Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism

Article excerpt

Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism. Walter LaFeber. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.

The famed image of Michael Jordan has served many ends. In Walter LeFeber's book Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, the respected historian of the Cold War uses the NBA's greatest player and pitchman to tell a story of recently changing political economy and the new cultures it produced. Jordan, an American product writ large, is the athletically supreme organic machine that under-girded the NBA's projection into the new world of economic globalization and across the cultural landscapes of the world. In a phrase, for LaFeber the phenomenal international fame of Michael Jordan serves as a quintessential form of late-capitalist global culture fueled by the information revolution and an increasingly transnational US capital.

To tell this story, LaFeber weaves a number of disparate but related threads together. The reader gains a very brief history of the US origins of basketball in 1891, its 20th century permutations, Jordan's early life in the rural US South, and his quick rise to basketball predominance in college and the NBA. We learn of the enormous growth in popularity of the NBA on a national and global scale, something attributed to the successful commissioner of the NBA, David Stem, who introduced many new marketing strategies.

We gain a thumbnail sketch of the recent expansion in the scope and scale of transnational corporations, spotlighted here by Nike, Phil Knight's aggressive transnational tennis shoe corporation, manufacturing and marketing its products worldwide. And we learn about the development of a denser global infrastructure for disseminating mass mediated information and images (satellite transmissions, fiber optics, computers, the multiplication of independent media companies, etc. …