Letter from Europe: Scandal in Ankara

Sidecar, April 21, 2021.

The European Union has five Presidents: one for the Council, one for the Commission, one for the Parliament, one for the Central Bank, and one for the Court of Justice. (There are also any number of Vice Presidents; after all, we are talking about 27 member states.) Recently, two of the Presidents, those of the Commission and of the Council, went on a trip to see another President, the one-and-only-one of Turkey. From this resulted a scandal, one that is worth reflecting on at some length to continue to learn about that strange beast, the European Union, and its doings. (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
Dos presidentes y una presidenta

El Salto, 22 de abril de 2021.

El “sofagate” o cómo legitimar desde las presidencias de la Unión Europea al régimen de Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

La Unión Europea tiene cinco presidentes/presidentas: uno del Consejo Europeo, otra de la Comisión Europea, otro más del Parlamento Europeo, otra aun del Banco Central y otro finalmente del Tribunal de Justicia Europeo. (Cuenta también con un número elevado de vicepresidentes y vicepresidentas; después de todo, estamos hablando de veintisiete Estados miembros). (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


Deutsche Version:
Ein Präsident zu viel. Oder zwei?

Makroskop, 21. April 2021

Ist “Sofagate” der Anfang einer neuen wunderbaren Freundschaft, die Europa für seinen inneren Frieden braucht?

Die Europäische Union hat fünf Präsidenten: einen für den Rat, einen für die Kommission, einen für das Parlament, einen für die Zentralbank und einen für den Gerichtshof. (Es gibt auch eine beträchtliche Anzahl von Vizepräsidenten; schließlich handelt es sich um 27 Mitgliedstaaten.) (…)

Weiterlesen auf makroskop.de


Die Gesellschaft ist keine Herde!

In: Cicero – Magazin für politische Kultur, Vol. 18, No. 4, April 2021, S. 120-124.

Die Politik hat sich lange verschanzt hinter einem Lockdown, der sie der Aufgabe enthob, zielgenau zu handeln. Das hatte viel mit einem falschen Bild von der Gesellschaft zu tun. Was wir wissen könnten, wenn wir es wissen wollten, und warum das wichtig wäre.

Am 4. März 2021 kam die Lockdown-Strategie der Pandemiebekämpfung unter dem Druck der Bevölkerung und im Angesicht der anstehenden Landtagswahlen zu ihrem verdienten Ende. Bis kurz vorher hatte es so ausgesehen, als sei die Regierung Merkel endgültig in die Hände einer radikalen Minderheit von Epidemiologen, Virologen und Philosophen gefallen, die die Gesellschaft durch noch längere, noch härtere Kontaktverbote („nur noch zwei bis drei Wochen“) auf Zero-Covid bringen wollte. (…)

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Letter from Europe: Accelerating Decay

Sidecar, March 22, 2021.

Spring is in the air, and Brussels should be buzzing with activity. Remember von der Leyen’s Next Generation EU (NGEU for short), the €750 billion ‘Corona recovery fund’ borrowed from the owners of capital and divided according to an incomprehensible formula between the member states, all 27 of them? This was agreed in July last year, and one might have thought that the EU would now be busy selling debt to its favourite banks. These would then sell the debt on to the European Central Bank, with a healthy profit, making their shareholders happy while fuelling quantitative easing, thereby keeping asset prices up and further adding to their shareholders’ happiness (‘stabilizing financial markets’ is the politically correct term). Well, we’re not bankers, so we don’t really need to know, and, anyway, isn’t such sensitive business better conducted behind closed doors? (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
Aceleración del declive

El Salto, 21 de marzo de 2021.

En algún momento alguien pondrá cifras a las muertes causadas por la Gran Ralentización de la Vacunación.

La primavera flota en el aire y Bruselas debería bullir de actividad. ¿Recuerdan ustedes el Next Generation EU Fund de von der Leyen, el NGEU expresado en su acrónimo, el fondo de “recuperación del coronavirus”, cuyo importe alcanza los 750 millardos de dólares procedentes del endeudamiento contraído con los propietarios del capital y que se dividió de acuerdo con una fórmula incomprensible entre los Estados miembros, esto es, entre la totalidad de los veintisiete Estados de la Unión Europea? (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


Deutsche Version:
Beschleunigter Zerfall

Makroskop, 18. März 2021

Eine Art Götterdämmerung ist möglicherweise nicht so weit entfernt, wie man vor einem Jahr noch gedacht haben mag.

