Europe under Merkel IV: Balance of impotence

Appeared in American Affairs Journal Volume II, Number 2 (Summer 2018): 162–92.

Europe, as organized—or disorganized—in the European Union (EU), is a strange political beast. It consists, first, of the domestic politics of its member states that have, over time, become deeply intertwined. Second, member states, which are still sovereign nation-states, pursue nationally defined interests through national foreign policies within intra-European international relations. Here, third, they have a choice between relying on a variety of supranational institutions or on intergovernmental agreements among selective coalitions of the willing. Fourth, since the start of the European Monetary Union (EMU), which includes only nineteen of the EU’s twenty-eight member states, another arena of European international relations has emerged, consisting mainly of informal, intergovernmental institutions looked at with suspicion by the supranational EU. Fifth, all these are embedded in the geopolitical conditions and geostrategic interests of each nation, which are related in particular to the United States on the one hand and to Russia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East on the other. And sixth, there is at the bottom of the European state system an ongoing battle for hegemony between its two largest member countries, France and Germany—a battle that both deny exists. Each of the two, in its own way, considers its claim to European supremacy to be only just and indeed self-evident, Germany so much so that it doesn’t even recognize its ambitions as such.1 Moreover, both would-be hegemons are aware that they can realize their national projects only by incorporating the other within them, and for this reason they present their national aspirations as “European integration” projects based on a special relationship between Germany and France. (…)

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The fourth power?

Review of Joseph Vogl (2017), The Ascendancy of Finance, trans. Simon Garnett, Cambridge: Polity Press.
First published in German as Der Souveränitätseffekt (2015), Zürich-Berlin: diaphanes.

Appeared in New Left Review 110, March-April 2018, pp. 141-150

Like blood in Goethe’s Faust, money ‘is a very special fluid’. It circulates in the body political-economic, whose sustenance depends on its liquidity. [1] And it is surrounded by mystery. In fact, money is easily the most unpredictable and least governable human institution we have ever known. Allegedly invented as a general equivalent, to serve as an accounting unit, means of exchange and store of value, it has over time penetrated into the remotest corners of social life, constantly assuming new forms and springing fresh surprises. Even Keynes had to admit that his attempt at A Treatise on Money (1930) ran into ‘many problems and perplexities’. How money came to be what it is today, in capitalist modernity, may perhaps with the benefit of hindsight be reconstructed as a process of progressive dematerialization and abstraction, accompanied by growing commodification and state sponsorship. But how money functions in its present historical form is more difficult to say; where it is going from here, harder still. This social construction has always been beset with, and driven by, unanticipated consequences—caused by human action, but not controlled by it. (…)

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One Question: Marx at 200

Interview by Cihan Aksan with John Bailes and leading thinkers,State of Nature, May 7, 2018

Wolfgang Streeck: As a student of sociology in Frankfurt at the end of the 1960s, I encountered Marx early. Unfortunately, however, nobody prevented me from getting in at the wrong end: the first chapters of Capital. This was too abstract for a twenty year-old from the provinces, with a pent-up need for concrete real-world experience.

It was only much later that I returned to Marx, when I was teaching at an American university, UW-Madison. There I became aware of the breathtaking complexity of Marx’s Hegel-trained conceptual apparatus, which surpasses everything that was produced at the time and later in social science, and which is uniquely suited to observe and represent conflicts, dilemmas, or ‘contradictions’ in social life. On this background I realized why the attempt had failed and had to fail to develop a theory (and practice) of the social-democratic governance of ‘modern’ societies with the help of a functionalist sociology and empiricist political science. (…)

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Other answers by: Ursula Huws, Sven-Eric Liedman, Terrell Carver, Jayati Ghosh, Frigga Haug, Lucia Pradella, Neil Faulkner, Lars T Lih, Esther Leslie, Guilherme Leite Gonçalves, Michael Roberts.

Was halten Sie von diesem Mann?

Die Zeit, 03. Mai 2018, Seite 41

Zum 200. Geburtstag von Karl Marx erklären Philosophen und Soziologen, worin er irrte und wo er recht hatte – und warum seine Ideen unsere Gegenwart betreffen.

