Quo Vadis Europe

Part of the previous story is of course the question mentioned above … – and a small contribution to push the direction can be made here, where the

IASQ is calling scholars to support our Declaration that was published om March 8, 2017. The Declaration, titled The Post Brexit Declaration on Social Quality In Europe, deals with the pressing needs of European society after last year’s victory of the Leave camp in the Brexit vote.

 

 

Annunci

forward, right- or upwards or where should we go?

Yesterday we stood a step back from the abyss … – today we are looking for The progressive way, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the EU.

It is frightening that the linked article, explicitly claiming a social democratic orientation, is even opened by a photo, making direct reference to the pattern that has in the meantime even a name: Trumpism or Trumponomics.
Is this really the way to go?
All this, including the address with which the pope addressed yesterday the heads of state of a somewhat crumbling EU-member states, comes just in time while I am preparing both, the teaching of an intensive course on European Integration at the University of Vienna, department of political science end of the coming month, and a debate at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foudation to which I want to contribute later this year.
There are some short reflections and questions that come to my mind.
  • Why can’t we move back, taking up on the traditions?
  • But do we really have to move forward instead, forgetting about the old wisdom that characterises linearity in economic thinking
  • There is more to be done, and in particular there is still some serious thinking to be done, resisting a subjectivist and voluntarist turn – be it to the right or also left populism, the one aiming on making nations great again, the other on making the EU great again.
  • And it is surely also about the rejection of platitudes, equalising right and left populism in a way in which earlier in history the thesis of totalitarism was put forward – there is surely left populism though it is surely an issue that needs some reflection – interesting is at least when ISI [import substitution industrialisation] is rejected while such sides rarely question the manifold ways of subsidies and new indirect protectionism of multi-speed policies. And equally interesting that such proposal of an entrepreneurial state is indeed something that made an earlier proponent, namely J. A. Schumpeter and his opus magnum highly contestable.
My tiny and humble contribution, planned to make the next 60 years something of which the positive results, which surely had been made already, are more then appreciated side effects of a structurally defunct model are outlined in the following:
Some of this employs my thinking in the realm of economics, under the title
– in close cooperation with Vyacheslav Bobkov from the Plekanov University in Moscow, currently as well with the College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou and it is also playing a role in some preparation of this years G20, I have to do.
Another strand is employing me already now, and especially from September onwards, when taking up work at the Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik/Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy under the title
Still, at the moment it is about teaching students economics – and a decisive challenge remains to resist the number-crunching mind snatchers in a tiny village at the coastline of Wales, even unable to communicate, but trying to creep into the CORE.
see also here for some small but important action

Reviving Schaeuble’s Augean Stables?

The other day, I was writing in a mail to colleague, saying I would soon send some comments on what had been suggested to be

the great vision on E future ! A very stimulating
document !

the White Paper on the future of Europe announced here, actually not agreeing with such an assessment. In that mail I stated as well:
We have had last weekend the annual meeting of the European academy – by accident I could take part. Surely many good “large visions”, but again some lack of realism – you may have read the Europe-book I published several years ago – it was not about providing a vision, but at least I guess some of the obstacles that remain in place and play a fundamental, i.e. structural role.
And indeed it is a challenge to present “the large vision”, and be nevertheless concrete and also vice versa, to ending in some trap of policy making technology.
And just when I revisited Juncker’s meagre ‘vision’, I received a mail, with the link to Paul Mason’s article. Though I may agree in both cases with many details, I do not agree with the point of departure also of the “6th vision”, i.e. Paul’s proposal (https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/03/option-six-a-europe-of-democracy-and-social-justice/), suggesting

What follows, the Option Six Proposal, is a genuine attempt to preserve the EU and the Eurozone as global institutions.

Why is such attempt worthwhile? Isn’t any analysis challenged first and foremost to state that any of these goals is first and foremost asked to define and clearly answer cui bono, not least in terms of what is the overall and genuine “benefit”, the common wheal, the additional value … . in the present formulation it sounds very much like “we have to have it because …. we have to have it was everything else did not work and seems not to work …, and paradoxically: we always have had it, more or less as matter of Rostow in Brussels  (to allude to Arrighi’s “Smith in Beijing”).