Frühling liegt in der Luft, und in Brüssel sollte jetzt reges Treiben herrschen. Man erinnert sich an von der Leyens Next Generation EU, kurz NGEU, den 750 Milliarden Corona Recovery Fund, aufgeteilt nach einer unverständlichen Formel zwischen den Mitgliedstaaten, allen 27 und zu borgen beim Kapital. (…)

Weiterlesen auf makroskop.de


Putting the brakes on the spread of indecent work

Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck. Social Europe, March 10, 2021.

Important legal victories for workers against platform corporations remain partial and limited in the absence of legislative and institutional change.

The decision of the UK Supreme Court in the case of Uber v Aslam has caused a great deal of excitement, understandably so. The question before the court was whether Yaseen Aslam and others, for some time drivers with Uber, had been self-employed or, alternatively, ‘workers’ with statutory rights to a minimum wage and paid holidays. (…)

Continue reading on socialeurope.eu

Letter from Europe: Vaccine Debacle

Sidecar, February 16, 2021.

Whatever else you may think about Angela Merkel, one thing you must allow her: she knows a hot potato when she sees one, and she can pass it on to someone else in no time. In the summer of 2020, Germany having just taken over the presidency of the EU27, it appeared that by the end of the year there might be a vaccine or two, to end the lockdowns once and for all. To Merkel this must have smelled like an approaching pack of rats: delays in research, delays in production, extortionist prices, conflicts over national shares and distribution – and above all the nightmare of nightmares: Germany, rich from monetary union, getting the vaccine first and vaccinating its citizens faster than the others, thereby undermining the ‘ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’. What to do? Move it to Brussels, and fast. (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
Pasar patatas calientes: las guerras de las vacunas

El Salto, 22 de febrero de 2021.

Nunca se sabe con seguridad quién hace qué y por qué en Bruselas y en torno a Bruselas, el sociotipo político más impenetrable desde la desaparición de la Unión Soviética.

Con independencia de lo que podamos pensar de Angela Merkel, hay una cosa que debemos concederle: identifica una patata caliente nada más verla y es capaz de pasársela a un tercero en un abrir y cerrar de ojos. En el verano de 2020, apenas habiendo asumido Alemania la presidencia de la UE27, pareció que a finales de año podría haber una o dos vacunas disponibles, lo cual permitiría poner punto final a los confinamientos de una vez por todas. (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


Engels’s Second Theory: Technology, Warfare and the Growth of the State

In: New Left Review 123, May-June 2020, pp. 75-88.

Friedrich Engels famously spent his working life in the shadow of Karl Marx, a position he now occupies for posterity, and one in which he willingly placed himself. Born in 1820 in the Rhineland town of Barmen, he left school a year before his Abitur on the say-so of his father and, as the eldest son, entered the family business. An autodidact, then, his encounter with Marx left him profoundly impressed by the systematic-philosophical brilliance of the young Hegelian, whom he hailed as a world thinker. By comparison, he himself was no more than, perhaps, a talent. Among the German philosophizing classes of the time, the type of speculative thinking at which Marx excelled was considered the highest form of scientific endeavour; Engels, who shared this outlook, may have seen his own contribution, grounded in positivism, as pedestrian by comparison. In the collaboration with Marx, he understood his role to be that of editor, reader, publisher, translator, publicist and hence also popularizer of Marxian (not Marxist-Engelsian) theory, making it comprehensible to the socialist movement for which it was intended. That the act of translation resulted at times in simplifications and reductive formulations was not only unavoidable but desirable, though the price to be paid for it was the still-lingering suspicion that Engels was incapable of greater complexity. […]

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Italian translation:

Engels sociologo empirico: tecnologia, guerra e crescita dello Stato

Pubblicato su MicroMega, 8/2020.