Seine Zumutung bleibt

Niemand kann sich auf Marx einlassen, ohne von der Komplexität seines an Hegel geschulten Begriffsapparats beeindruckt zu sein. Diese Komplexität ist perfekt geeignet, Konflikte, Dilemmas, Spannungen in gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhängen zu erkennen und zu beschreiben. Unter den frühen, unverschämt ehrgeizigen, den „großen Fragen“ radikal auf den Grund gehenden Versuchen, die um 1800 zum Durchbruch gekommene moderne Gesellschaft zu verstehen, hat sich der von Marx als der nachhaltigste erwiesen. (Weiterlesen)

Macron risque d’être le troisième Président consécutif à ne faire qu’un mandat

Interview by Jorge Gomes-Ferreira, L’arène nue, April 24, 2018.

Vous observez beaucoup l’Europe. Après la longue crise politique qui a eu lieu dans votre pays et a amené à la reconduction de la « Grande coalition », après les élections italiennes de mars dernier, où en sommes nous selon vous ?

Nous nous trouvons devant une impasse, devant un équilibre, non pas des forces, mais des faiblesses. Suite aux élections, l’Allemagne n’est plus en mesure de répondre aux attentes de ses partenaires en termes de « réformes », c’est-à-dire en termes de concessions matérielles : l’AfD et le FDP feront tout au Bundestag pour dénoncer ouvertement et avec fracas toute initiative qui irait au-delà du traité de Maastricht ou de ce que permet la Constitution allemande. En Italie, depuis la fin de Renzi, il n’est plus envisageable que le pays poursuive les réformes néo-libérales exigées d’elle jusqu’à maintenant. Cela impliquerait que l’Italie puisse attendre de l’Allemagne un soutien économique en retour, qui ne soit pas que symbolique. (Continuez sur http://l-arene-nue.blogspot.de/)

La dette souveraine

New publication in La dette souveraine: Économie politique et État
Buying time. Preface to the second edition.

Nouvelle publication dans La dette souveraine: Économie politique et État
Du temps acheté. Préface à la séconde edition.

Wolfgang Streeck: Il y a plus de quatre ans que j’ai terminé le manuscrit de Du temps acheté. Bien que la crise dont il traite soit aujord’hui moins explosive qu’elle ne l’était à l’été 2012, je n’y retrouve pourtant rien qui mériterait d’être retranché ou réécrit. Certes, davantage d’explications, de contextualisations et d’éclaircissements sont toujours bienvenus, et ce également à titre de remerciements pour les nombreuses recensions dont le livre a bénéficié en Allemagne, et ailleurs, en si peu de temps – à la surprise de son auteur, dont les précédentes publications avaient été principalement réservées à des parutions scientifiques spécialisées. […]

Pour continuer: Julia Christ en Gildas Salmon (2018), La dette souveraine: Économie politique et État, Paris: Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS).

Autres contributions de: Colin Crouch, Jürgen Habermas, Robert Boyer, Bruno Karsenti, Benjamin Lemoine, Marie Cuillerai, Jean-Michel Rey, Yves Duroux, Julia Christ et Gildas Salmon.

Review: Bruno Amable, „Structural Crisis and Institutional Change in Modern Capitalism: French Capitalism in Transition“

Review of Bruno Amable (2017), Structural Crisis and Institutional Change in Modern Capitalism: French Capitalism in Transition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Appeared in ILR Review 71 (2), 2018, 550-552.

This book is historical-institutionalist political economy at its best. Obviously it is on industrial relations, but it is also, as it should be, on capitalism and the state, on politics and markets, and most important, on their dynamic over time. One thing that we learn (unless we have learned it previously) is that industrial relations cannot be understood outside of its capitalist-political context, and it must be conceived as a story, a movie, not a still, embedded in the long history of modern capitalist society. That history, quite appropriately, can be recounted as one of “modernization,” but not in the 1950s and 1960s American sense in which it stands for quiet, steady, universal, and basically self-driven development toward ever-higher levels of prosperity, democracy, and general happiness. Rather, what Bruno Amable identifies as modernization is a political project of a state under capitalism trying to design a regime that overcomes the dysfunctions of liberalism while avoiding the lure of socialism or communism—a perennial political search for a “Third Way” and for a political coalition capable of sustaining it that goes back to the beginning of capitalist industrialization in the 19th century. […]

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