In this way, the Juncker proposal is very much abut accepting “the end of history”, making a few more or less technical proposals to manage this end.

BUT:
  • It is about the economic “model”
  • not the economic reality which is characterised by being able to utilise indeed exceptional conditions to establish – name it as you like: a strong city or a tentatively emerging world empire
  • So far, in other words, the “success” was by and large established as systematically driven by exception, (at most) only little by a a stabled, lasting, and sustainable normality (including norm)
  • This supposed strength is defined as matter of emerging from defining itself against others, not by taking a suggested genuine “own stronghold” as point of reference
  • and in reality it is just contrary to what is stated as needed for the future: “they deliberately make no mention of legal or institutional processes – the form will follow the function.” (page 15)
  • That suggests to change – but does not really reflect from the outset why this is/was so far exactly the instituionalist perspective, determining even most of the (affirmative and critical) theoretical reflection, few exceptions granted (as of course most the SQ work, humbly my own work etc., but missing here are many approaches that would claim to be fundamentally critical …)

State of the Union Address 2016: Towards a better Europe – a Europe that protects, empowers and defends

is little convincing, suggesting that

The next twelve months are the crucial time to deliver a better Europe: 

a Europe that protects;

a Europe that preserves the European way of life;

a Europe that empowers our citizens,

a Europe that defends at home and abroad; and

a Europe that takes responsibility.

A very benevolent reading suggesting at most the vision of an institutionalist setting FOR the citizens, but not of Europe and by Europeans.
And speaking there also about
A EUROPE THAT PRESERVES OUR WAY OF LIFE
overlooks that this way of life is characterised more and more and systematically by tensions, exclusion, and a process of peripheralisation of many, allowing a Mr Schaeuble (referring now to the metaphors of those disrespect they use) to act as if he would be herdsman of PIIGS, forgetting that HE and the likes are those who behaved like King Augeas – mind what the story says:
Now King Augeas owned more cattle than anyone in Greece. Some say that he was a son of one of the great gods, and others that he was a son of a mortal; whosever son he was, Augeas was very rich, and he had many herds of cows, bulls, goats, sheep and horses.
And
Every night the cowherds, goatherds and shepherds drove the thousands of animals to the stables.
It is not very likely from this that the King was hard working – not to obtain the large numbers and not by looking after the animals…
I guess, more has to be done than waiting for better administrators.

KCK – klatsch, cliché, kitsch

KLATSCH

Klatsch is a German term, though occasionally used in English. And when I first saw the headline
I admittedly clicked on it in a longing for some klatsch, gossip — distraction from the expected, though still worrying news, presenting Trump’s shocking speech of acceptance. Looking at all this development, there are three things that are specially worrying. Two are pointed out in an article in The Financial Times (17/7/2016):
This week, Republicans will endorse the first US presidential nominee since the second world war to reject America’s globalist consensus. It is hard to see beyond that stark fact. Yet it is only the second most troubling feature of Donald Trump’s rise. The bigger one is his impact on the health of American democracy. Even if Mr Trump is defeated in November, it will be hard to put the genie back into the bottle. Budding demagogues will have taken note. You can denigrate most of the people most of the time and still have a shot at the main prize.
The third point, of course not to be found even in the intelligent journals of the bourgeoisie, is that such extremes as Mr Trump make us easily forget the sound criticism of the past  the “health of American democracy”? — Sure, a very sick person appears to be nearly health, of we think about the decaying corpse. But …  I am not really in the American-style Moore films. Still, having recently watched the film
Capitalism, A Love Story
I really liked the beginning, forcing us to ask the question how people in 100, 1000 or more years will think about “our times”. The Trumps, Orbans and Erdogans being comparable with Nero, Cesar and hardly allowing to see the Cicero?

