Globalization and the Transformation of the International State System

Norbert Lechner Lecture, Diego Portales University, Chile, November 14, 2018.

In a globally integrated capitalist economy borders between states are supposed to become economically irrelevant. Globalization is the ultimate form of liberalization; it shields free markets, instituted on a global scale, from national state intervention, in particular of a redistributive kind. Rather than markets located in states, under globalization states become located in markets. This has momentous consequences for the nature of statehood, both domestically and internationally. States located in markets lose the capacity to protect their economies and societies from market competition; in fact their economic role, if one is left for them at all, is to deregulate their national economies in order to make them more competitive, internally first and as a consequence externally as well. (…)

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L’Europa sotto il Merkel IV: un bilancio di impotenza

Pubblicato su Appello al popolo, rivista del Fronte Sovranista Italiano, 28 novembre, 2018.
Tradotto dall’inglese da Massimiliano Sist.

Original title: Europe under Merkel IV: Balance of Impotence, appeared in American Affairs Journal Volume II, Number 2 (Summer 2018): 162–92.

L’Europa organizzata, o disorganizzata, nell’Unione europea (UE), è una strana bestia
politica. Consiste, in primo luogo, nelle politiche interne dei suoi stati membri che, nel tempo, si sono profondamente intrecciate.
In secondo luogo, gli stati membri, che sono ancora Stati sovrani, perseguono interessi definiti a livello di singola nazione attraverso le politiche estere, ancora nazionali, all’interno di relazioni internazionali intraeuropee. Qui, in terzo luogo, possono scegliere tra fare affidamento su una varietà di istituzioni sovranazionali o su accordi intergovernativi tra coalizioni selezionate di volontari.
In quarto luogo, dall’inizio dell’Unione Monetaria Europea (UME), che comprende solo diciannove dei ventotto stati membri della UE, è emersa un’altra arena di relazioni internazionali europee, costituita principalmente da istituzioni informali e intergovernative, guardate con sospetto dalla sovranazionale Unione Europea.
Quinto, tutto questo è radicato nelle condizioni geopolitiche e negli interessi geostrategici di ogni nazione, che sono legate in particolare agli Stati Uniti da un lato e alla Russia, all’Europa orientale, ai Balcani, al Mediterraneo orientale e al Medio Oriente dall’altro.
E sesto, c’è, in fondo al sistema statale europeo, una battaglia in corso per l’egemonia tra I suoi due maggiori paesi membri, Francia e Germania, una battaglia che entrambi negano. Ognuno dei due, a suo modo, considera la sua pretesa di supremazia europea come una realtà giusta e assolutamente ovvia, la Germania tanto da non riconoscere nemmeno le sue ambizioni in quanto tali. (…)

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The artifice for capitalism’s survival will not work forever

Interview with the Greek online journal, Marginalia , October, 2018.

In your most recent book (How will capitalism end?, 2016) you mention that the history of capitalism has been, since the 19th century at least, a history of its crises. However, the various predictions of its end have been proven wrong until now. Today, alongside a widespread consensus on the seriousness of the ongoing crisis, there is a total disagreement on how and if it is going to have an end at all. How can one explain this “Babel”? Does it make sense anymore, after so many false predictions, to ask economists and sociologists to predict the future?

What older theories of capitalist decline, or capitalist end, did not know, and could not know, is how many different forms capitalism as a social and economic system can assume – from liberal to state-administered to neoliberal, or from merchant to industrial to financial, etc. etc. Often enough, these transformations happened in the last minute, forced by crises, powerful countermovements, or, not least, the rise of the state and global warfare in the twentieth century. Still, the basic problem of modern capitalism remains: it is a socio-economic regime that depends on endless growth – endless accumulation of capital – in a finite world. All sorts of tricks have been invented to suspend that problem provisionally and for the time being; but there is no reason to believe that this will always be successful. In any case, giving up on thinking only because the question is difficult is not a good idea. (…)

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Greek version

L’Europe sous Merkel IV. Un équilibre de l’impuissance

Published in Le débat No. 202, novembre – décembre 2018: 60-80.

Original title: Europe under Merkel IV: Balance of Impotence, appeared in American Affairs Journal Volume II, Number 2 (Summer 2018): 162–92.

L’Europe, telle qu’elle est organisée – ou désorganisée – dans l’Union européenne (UE), est un étrange animal politique. Elle comprend d’abord les politiques intérieures de ses États membres qui, au fil du temps, se sont profondément entrelacées. Deuxièmement, les États membres, qui sont encore des États-nations souverains, poursuivent des intérêts définis au niveau national par le biais de politiques étrangères nationales dans le cadre des relations internationales intra-européennes. Troisièmement, ils ont le choix entre s’appuyer sur une variété d’institutions supranationales ou sur des accords intergouvernementaux entre coalitions choisies de volontaires. Quatrièmement, depuis le début de l’Union monétaire européenne (UEM), qui ne comprend que dix-neuf des vingt-huit États membres de l’UE, une autre arène des relations internationales européennes est apparue, constituée principalement d’institutions intergouvernementales informelles, considérées avec suspicion par l’UE supranationale. Cinquièmement, tout cela s’inscrit dans les conditions géopolitiques et les intérêts géostratégiques de chaque nation, qui sont liés en particulier aux États-Unis d’une part, et à la Russie, à l’Europe de l’Est, aux Balkans, à la Méditerranée orientale et au Moyen-Orient d’autre part. Et sixièmement, il y a au plus profond du système étatique européen une bataille permanente pour l’hégémonie entre ses deux plus grands pays membres, la France et l’Allemagne – une bataille que les deux nient.(…)

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Billige Tugend

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 14. Oktober 2018, Seite 44.

