Mon May 3rd, 2010 at 09:12:07 AM EST
The FT has an interview with Jürgen Habermas by Stuart Jeffries.
FT.com - A rare interview with Jürgen Habermas
Angela Merkel told the Bundestag that existing EU rules were not strong enough to deal with the crisis triggered by Greece, and that in such circumstances it may be necessary to throw a country out of the eurozone...
Such a lack of solidarity would certainly scupper the whole project. Of course, Merkel’s statement was intended at the time for domestic consumption in the run-up to the important regional election in North Rhine-Westphalia. But there can be no better illustration of the new indifference of the new Federal Republic than her insensitivity to the disastrous impact of her words in the other member states... the generation of rulers in Germany since the chancellorship of Gerhard Schröder has pursued an inward-looking national policy. I don’t want to overestimate the role of Germany in Europe. But the breach in mentalities which set in after Helmut Kohl has major significance for Europe.
Habermas gives a brief summary of post-WWII Germany's wish "to return to the fold of civilised nations" and to contribute to European construction, an aim that was prolonged in the postwar generation, up to reunification.
...a total defeat connected with an inconceivable moral corruption also created an opportunity for the following generation to learn more quickly. Looking at our present political elite, this window of opportunity seems to be closed. The narcissistic mentality of a self-satisfied colossus in the middle of Europe is no longer even a guarantee that the unstable status quo in the EU will be preserved.
An optimist, though, Habermas - see below.
Not in the short term, however. European integration, he says, was pushed for by economic forces until, with the single market and Maastricht, the "market Europeans" had obtained what they wanted, and ceased to be a driving force for further "deepening of the institutions". An elitist political approach that attempted to follow on, "above the heads of the national populations", has failed: "Today, for the first time, the European project has reached an impasse."
But Habermas makes another move out to a broader and longer historical perspective:
...what annoys me – aside from the insensitivity of neo-liberal policy to the external costs of the social upheavals that it callously takes for granted – is the lack of a historical understanding of the shifts in the relationship between the market and political power. More than half a century ago, Karl Polanyi described capitalist development as an interplay between a functionally necessitated opening of society followed in each case by an integrative closure at a higher level. Since the beginning of the modern period, expanding markets and communications networks had an explosive force, with individualising and liberating impacts on individual citizens; but each such opening was followed by a reorganisation of the old relations of solidarity within an expanded institutional framework. Time and again, a sufficient equilibrium between the market and politics was achieved to ensure that the network of social relations between citizens of a political community was not damaged beyond repair. According to this rhythm, the current phase of financial-market-driven globalisation should also be followed by a strengthening not only of the European Union but of the international community.
How much "creative destruction" (a term that is not Habermas's) will globalising neo-lib financial capitalism rip profit from before the pendulum swings back, is the question I'm pondering.