Taking Back Control? The Future of Western Democratic Capitalism

Published in Efil Journal of Economic Research, Vol. 1 (2018), No. 3, 30-47

The international state system is in turmoil, due to pressures on its architecture that emanate from capitalist-economic globalization. Large states in particular seem to be losing the capacity to hold their societies together through economic redistribution from prospering to lagging sectors and regions. The results are centrifugal tendencies toward decentralization and secession, as well as toward exit from international organizations. To defend centralized rule, governments of large political units tend to turn authoritarian. Experimentation with small-scale units of governance seems attractive in many places, given the example of successful small countries that have preserved their national sovereignty, like Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland. Small states tend to be more homogeneous, more suitable for democratic self-government, and more capable of specializing on niches in the global economy where they are comparatively safe from head-on competition. (…)

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Between Charity and Justice: Remarks on the Social Construction of Immigration Policy in Rich Democracies

Appeared in Culture, Practice & Europeanization, August 2018, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 3-22

As a sociologist working on political economy, one of the most difficult questions I encounter is how social norms, the location of actors in the class structure and the collective construction of reality, present and future, hang together. How are facts construed to fit, justify and make appear possible moral or economic practices, or economic practices defended as moral ones, and how do socially constructed factual accounts of the world reflect, preserve and produce political identities and cleavages and the prevailing interpretations of structurally based social interests? This is the classical theme of Ideologiekritik and, later, Wissenssoziologie. Both interrogate the collective “ideas”, the legitimacy-enhancing “narratives” and the conceptual “frames” of the common sense of the time as to the hidden impact on them of material interests growing out of the social locations of actors and the specific cognitive and moral perspectives they impose on them. It cannot possibly be my intention here to try to present a complete analysis of this extremely complicated subject. Rather, I will limit myself to exploring a few selected facets of the interconnections between interests, politics and moral values, drawing for illustration on one of the most intriguing moral-political-economic issues in the rich democracies of today, which is immigration. (…)

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Die Zukunft der Linken

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 04. August 2018, Seite 9

Nach dem Eintritt der SPD in eine weitere große Koalition gibt es in Deutschland derzeit keine oppositionelle Machtperspektive mehr. Die Scholz-Nahles-SPD schrumpft unaufhaltsam; mit ihrer „Erneuerung“ hat sie noch nicht einmal angefangen. Die Linkspartei wird durch ihren sektiererischen Flügel gelähmt, und die Grünen sind zu Merkels letzter Einsatzreserve mutiert. Wer sich nicht in die schwarz-rot-grüne Einheitsfront einreihen will, dem bleiben nur Protestwahl oder Wahlenthaltung. So landet mancher bei der AfD, der dort nicht landen müsste. Zugleich sind viele linke Mitglieder der SPD von vielen nicht-sektiererischen Mitgliedern der Linkspartei nicht zu unterscheiden, und dasselbe gilt für viele Nichtwähler. Alle diese könnten in einer neu organisierten Schnittmenge von linker SPD und realistischer Linker eine wahlpolitische Heimat finden. (…)

Weiterlesen auf faz.net [Bezahlschranke]
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Wir müssen aufstehen

Die Zeit, 30. August 2018, Seite 40

Der Wunsch nach einer linken Sammlungsbewegung ist nicht „fremdenfeindlich“. Eine Antwort auf Colin Crouch

Sollte jemand, der sich als „fremdenfeindlich“ beschrieben findet, nicht mindestens verlangen dürfen, dass ihm erklärt wird, was genau das sein soll? In Colin Crouchs Artikel in der ZEIT vom 16. August finde ich nicht weniger als zwölf Stellen, an denen der Versuch der linken Sammlungsbewegung „Aufstehen“, die deutsche Politik aus ihrer babylonischen Gefangenschaft zwischen Merkelschem Opportunismus und politikunfähiger no border-Illusion zu befreien, mit „Fremdenfeindlichkeit“ oder gar „Ausländerhass“ in Verbindung gebracht wird. Das ist ein starkes Stück, wenn man bedenkt, dass in unseren Kreisen „Fremdenfeinde“ oder gar „Ausländerhasser“ als nicht satisfaktionsfähige Proto-Faschisten gelten.

Ist Fremdenfeind, wer Einwanderer als Konkurrenten um Arbeits-, Kita- und Wohnplätze erlebt und deshalb Einwanderung begrenzt sehen will? Wer für seine Kinder funktionsfähige öffentliche Schulen braucht, weil er nicht umziehen oder auf private Schulen ausweichen will oder kann? Wer um seine traditionelle, regional geerdete Lebensweise fürchtet? Wer zwischen erwünschten und unerwünschten Neuankömmlingen unterscheiden will? Sind die alle gleichzusetzen mit denen, die an Schwächeren ihr sadistisches Mütchen kühlen, Deutsche türkischer Abstammung nach Anatolien vertreiben oder gar die Unterkünfte von Flüchtlingen anzünden wollen („Ausländerhasser“)? Mein Eindruck ist, dass für Crouch alles diesseits von no border „fremdenfeindlich“ ist. (…)

Weiterlesen auf zeit.de

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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French translation:

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

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

Read the full article here [Paywall]


Italian translation:

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.

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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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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)