Didier Eribon lag mit seiner Kritik an Sahra Wagenknecht in diesem Feuilleton falsch: Offene Grenzen sind noch keine Politik. Die Linken brauchen vielmehr einen neuen Internationalismus.

„Sahra Wagenknecht ist mitverantwortlich für das, was in Chemnitz geschehen ist, weil sie die sogenannte Migrantenproblematik zum Bestandteil der linken Agenda gemacht hat (. . .) Wagenknechts Aussage, sie sei gegen das Konzept offener Grenzen, (. . .) suggeriert, dass man mit ihr auch über Grenzzäune, Hunde und Internierungslager reden kann.“ Das ist eine Menge Holz, vor allem von jemand, der sich „in gewisser Weise“ für das „verantwortlich“ erklärt, was Wagenknecht so alles unternimmt. Ich habe, wie andere auch, Eribons „Rückkehr nach Reims“ – als Soziologe war er und ist er mir bis heute nicht aufgefallen – durchaus mit Bewegung gelesen. Hätte ich das Buch zu rezensieren gehabt, hätte ich den Dauertriumphalismus des Autors über seinen eigenen Bildungsaufstieg etwas nervig gefunden; Bildungsaufsteiger gibt es in unserer Generation ja nicht gerade selten. Wichtiger, mir wäre die geradezu ontologische Beschreibung der Arbeiterklasse, jeder Arbeiterklasse und nicht nur der Familie Eribon, als „rassistisch“ merkwürdig und bemerkenswert erschienen. (…)

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Marx’s writing more relevant today than ever

Interview by Jipson John and Jitheesh P.M., Monthly Review Online, December 06, 2018.

Originally published in Frontline, November 09, 2018

In “How will capitalism end?”, your 2014 article for “New Left Review”, you gave a theoretical farewell to capitalism. You identified five disorders to the system, namely, declining growth, oligarchy, starvation of public sphere, corruption and international anarchy that would bring about the end of capitalism. Are you saying that such an end is impending or immediate before us?

I am not saying that. I am saying that those five trends will continue as there is nothing to be seen that can stop them. I am also saying that there is no new society waiting in the wings of history, which will only have to be instituted by the forces of capitalist opposition. Instead, I am expecting a long period of high uncertainty and disorder—an interregnum in which the old order has died while a new order cannot yet be born. Very strange things can happen in such a time, as Antonio Gramsci pointed out in a famous passage of his The Prison Notebooks.

You argue that capitalism will continue to regress and atrophy until at some point it might end. You also add that we do not need to confront capitalism but let its “natural” end come about. Will capitalism end in such a peaceful manner or will it endanger humanity? People such as John Bellamy Foster speak of either socialism or exterminism as the choice before humanity.

The interregnum will be an extremely dangerous period. It is not that we don’t need to confront capitalism. I said we don’t have the collective capacity to do away with it. I wish we did. But capitalism is now a global regime while anti-capitalist politics is inevitably local. That makes it possible to throw sand into the wheels of capitalist development but, I am afraid, not to end it. (…)

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Legado de Merkel es un montón de promesas vacías

Entrevista por Catalina Göpel, La Tercera, 19 de noviembre, 2018.

De visita en Chile para participar de la tercera cátedra Norbert Lechner 2018 “Globalización y la crisis del sistema estatal internacional” organizada por la Universidad Diego Portales, el sociólogo alemán Wolfgang Streeck, del Instituto Max Planck para los Estudios de Sociedades, conversó con La Tercera para abordar -entre otras cosas- los principales desafíos de Europa frente al auge del populismo en ese continente y el fin de la carrera política de la canciller germana Angela Merkel. “Va a culpar de su salida a estos movimientos nacionalistas”, dijo.

¿Qué ha permitido el auge de los movimientos nacionalistas y populistas en Europa?

Cuando la centroizquierda no pudo responder a los problemas actuales, esto puso las esperanzas de la gente en los nacionalismos. Actualmente la globalización socava la capacidad política del Estado Nación y frente a esto los desafíos son también los de encontrar las respuestas a las fuentes de la ansiedad e incertidumbre que experimenta el electorado. Eso quiere decir empleo, seguridad, sistema de pensiones, básicamente los fundamentos del orden de la posguerra. (…)

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