Alternativas al corsé monetario del euro

El País, 15 de marzo, 2019.

La Unión Económica y Monetaria (UEM) fue un error histórico, no para Alemania –que originalmente estaba en contra pero se convirtió en su principal beneficiario— sino para los países mediterráneos, Francia incluida, que por distintas razones estaban impacientes por “europeizar” la moneda alemana. Esos países sufren, pero no por su elevada deuda, como sostiene Alemania, sino porque las distintas culturas económicas nacionales requieren distintos regímenes monetarios para permitir que sean internacionalmente competitivas sus distintas estructuras sociales e institucionales. Ya en 1992, Ralf Dahrendorf, el entonces director de la London School of Economics, señaló que algunos países, como Francia, han impulsado el crecimiento económico históricamente con deuda pública, mientras que otros, como Italia, dependían de la alta inflación para alimentar la demanda doméstica. Un país altamente dependiente de las exportaciones como Alemania requiere estabilidad monetaria. Impuesto en Europa en su conjunto, como sucedió durante los neoliberales años noventa, el régimen monetario a la alemana asegura mercados cautivos para las exportaciones alemanas e imposibilita las ocasionales devaluaciones a otros países para defender su competitividad internacional. (…)

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Greek to a Greek

Review of Yanis Varoufakis (2017), Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment, London: The Bodley Head.

Appeared in Inference: International Review of Science 4 (3), March 2019.

What a strange book—strange but indispensable nevertheless. From January to July 2015, Yanis Varoufakis served as the Greek government’s finance minister. Adults in the Room is an account of his battle with what he calls Europe’s deep establishment. It is often self-indulgent, sometimes sentimental. He also takes pains to show he is human. He describes his happy marriage. He takes dinner with friends. He remembers his student days, and argues with his daughters. He encounters German secret service agents who unaccountably urge him to continue fighting the good fight. His mistakes he assigns to a nature that is too trusting given the intrigues both abroad and at the court of Alexis Tsipras, his prime minister and the leader of Syriza.

And yet, the book is indispensable. For whom? For the journalists who helped the masters of Europe get rid of Varoufakis; for the armies of European functionaries, les ronds-de-cuir; and, one might hope, for teachers and students of the policy sciences. Varoufakis’s book provides an honest account of how our world is governed. It will be plausible to anyone who has tried to make sense of political life without falling victim to the charm of political power. (…)

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Reflections on Political Scale

Adam Smith Lecture in Jurisprudence, University of Glasgow, 30 May 2018. Published online on February 6, 2019, in: Jurisprudence: An International Journal of Legal and Political Thought, 10 (1), 1-14.

I start, not with Smith – he will show up near the end – but with a close friend of his, the historian Edward Gibbon. In the fourth volume of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in 1788, Gibbon’s narrative reaches the point when in the late fifth century the Western Roman Empire forever expired. Before he finally turns his attention to the history of Byzantium, Gibbon pauses to look back at more than four centuries of Roman imperial statehood to consider what the ‘awful revolution’ he has recounted might mean for ‘the instruction of the present age’. (…)

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Through Unending Halls

Review of Joshua B. Freeman (2018), Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Appeared in London Review of Books 41 (3), 2019, 29-31.

It was in the early 1960s, I think, that our class at a small-town Gymnasium made a trip to south-western Germany, accompanied by several teachers. We visited Heidelberg and Schwetzingen and similar places without really seeing them; 17-year-old boys have other things on their minds. But we also went to Rüsselsheim, near Frankfurt, for a tour of the Opel car factory. I had never imagined that a place like this could exist: the deafening noise, the dirt, the heat, and in the middle of it all, people stoically performing minute predefined operations on the cars-in-the-making that were slowly but relentlessly moving past their work stations. The high point of the visit was the foundry in the basement – which, as I now learn from Joshua Freeman’s marvellous book, was the standard place for foundries in car factories of that era. Here, where the heat seemed unbearable and there was almost no light, half-naked men carried the molten metal, red-hot, from the furnace to the casting stations in small buckets filled to a back-breaking weight. Trained in the classics rather than the real world, I felt I had entered the workshop of Hephaestus. Looking back, I think it was on that day I decided to study sociology, which I then believed could help me and others to improve the lives of those slaving away in the basements of factories everywhere. (…)

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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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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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From Speciation to Specialization

Published in Social Research Vol. 85: No. 3: Fall 2018, 661-685.

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin

For a social scientist, reading Darwin’s origin of species is a simultaneously humbling and reassuring experience. What an achievement! Science and scientific writing at their best. A book that is the product of long thinking, such as we today, haunted by deadlines, can only dream of, and written in a clear, engaging language, immensely readable for even the (educated and interested) layperson. Everything is as simple as possible but no simpler, as allegedly demanded by none less than Albert Einstein himself. And profoundly honest: the open questions, the remaining mysteries carefully exposed, careful attention paid to the difficult spots, and the arguments of the opposition, both real and anticipated, treated with polite respect. (…)

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