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

Arm, alt, ausländische Wurzeln

Interview mit Monika Nellessen, Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, 13. März 2021, Seite 3.

Der Soziologe Wolfgang Streeck sagt, warum die Corona-Risiken ungleich verteilt sind und warum er findet, dass ein weiterer Lockdown nichts bringt.

KÖLN/MAINZ. Wenn es um die Pandemiebekämpfung geht, kommen meist Virologen und Mediziner zu Wort. Soziologen, die von Politikern ansonsten gerne übers Wahlvolk ausgefragt werden, finden in den Expertenrunden bislang wenig Gehör. Das führt zu mehreren Fehlschlüssen in der Anti-Corona-Strategie, meint Wolfgang Streeck, der bis zu seiner Emeritierung das Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung in Köln leitete.

Herr Prof. Streeck, gibt es eine unbequeme Wahrheit, die lautet: Alte, Arme und Menschen mit ausländischen Wurzeln haben das höchste Risiko, an Corona zu erkranken?

Das ist wohl wahr, und unbequem ist es auch. (…)

Weiterlesen [PDF]

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

“I definitely prefer a cooperative over an empire”

Interview by Noémi Lehoczki, LeftEast, February 11, 2021.

NL: For many Hungarians Germany is a socioeconomic and political model to aspire to. In the current structure of the European Union, however, could the German model even be transposed into the context of the European periphery?

WS: Generally speaking, one should be highly suspicious of the idea that national systems can be transplanted to other countries. Each country has to find its own way to peace and prosperity. This applies in particular in the present case. Germany, highly industrialized and export-dependent, can be and is the growth and prosperity pole of the EU because its currency, the euro, is heavily undervalued, due to it being not just the German currency but also that of the entire Eurozone. While Germany has a huge export surplus, the Eurozone as a whole has an even trade balance. This is an ideal situation for a national economy whose prosperity depends on exports and therefore on a favorable exchange rate. Consider also that the European monetary union makes the markets of the other member countries effectively captive to the German economy: however high the German export surplus with, say, Italy may be, Italy cannot devalue against the German currency as it is also the Italian currency, foreclosing this path towards improving the competitiveness of Italian economy and its firms. (…)

Continue reading on criticatac.ro/lefteast/

Also published on braveneweurope.com

The interviewed first appeared in Hungarian on the left-wing news website merce.hu

Welchen Wissenschaftlern folgen wir in der Pandemie?

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11. Januar 2021, Feuilleton, Seite 13.

Wenn es darum geht, wie der Pandemie zu begegnen wäre, wird wissenschaftliches Expertentum als höchste Instanz beschworen. Die unterschiedlichen Disziplinen weisen aber unterschiedliche Wege. Ein Gastbeitrag.

Irgendwann im Frühjahr, auf dem Höhepunkt der ersten Welle. Ein Bekannter, in grauer Vorzeit eine politische Macht, am Telefon, so nebenbei: „Jetzt müssen Sie als Wissenschaftler doch zufrieden sein, die Politik tut, was die Wissenschaft sagt.“ Ich antworte das Übliche: Welche Wissenschaft, die vom Kollegen Drosten oder vom Kollegen Streeck, am Ende müsst doch ihr entscheiden und so weiter. Nachträglich glaube ich, er wollte nur rauskriegen, ob ich mit Letzterem verwandt bin. Das Interesse daran begegnet mir fast jeden Tag. Nein, bin ich nicht, reiner Zufall. (…)

Weiterlesen auf faz.net

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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Oltre l’austerità: Disputa sull’Europa

Jürgen Habermas e Wolfgang Streeck. Oltre l’austerità: Disputa sull’Europa. Edizione a cura di Giorgio Fazio. Traduzione italiana di Matteo Anastasio, Massimo de Pascale e Bruno Rossi. Roma: Castelvecchi 2020.

«Europa-Streit»: così è stato definito in Germania il dibattito sul futuro dell’Europa. In questa contesa intellettuale due grandi pensatori tedeschi, Wolfgang Streeck e Jürgen Habermas, si confrontano sui destini del processo di integrazione europea. Se il primo crede che una ripresa democratica per l’Unione possa essere riconquistata soltanto con il ritorno allo Stato nazione (almeno per quanto riguarda le scelte di politica economica), il secondo è convinto che il superamento della crisi della democrazia europea non possa provenire da un ritorno al nazionalismo e al sovranismo, e che sia quindi necessaria ancora «più Europa». Un dibattito che oggi, in un’Europa in bilico tra programmi di rilancio economico comunitari e l’avanzare delle destre sovraniste, si scopre sempre più urgente.

Per maggiori informazioni visitare il sito web di Castelvecchi [link].

From Industrial Citizenship to Private Ordering? Contract, Status and the Question of Consent

Wolfgang Streeck and Ruth Dukes. MPIfG Discussion Paper 20/13, Köln: Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung, 2020.

Abstract: This paper revisits the notions of contract and status found in classical sociology, legal theory, and labour law. Adopting an historical perspective, it explores the fragmentation of the status of industrial citizenship during the neoliberal period and discusses the enduring usefulness of the status/contract distinction in analyzing current trends in the regulation of working relations, including the spread of “gig” or platform-mediated work. Elements of status, it is argued, must always be present if work is to be performed and paid for as the parties require it. Claims to the contrary – for example, that the gig economy creates a labour market without search frictions and only minimal transaction costs: contracts without status – assume an undersocialized model of (monadic) social action that has no basis in the reality of social life (Durkheim, Weber). Still, status may come in a variety of forms that are more or less desirable from the perspective of workers, businesses, and society at large. The paper traces what it conceives as the privatization of status via contracts between employers and workers under the pressure of marketization and dominated by corporate hierarchies. Towards the end of the twentieth century, sociologists observed the division of workers into two groups or classes – core (with relatively well-paid and secure employment) and peripheral (low-paid and insecure). Thirty years later, gross inequalities of wealth and conceptions of the neoliberal self as ever-improving, everperfectible, are combining to create novel forms of status not fully anticipated by the literature.

Interview on „Critical Encounters: Capitalism, Democracy, Ideas“

Podcast by Aufhebungabunga, November 10, 2020.

We are joined by leading German public intellectual Wolfgang Streeck to discuss the role of Germany at the end of the End of History. How is it and the EU faring under the assault of Covid-19? We cover Germany’s economic miracles – postwar and post-2008 -, Merkel’s tactical brilliance and strategic ignorance, and how France retains more of a sense of history. (…)

Podcast [link]

Book reference

Critical Encounters: Capitalism, Democracy, Ideas. London and New York: Verso 2020.

For more information see Verso website [link].