earlier cited remark, to the effect that interaction ritual participation has become more participatory than hierarchical. In such a context, it is not surprising that Parry and Malcolm report comments by Barmy Army members to the effect that the affective control displayed in the members’ section are the relics of cultural dinosaurs (Parry and Malcolm 2004: 79-80). For once the aristocratic deadlock on what is "classy" is broken by the social transformations Luhmann describes, traditionalism is forced to release greater reflexivity into the management of national identity. The resultant individualisation stems from the fact that there are few social rituals remaining that are capable of generating transituational deference. Where categorical identities exist, as both Collins and Luhmann each argue in their own idiosyncratic fashion, they can only generate such deference through comparatively privatised networks of family reputation and occupational organisations, where symbols of membership can be recognised. As Collins goes on to explain, economic class remains meaningful primarily within the circuits of exchange, given the relativisation of any previous micro-sociological advantage that could be drawn, "from investing money into material consumption that help dominate face-to-face situations" (Collins 2005: 296). Hence this article has suggested that the phenomenon of the Barmy Army develops in part when the media becomes the dominant means for recurrently focusing attention and generating mutual entrainment through its focus on advertising and the artificially inflated transituational reputations of celebrity sporting heroes. That is to say, it is the combination of recurrence, mutuality and consequent intensity of this attention that explains the emotional energy, which defines the Barmy Army.


It is now time to ponder what other conclusions may be drawn from this examination of the Barmy Army. Is it necessary to be as pessimistic regarding the possibility for a critical mediation of functional differentiation as Luhmann and Collins seemed to imply? In response to this question one might wish to ponder, for example, whether their theories could accommodate another postmodern perspective, thus far excluded from our earlier discussion of Baudrillard et al. Consider then the well-known thesis of postmodern vitalism advanced in Michel Maffesoli’s The Time of the Tribes. In this context, one might ask, here reinvoking Baudrillard, could the "tribe" provide deliverance from the "spectre"? What distinguishes Maffesoli in this comparison is his greater willingness to envisage the "effervescent masses" as challenging any distinction between the irrationality of the crowd, and the normativity of a community. He chooses to portray his subjects in terms perhaps recognisable to Collins in particular, emphasising their esthetical, affective characteristics, in a manner though that tends to downplay their negative potential. His predominant focus instead is the capacity of such gatherings to forge ethical connections, thereby foregrounding a transfiguration of the political, concerned less with acting on the social, affecting society, "than to take from it all the well-being one can and to best enjoy this well-being" (Maffesoli 1996: 48).
It would perhaps be difficult to find a more apt assessment, albeit unintentional, of the limitations associated with the neotribalism of groups such as the Barmy Army. Certainly some capacity to forge ethical connections might be discernible from their charity work, as well as the socialisation with opposing fans, although the earlier citation of Frankenberg (1993) and Bonilla-Silva (2003) is suggestive of how their significance could be critically qualified. What is left unaddressed though in Maffesoli’s work, as in Luhmann, Collins, Parry and Malcolm, is any means of deciding how the rival tribes can learn to accommodate each other under conditions of world society. The nationalistic chauvinism exhibited by this prominent deviant group is the clearest indicator of their inherent limitations.
Hence it may be acknowledged that engagement in public discourse can bring into focus the substantive issue of pre-established cultural similarities. Any failure to generally keep the categories of public sphere and nationalism analytically distinct can underplay the rational critical concern with articulating differences in opinion. Afterall, the latter can extend to a concern with differences of identity. Hence for authors such as Calhoun, it is imperative that the public realm is distinguished in terms of interaction between strangers, not least because the discourse of nationalism has conversely tended to reinforce modern individualism by arguing on behalf of "discrete and internally homogenous cultures". The modification of each of these common understandings as a by-product of other activities is inherently limited, commensurate with an absence of mediation by rational critical codification or publicness (Calhoun 1999: 223-224).
On this basis a qualified endorsement of the methods of empirical investigation detailed in Collins is justifiable. As Collins implies, the basis for a representative sampling of emotional energy levels would necessitate following "people’s experiences across a chain of interactions". Although he proposes a number of credible measuring instruments for evaluating the empirical data that is collected, space does not permit their elaboration here, although it can be noted that Collins references several pioneering works of great value to such a sociology of emotions (Kemper 1990; Scheff and Retzinger 1991). Of particular interest is the implicit guiding research principle that observation in natural conditions should form a core component, as this might yield information about the duration of the emotional effects of interactions (Collins 2006: 133-140). If this could be accomplished, one would be in a better position to ascertain whether core membership of groups such as the Barmy Army was associated with an absence of emotional energy crosscutting their other network situational interactions. Such a modelling of differentiated emotional commitment may not only offer promising data for distinguishing between core and peripheral membership of such groups, but also for explaining the patterning of membership in social movements and organisations.
Which is to say, were a pilot study to yield such data, the most relevant typology, as suggested by Fuchs, concerns the transformation from movement to organisation, where the acceleration of this process is dependent upon negotiations with established political organisations (Fuchs 2001: 222-224). Drawing these kinds of comparisons and contrasts appears promising for addressing Calhoun’s demand for qualification of one-sided representations of the nexus of differentiation/integration stemming from modern, or even postmodern, individualism. Hence a sociology of sport capable of assessing the extent to which such relationships are empirical variables, rather than our inherited historical fate, could play a valuable role by clearing a path for a more critical theory of media culture. Advertising and the celebration of sports celebrities may accordingly wield a more delimited form of influence in a public sphere oriented by a plurality of values. This would be conditional though on facilitating the access of assorted movements and organisations, which make it their business to ask critical questions, not least of all, how much differentiation, can and should be tolerated in a modern society? In other words, is it desirable that functionally differentiated systems be operationally closed to each other? If not, how much and what kind of adjudication of communication between government, social movements, sporting bodies, public and commercial media, are necessary and desirable? (Jones 2007)
In the final analysis then, the question that this critical examination of the Barmy Army has started to approach, is this: should a future sociology of sport be more explicitly oriented by enquiry into the possible democratisation of differentiation (Joas 1990) in the age of world society? If the answer is affirmative, distancing ourselves from the ghosts of the civil dead may become dependent on, to recuperate Luhmann’s terminology, greater structural coupling to a more critical plurality of public spheres. This article was therefore written in the hope of prompting further discussion regarding the possible contribution that interaction ritual theory and the sociology of emotions could make to the sociology of sport in these regards, using as its entry point the demand for a more civic nationalism.