CLICHÉS

Glancing over the article

it showed the perfect match between reality and cliché – even in details:

While Trump family values may not be particularly honorable, they are perversely traditional. Melania Trump told the R.N.C. audience that “Donald is intensely loyal to family,” a claim belied by his own marital history — she is wife No. 3, and No. 2 was the woman with whom he cheated on No 1. Mr. Trump has children with three different women; he blames giving his wife too much responsibility in his business for his first divorce, and his wife’s wanting him to spend too much time at home with her and their daughter for his second.
Yes, hypocrites are not shrinking from slapping into their own face. I remember Milan Kundera about whom I chatted the other day with a friend:

Do you realize that people don’t know how to read Kafka simply because they want to decipher him? Instead of letting themselves be carried away by his unequaled imagination, they look for allegories — and come up with nothing but clichés: life is absurd (or it is not absurd), God is beyond reach (or within reach), etc. You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.

KITSCH

If there would not be so much bitterness coming up when thinking about recent events …, recent? Perhaps beginning in some strange way with the day when I left the French embassy in Rome: Charlie Hebdo …, a pilot crashing an aircraft with all passengers into a mountain, not being able to cope with his desperation, a “mysterious coup” in Ankara … – a friend wrote the other day that it is
not something a decent European academic can easily understand and digest
all this easily appears as kitsch – because
[i]n the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then, that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions. A question is like a knife that slices through the stage backdrop and gives us a look at what lies hidden behind it.
It is
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
that comes to mind – in global politics of “the making history”, and also in the daily work of teaching, something I frequently mentioned on these pages.
And when speaking of bitterness it is also the inability of asking questions … – VERBOTEN, as a french friend would say.

REALITIES – THEATRALITIES

There seems to be a paradox when we are looking for answers – we can only find them with others, not searching alone, not moving alone, anti-totalitarian. And still
When I say totalitarian, what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously) ….
as we read also in Kundera’s book.
Doesn’t this mean that we need a radical rewriting of the scenario, instead of the US-lead and Hungarian-regionalist applauded tightening of the reactionary course? A socio-political course that is based on criminal offenses (watch here from the docu The Corporation.), executed by psychopaths (watch here from the docu The Corporation), the political “clowns” only their executors and implementers as we saw it earlier in history.

Attempts and Contributions

My modest contribution to a DIEM-meeting in Greece these days:
The Europe we know is dead – and it worked for a long time to forge the weapon that would work first to dig the grave and then to kill the ambitions. — The ambitions? We have to be careful: the ambitions, as ideas, had beens surely valuable and meant to establish a “good society”. But especially here in Greece, the home-country of Aristotle, we know what a good society really is: he Aristotle juxtaposes chrematistike and oikonomia, only the latter being concerned with a truly integrated system, and with this he refused moneymaking as end in itself.
Talking about oikonomia meant as well to accept the limits of growth.
Europe today – and it did not learn from Greece, not from BREXIT, Nice nor Ankara – is still based on the acceptance of what we may call Capitaloscene. And the following, written by Jason Moore, can capture it:

The decisive historical expression of Cheap Nature in the modern era is the Four Cheaps of labor- power, food, energy, and raw materials. These Four Cheaps are the major way that capital prevents the mass of capital from rising too fast in relation to the mass of appropriated cheap nature – when the delivery of such cheap natures approaches the average value composition of world commodity production, the world-ecological surplus falls and the pace of accumulation slackens. The centrality of cheap nature in the endless of capital can, then, be adequately interpreted only through a post- Cartesian frame that understands value as a way of organizing nature. In this, the law of value is co- produced through the web of life. We cannot make sense of value through a Cartesian sorting of “labor and nature” – commonplace in left green thought (e.g. Clark and York, 2005). Rather, be- cause value relations encompass a contradictory unity of exploitation and appropriation heedless of a Cartesian divide, only an analysis that proceeds from essential unity of humanity-in-nature can move us forward. The present argument, then, is a brief for such a post-Cartesian – I would call it world-ecological – reading of value. The goal is to focus our attention on the relations of the oikeios that form and re-form capitalism’s successive contradictory unities of the exploitation of labor- power (paid work) and the appropriation of a global zone of reproduction (unpaid work) from the family to the biosphere.

