Alan McDougall

The People's Game

Football, State and Society in East Germany

Cambridge University Press 2014

New Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Sports March 24, 2016 Amanda Jeanne Swain

In The People’s Game: Football, State and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Alan McDougall looks at football from the top-down and bottom-up: as a...

In The People’s Game: Football, State and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Alan McDougall looks at football from the top-down and bottom-up: as a tool of the state, as forming regional identities in East Germany and in a reunified Germany, and as a popular pastime. Although characterized by mediocrity compared to other sports in East Germany, McDougall demonstrates the ways in which football gave people a means of expressing identities that were separated from and even opposed to that endorsed by the state. At the same time, he argues, this was a “constrained autonomy,” one that was shaped by the tensions between Eigen-Sinn and conformity. The East German state has been viewed as a monolith, but recent scholarship – including this book – reveals its fractures. McDougall’s analysis exposes the limits and dysfunctionalities of the state and the communist party’s leadership. The People’s Game not only adds to our understanding of communist Eastern Europe, it also contributes to the growing field of sports history.


Amanda Jeanne Swain is executive director of the Humanities Commons at the University of California, Irvine. She received her PhD in Russian and East European history at the University of Washington. Her research interests include the intersections of national, Soviet and European identities in the Baltic countries. Recent publications include articles in Ab Imperio and Cahiers du Monde Russe.

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