Friedrich Engels ha sempre vissuto nell’ombra di Karl Marx. Oggi, nel bicentenario della sua nascita, vale la pena riscoprire l’originalità di un pensiero che alla concezione materialistica della storia ha dato un contributo determinante sottolineando come i mezzi di distruzione esistano accanto ai mezzi di produzione e mettendo l’accento sulla formazione dello Stato, che si inquadra e si sovrappone a quella della classe. Ripercorriamo qui gli approfonditi e rigorosi studi sulla guerra e la tecnologia di colui che può essere definito come uno dei primi sociologi empirici.

Traduzione dall’inglese di Ingrid Colanicchia.

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Book Chapter – Taking Back Control? The Future of Western Democratic Capitalism

In: Chu, Yun-han and Yongnian Zheng, eds., The Decline of the Western-Centric World and the Emerging New Global Order: Contending Views. Routledge 2020, 37-57.

More than a quarter century after the end of the Cold War, the international state system is in turmoil, both within and between states. The fundamental cause of the growing disorder is the rapid progress of capitalist “globalization”, outpacing the capacity of national societies and international organizations to build effective institutions of political-economic governance. Increasing debt, rising inequality and unstable growth, especially but not exclusively in capitalism’s core countries, indicate a general crisis of governability. As states have become embedded in markets, rather than the other way around, they are governed more by politically unaccountable “market forces” than by their citizens and governments. Global markets and corporations, on their part, are governed only weekly if at all by improvised and often non-governmental institutions of so-called “global governance”. New problems – political conflicts over interests, values and identities, as well as technocratic puzzles and dilemmas, in national and international politics – are appearing almost by the day. Systemic disarray gives rise to a widespread sense of uncertainty. What may be in store for the capitalist world is a period of extreme unpredictability in which structures that had been taken for granted are dissolving without new structures taking their place. (…)

Previously published as an article in Efil Journal of Economic Research, Vol. 1 (2018), No. 3, 30-47. To be downloaded here.

Staatsbildung durch die Hintertür?

Makroskop, 26. Mai 2020.

Das PSPP-Urteil hat einen grundlegenden Konflikt zwischen Bundesverfassungsgericht und Europäischen Gerichtshof ausgelöst. Es geht um nichts weniger als die Frage, ob die EU eine internationale Organisation oder ein Bundesstaat ist.

Das PSPP-Urteil (Public Sector Purchasing Program) des Bundesverfassungsgerichts hat eine weitere Bruchlinie im Aufbau der Europäischen Union freigelegt, nämlich die zwischen Rechtsordnungen mit unterschiedlichen Verfassungsrechtskonzepten. Hier gibt es Parallelen zum Vereinigten Königreich, wo ein Konzept nach EU-Muster, nach dem eine Verfassung Schritt für Schritt von einem letztinstanzlichen Gericht forteschrieben wird, mit der tief verwurzelten Tradition des Regierens durch das Parlament kollidierte, was zum Brexit beitrug. (…)

Weiterlesen auf makroskop.eu


Versión española:
¿Construir el Estado a hurtadillas?

El Salto, 20 de mayo de 2020.

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


English version:
State-building by stealth?

Letters from Europe, May 20, 2020.

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The International State System after Neoliberalism: Europe between National Democracy and Supranational Centralization

In: Crisis and Critique 7 (1), 2020, 214-234.

Abstract: In 1945 Karl Polanyi outlined a vision of a peacetime global state system with a political economy in which small countries could be both sovereign and democratic. The present essay reviews developments between then and now in the light of Polanyi’s analytical framework. Particular attention is paid to the history of the European Union, which after the end of Communism turned into a mainstay of the neoliberal project, culminating in its restoration of an international gold standard under Monetary Union. In the crisis of 2008 the advance of neoliberalism got stuck due to “populist” resistance to austerity and the shift of governance from the national to a supranational level. The paper explores the prospects of current attempts to replace the “Social Europe” and “trickle-down” narratives of European superstate formation, which have lost all credit, with a story about a European army as a necessary condition of a successful defense of “the European way of life”.

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