1. One hastens to add, however, that for all of the critical acuity on display here, it would be a misrepresentation to accredit it as solely indicative of the postmodern warrant of cultural studies. Afterall, the lineage of this form of critique can itself be traced back to ethnographic research conducted within stratification theory, which is itself a sub-disciplinary speciality of sociology (Bonilla-Silva 2003).
2. The classic interpretation along these lines is James (1963). As is well known, James also viewed cricket in more ambiguous terms as offering opportunities for colonised peoples to assert resistance and national pride. For a comparative analysis of how national cricket teams attempt to define themselves in a postcolonial age, see Wagg (2005).
3. Parry and Malcolm are here primarily interested in the recuperation of heteronormative working class masculinity by opportunistic niche marketing.
4. For example, and not least of all, "it is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game".
5. In the parlance of the Barmy Army, this is known as taking a "Barmy wicket". It was referenced in the documentary An Aussie Goes Barmy, which was filmed throughout the course of 06/07 Ashes series. The premise can be found on the Granada Productions website:
6. Of course, given the functional differentiation associated with world society, not all of this negativity can remain the exclusive preserve of the Barmy Army. Such mechanisms will consequently crosscut all societies subject to them, albeit subject to some regional variation. Given the importance of maintaining an autonomous conception of identity in such a context, it is not difficult to grasp that the crude national stereotyping and homophobia exchanged by rival fans is intended in part to serve as something like a psychological depth charge. This has to do with how it deliberately targets the characteristics that are most widely recognised as constitutive of the personal identity of those subject to them.
Collins is able to suggest an additional component by arguing that swearing is tantamount to blaspheming (Collins 2005: 207-211). Because it involves the symbolic profaning of a sacred boundary, this generates antinomian energy for the person violating the taboo, in effect draining its victim and subjecting them to situational dominance. There is thus also a certain Durkheimian light in which one could cast the Barmy Army’s charismatic "choir master", who serves as a focal point for both the attention of the group and as media spectacle as well. The orchestration of the Barmy Army’s chanting and interaction with rival fans thus places such individuals in the position of what Collins generally describes as "[emotional] energy stars". Here is how the Durkheimian component of Collins’s work could describe such rarefied experiences:

"His language has a grandiloquence that would be ridiculous in ordinary circumstances; his gestures show a certain domination; his very thought is impatient of all rules, and easily falls into all sorts of excesses. It is because he feels within him an abnormal oversupply of force which overflows and tries to burst out from him; sometimes he even has the feeling that he is dominated by a moral force which is greater than he and of which only he is the interpreter…it comes to him from the very group which he addresses. The sentiments provoked by his words come back to him, but enlarged and amplified, and to this degree they strengthen his own sentiment. The passionate energies he arouses re-echo within him and quicken his vital tone. It is no longer a simple individual who speaks; it is a group incarnate and personified" (Durkheim 1976: 210).


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