World Cup Collective Consciousness


The French Sociologist Emile Durkheim created the concept of “Collective Consciousness” in the 1890’s. The University of Chicago Theories of Media states, “The phrase collective consciousness implies an internal knowing known by all, or a consciousness shared by a plurality of persons.” I thought about that while watching the US-Belgium World Cup Match along with tens of millions of fans around the world. As America begins to take the rest of the world’s version of football seriously, we are joining one of the few global “collective consciousness” happenings. When I think of the big water cooler events in the US–the Super Bowl or the Oscars–they are all really American centric events that may have a global audience, but they do not represent a “knowing known by all”.

So what changed in a America from four years ago during the last World Cup when we were not really part of the Global Village of Football fans? My guess is that the first aspect is that America is increasingly a nation of immigrants and those immigrants have a kind of dual loyalty. They can cheer for the US team and still root for their country of origin. The Annenberg Innovation Lab that I direct has recently done some fascinating work on understanding the different logics of fan engagement in the World Cup. Emotions like pride or mastery only come as you get more involved in the game and that is really beginning to happen among US fans. My guess they will keep watching even though the US has gone out of the tournament.

The second aspect that may have seeded the new audience has been the appearance of the English Premier League games on America television. What is bizarre is that teams like Manchester United have world wide fan communities (especially in Asia) and so this was a peek into the Collective Consciousness. Of course for fools like Ann Coulter, all this interest in the collective consciousness of the globe is downright scary. The cowboy myth of the rugged individual falls apart on the football pitch.

Even though we lost, I think there is a real future for “futbal” in American. Kids like Green and Yedlin are coming up. We played with out our best player, Jozy Altidore and Tim Howard gave one of the greatest goalkeeping exhibitions in history. Some day the US team will be in the World Cup finals.

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