To see what I mean, take Tony Pulis’s defence of Ryan Shawcross:
Ryan Shawcross has no bad blood in him whatsoever. There is no way in a million years he would ever go out and try to hurt someone.However, Arsenal are not claiming that Shawcross is a bad person, any more than they claim that Martin Taylor was when he broke Eduardo’s leg, or Dan Smith was when he broke Abou Diaby’s, or Giorgio Chiellini when he tore Robin van Persie’s ankle ligaments.
Instead, their argument is that when playing Arsenal, coaches tell players to snap into tackles, and to deny their opponents time and space. This leads players to rush into tackles, a few of which are mistimed and cause injury.
The key thing here is that no individual is to blame. If opponents backed away from Arsenal and gave them time to play, they would lose - as Stoke discovered when they lost their appetite for tackling after Ramsey’s injury.
In this sense, Arsenal’s injuries arise not from the evil intentions of their opponents, but from the forces of competition. Individual coaches and players, trying to avoid defeat - which is the pinnacle of anyone’s ambition against the Arse - are compelled to adopt strategies which endanger players.
And this is where the parallel with Marx’s critique of capitalism comes in. Capitalism, he says, leads to low wages and exploitation not because individual capitalists are bad people but because competition forces them to drive wages down:
Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society…But looking at things as a whole, all this does not, indeed, depend on the good or ill will of the individual capitalist. Free competition brings out the inherent laws of capitalist production, in the shape of external coercive laws having power over every individual capitalist (Capital vol I ch 10 pt 5)In this context, Pulis’s defence of Shawcross, though factually correct, is pernicious. In encouraging us to look at individual agency, rather than structural forces, it perpetuates one piece of ideology/cognitive bias - the fundamental attribution error - which helps to sustain and legitimate capitalism.