And furthermore this capitaloscene is about unpaid labour – only that made paid labour possible. …

Indeed, we need an antroponomic shift: a shift that is not a revival of the old idea. As said, this Europe is dead and we should be ready to burry it. There is a valuable heritage of ideas though and we have to select carefully And  we have to make use of the heritage of an enormous wealth that is available, though not used for the people and projects we need. We have too make “cheaps” a source for the future, valuable and to be paid for. And to accept the limits of growth means that the corpse of the most competitive Europe, celebrated 2000 in Lisbon, has to bear the child of a most cooperative partner in a world that serves the global citizen.

Europe is dead – long live Europe.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Thanks Conny!!

SOLIDAR Weekly Round Up 15-07-2016

Editorial by Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

15 July 2016

Yesterday, 14th July, Bastille Day commemorates the French Revolution. Its three principles engraved on every town hall and every public school in France have again been under attack, this time in Nice. What more symbolic day! France is mourning yet again and we express again our solidarity reaffirming that the defense of democracy, of freedom, equality and solidarity, the call for social progress remains the core of our commitment, our compass!

After the Brexit vote, these principles should more than ever lead a value-based debate on European policy.

Liberté is not only a principle of rights, it also means being free from poverty and exclusion. The 125 million people in Europe who live in, or under the threat of, poverty do not have Liberté. How can we get them out of poverty? How can we get the less qualified back into the labour market and into decent work? The EU had – once upon a time – a social agenda, a Lisbon strategy and later it had a Europe2020 strategy. Unfortunately, instead of taking the lead and using the mid-term review of Europe2020 as a basis for action, the Juncker Commission is instead continuing the European semester process, while not working on improvement of the strategy to make it more effective. The news that the ECOFIN Council has decided to send a letter to Spain and Portugal illustrates the main reference to guideline Number 1 of Europe2020: “the vigorous application of the Stability and Growth Pact”. In the interpretation of Schäuble and others, vigorous means vigorous, without taking into account the damage it has on society or without even taking electoral results and referendum results into account. Did the message not get through? This European Union of austerity has been rejected as the majority of citizens do not have the feeling that the EU cares about them.

Egalité. In the last four years the Commission has reported on Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE). We are not all equal. We are still a long way from equal pay for equal work in the same workplace. The gender pay gap is still huge, not to mention the unfair tax system that allows tax evasion and tax havens for the rich. Since 2008 there have been some efforts to tame the financial markets, but these initiatives have been watered down under a Commission President who has now been recruited by the bank responsible for the implosion of the financial markets eight years ago. So much for the the credibility of leaders! Only a handful protested at the publication of this news; at the same time some people in the European Parliament were preparing a report on whether Civil Society Organisations and NGOs should continue to be financially supported by the EU when they are being ‘too critical’ of it.

Fraternité. Competitiveness is the new criterion under which everything is evaluated. The dangerous poison of nationalism is unleashed because there is now also competition between member states in the north and member states in the south. Pensioners in Greece and in Germany are in completely different situations, but both expect the EU to contribute to ensuring the stability and the availability of decent, ‘poverty-preventing’ pensions. And what about the arrival of migrants and refugees? After the wave of solidarity last year, the Balkan route is now closed and people are dying daily in the new ‘Dead Sea’ (i.e. the Mediterranean). There are indeed fewer images on the news but the human loss is immense and it cannot be excused by ignorance. How to strengthen a sense of solidarity (Fraternité) is indeed a challenge, but first the mutual benefits of sharing need to be proven before solidarity can mould our thinking.

