Monday, May 17, 2010

IPLism: the commodification and neoliberal dreams

When Kaleidoscope grows up, "oneday matches" are the most prominent mode of India's cricketing self. While he travels he often finds "If cricket is our religion/ then Sachin is our God" written on local trains. When he types the phrase in google in Quote unquote he finds 19000 results!!

But this is not enough for gaining capital. Kaleidoscope sees a new game begins, steered by something the country never seen before, Indian Premier League: Twenty twenty which speeds up the game perhaps a million times.

The game imports the following:


PEOPLE AND PLACES: cultural performances



Does Kaleidoscope miss something?

Yes of course



Cheerleaders: Fantasy revised

City based teams staffed with international stars, and players: Regionalism at global scale

Private ownership of teams: Free market strategy

Player auction: Commodification of human talent

Kaleidoscope's reading of the entire narratives bounds him to see some of the theoretical concerns. It makes him think IPL as a mixed bag of profit maximisation at unthinkable rate.

Selective application of neoliberal principal:
The local quotas, annual player auction show a selective strategy. However, the franchises are given exclusive right to exploit a designated market. It means while one has to secure resources in the beginning, but one can exploit the market with that limited resources (which also means limited investment) indefinitely.

Constructions of identities:
Kaleidoscope watches that M.S.Dhoni, originally from Jharkhand speaks for Chennai and wears a lungi. When the name bears a city name (like Kolkata or Delhi) and then adds a subtitle of aggression (Knight or daredevils) it creates a different form of fragmented identity within the country which is historically fragmented. Kaleidoscope finds that the national sentiment is also used while his country bans auction of Pakistani players.

IPL commodifies everything nakedly.
Player auction: commodification of human talent
Cheerleaders: commodification of body
Bollywood celebrity presence: Commodification of Indian glamour and everyday dreams
Advertisements: Commodification of everything, i.e. identities, players, bodies and material products.

Dependency, power and accountability:
While money flows, even one of worst performing teams like Kolkata Knight Riders makes huge profit. Everyone pats Modi! Board takes it for granted and believes that Modi will do things fairly and responsibly until he is suspended for rigging bids, receiving kickback from television deals, more recent addition to this is his indulgence to activities which is detrimental to world cricket.

This shows dependency, corruption and lack of accountability which stigmatises the nation as a whole.


Kaleidoscope believe that he lives in a world which is finite in every respect and he compartmentalises himself from the people who fosters unlimited economic growth. Those who foster unlimited growth are either economists or are fools (as Kenneth Boulding comments)

The question is while India moves towards neoliberal pursuits in its budget (see my posts on Neoliberalism Unplugged? Pretty Confused and Deferred food security is denial of food grains, and also From bread to being: mcdonaldization) IPL mirrored the dark side of neoliberal dreams and cost of unleashing the private sector.

Would we learn anything from this?


  1. I think T20 as a game is quite enjoyable. May be the cheer leaders, the late-night parties, entry of dubious money can be edited out?

  2. Well, the concerns are understandable...but I did not get your idea of the finite world. One more suggestion, try not to write in the third person...somehow, your style does not suit an omiscient narrative technique...somehow the originality of the ideas get lost, specially when you talk about serious things! Deliberate third person narration is acceptable when the subject-matter is extremely personal, for example Samata's blog...but here the detached narration does not click. Sorry for being so critical...but you can always ponder over it.

  3. @ Debraj da, I do agree with you, but I think we need to be more concerned and responsible as a collective voice about the invisible hands behind the actual show!

    @Kaustav da, thanks for being critical about my writing skill. Yes you are right actually. When I was writing I felt somewhere the third person narrative was not matching with the content! But you know its path dependency. Next time I will keep it in mind. you rightly guessed I am really inspired by Samata's writing style.

    Regarding the issue of finite world. It is a concept of Ecological economists. They are critical to the CAPITAL and its ever increasing self. They and many others believe that Capital survives insofar as it increases its size. Most of the Neo classical economists support and promote the ever increasing nature of capita where as Ecological minded economists argue that since world has a finite dimension. It has finite resources so capital expansions should not be infinite.

    Hope it is clear now. Thanks again

  4. I hope we learn to package ourselves as well and mint money too.