This foreword is not a new “J’accuse” in the Emile Zola sense. These are just the thoughts that many of us have who want the EU to progress, but we want an EU with different assumptions. Sustainable economic, social and political development, social investment and social protection for all should be the basis of the EU. We Europeans have to take the lead in the post-Brexit debate. We have to challenge the political leaders and the policy makers in the Institutions to make sure they put people’s concerns first. They should use the momentum for political change that delivers a real safeguarding pillar of social rights, and that translates the Sustainable Development Goals agenda into an ambitious European agenda. They should trust the next generation and promote their skills and competences and deliver on integration and the inclusion of migrants and refugees. Ambitious? Maybe! But still feasible. It is a matter of will. Those who believe that this Europe should first be destroyed and then reconstructed are playing with fire and instead they should learn from history. Reform is not a term of abuse, it is a progressive challenge!

See also Immanuel Wallerstein’s

Commentary No. 429, July 15, 2016: “Bastille Day: France’s Ultra-Confused Present”

Strengthening the European Social Model by Going Beyond

The following are the notes of the closing remarks during the conference “Rafforzare il Modello Sociale Europeo. Il contributo della Qualità Sociale alla coesione del sistema comunitario”, Venerdì 31 Ottobre 2014 presso la Sala Polifuzionale, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Rome

********

I want to thank all participants for their contributions – they had been especially in their diversity a major challenge for me to think about the tasks ahead. The actual challenge is – another time – to overcome the contradiction between what we know and what we do. And it is probably correct to say that there is a general good will and acknowledgement of the virtues as we know them already since ancient times. And nevertheless we fail acting accordingly.

I will keep it short and will not develop the long story which we know from Pinocchio:

Pinocchio’s legs were so stiff that he could not move them, and Geppetto held his hand and showed him how to put out one foot after the other.

When his legs were limbered up, Pinocchio started walking by himself and ran all around the room. He came to the open door, and with one leap he was out into the street. Away he flew!

Of course, you may also refer to the work for instance of Max Weber, Niklas Luhmann and many others.

It seems today that we are facing a similar story: Europe had been established as system based on values as – amongst others – peace and justice. And now it seems to go entirely stray, following its own ways.

Already in the mid 1990s a large number of academics called for a focus on social quality as central parameter for future politics. In a declaration in Amsterdam it had been stated in 1997:

Respect for the fundamental human dignity of all citizens requires us to declare that we do not want to see growing numbers of beggars, tramps and homeless in the cities of Europe. Nor can we countenance a Europe with large numbers of unemployed, growing numbers of poor people and those who have only limited access to health care and social services. These and many other negative indicators demonstrate the current inadequacy of Europe to provide social quality for all its citizens. We want, in contrast, a European society that is economically successful, but which, at the same time, promotes social justice and participation for its citizens.

And actually there had been a very positive reception, the then commissioner for employment and social affairs highlighting the importance of focussing on social quality.

The two crucial points claimed had been the need to arrive at a policy design

  • that accepts the complexity and interdependencies of society. This meant to overcome a departmentalised approach, aiming on a new integrity which is not subordinated under rules of a de-socialised model economics
  • that goes beyond standard parameters of measuring economic success in quantitative terms, taking social quality as reference, and looking at peoples real and everyday’s life.

This merged in the claim concerned with politics, i.e. the need to develop policies beyond finding technical and short-term solutions.

I do not want to discuss the Lisbon strategy which stated in 2000

  1. The Union has today set itself a new strategic goal for the next decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion

Leaving a structural analysis aside, THIS Europe had not been able to address the crisis, and actually it can be seen as part of a global political arena, leading straight into it, deepening and accelerating it. In actual fact we find today major challenges – most of them well-known and often discussed.

A major reason for the failing of the debates and analysis had been and is that the complexities and interdependencies had not been sufficiently considered: a matter of power, interests and of Pinocchio running his own way, even if they may have – or claim to have – the same vision.

Proposals for alternatives had been made from different sides, too often limited to models and dreams, simply based on abstract values. However, the reality needs to go beyond this. One of the major steps had been shown in November 2013, coming from an angle that had been perhaps unexpected by many, Pope Francis, writing about an economy that kills. More important than this statement had been another sentence in that paragraph, asking

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.[1]

Indeed,

  • exorbitant growth of capital and productive potentials is going hand in hand with decreasing GDP and an increasing inequality instead of socio-economic security for all
  • growth is translated into production of waste, speculation and privatisation of public goods – which translates into “values” equal “consumables” instead of providing a foundation for social cohesion
  • employment is loosing its productive dimension – and also its function of “making a living”. Precarity is the norm instead of suggesting a new take on socially meaningful activities and cooperation that secures social inclusion
  • migration is not a problem – though it is made being a problem as long as it is an answer to which individuals are forced by the externalisation of costs of production instead of seeing the major potential for social empowerment.

All this can be put into a nutshell – at least people living in Rome will understand immediately and others probably just have to replace the names of places and streets. And it is only a rephrasing of what Francis said:

How is it possible that we ignore the homeless people and “celebrate excessive consumerism”: go to Termini station at 4 o’clock in the morning – and in the afternoon have a look at excessive luxury on the Via dei Condotti and even the Via del Corso.

Indeed, all the answers will remain a torso as long as we do not manage to re-embed all policy areas into one guiding principle, that orient on

the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment. Its subject matter refers to people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships.[2]

The objective conditions of making use of the potentials will allow to translate social justice (equity), solidarity, equal valuation and human dignity, the normative factors presented in the framework of social quality, into meaningful parameters of an analytical tool and an instrument to systematically develop alternatives.

Urgently needed is in this light the confrontation of some major flaws of current politics:

Excessive cheap production and low fare trade, being a major feature of quantitative growth strategies are established on the strategies of sheep advertising and “low fair production”.

But we urgently need

  • planning
  • public responsibility
  • solidarity enshrined in rights
  • making people themselves the public

What else remains to be said? Since several years now there is a label on cigarette now: Smoking kills Perhaps we should think about this in connection with the words of Pope Francis and public responsibility.

Demands

EU

The EU has to refocus policies: instead of adjoining welfare policies to a growth oriented strategy of competitiveness, policies have to be focused on the social as people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships in everyday’s life as the true aim of policy making.

National Governments

National governments have to commit themselves to the same goal, strongly considering their action as part of their global responsibility.

Municipalities and Regional Bodies

It is necessary to orient local and regional policies on strategies that take overall sustainability into account, and allow for participative approaches that foster the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment.

Trade Unions

It is necessary to develop new understandings of syndicalism, thoroughly analysing the critical developments on labour markets and in society, putting more emphasis on the representation of men and women in atypical employment and the societal contributions made outside of labour markets.

Civil Society

The role of civil society is to provide a glue between the different levels and realms of society and to link particularistic interests into the wider context of an overall sustainable society

Academic World

Interdisciplinary orientation cannot be a catchword alone but has to be implemented and a permanent guideline of academic world – be it in teaching or research. For this the academic world has to be open for heterodox approaches, a truly open debate and a non-competitive working climate that is rooted in discourse and exchange.

Our Commitment

We as European Observatory on Social Quality commit ourselves

  • to further elaborate the theory and practice,
  • to contribute with concrete analysis of living conditions and daily life in a comprehensive understanding
  • to develop a network of and link between academics, politicians and civil society
  • to provide services that foster the overall aim of moving towards a society that is based in the orientation on overall sustainability and social cohesion.

The goal then will not be paradise – but a proper use of the resources we have.

 

[1]            Pope Francis, 2013: Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, consecrated persons and the Lay Faithful on the proclamation of the gospel in today’s world; Città del Vaticano; Libreria Editrice Vaticana; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html – 28/10/14

[2] van der Maesen, Laurent J.G./Walker, Alan, 2012: Social Quality and Sustainability; in: Van der Maesen, Laurent J.G./Walker, Alan (eds.): Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators: Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; 250-274; here: 260