Un empire européen en voie d’éclatement

Le Monde Diplomatique, Mai 2019, 1, 20-21.

Qu’est-ce que l’Union européenne ? Le concept le plus proche qui vient à l’esprit est celui d’empire libéral ou, mieux, néolibéral : un bloc hiérarchiquement structuré et composé d’États nominalement souverains dont la stabilité se maintient grâce à une distribution du pouvoir d’un centre vers une périphérie.

Au centre se trouve une Allemagne qui essaie avec plus ou moins de succès de se dissimuler à l’intérieur du noyau dur de l’Europe (Kerneuropa) qu’elle forme avec la France. Elle ne veut pas être considérée comme ce que les Britanniques appelaient une « unificatrice du continent », même si, en réalité, c’est bien le cas. Le fait qu’elle se cache derrière la France constitue pour cette dernière une source de pouvoir. (…)

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English version:

The EU is a doomed empire

Published in Le Monde Diplomatique – English Edition, May 01, 2019.

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The EU is an empire

Interview by Fraser Myers, Spiked, March 29, 2019.

How has the role and focus of the EU evolved over the past few decades?

Originally, the EU was an organisation for joint economic planning among six adjacent countries. The planning was sectorally specific, limited to coalmining and the steel industry, later also nuclear power, in the context of the state-managed capitalism of the postwar era. Then it grew into a free-trade zone, increasingly devoted to spreading neoliberal internationalism, in particular the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour, under the rubric of the Internal Market.
As the number and heterogeneity of member states continuously increased, ‘positive integration’ became ever-more difficult. Instead, there was ‘negative’ integration: the removal of substantive regulations that impeded free trade within the bloc. After the end of Communism in 1989, the EU became a geostrategic project, closely intertwined with the US’s geostrategy in relation to Russia. From the original six countries cooperating in the management of a few key sectors of their economies, the EU became a neoliberal empire of 28 highly heterogeneous states. The idea was and is to govern those states centrally by obliging them to refrain from state intervention in their economies.(…)

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Italian translation:

L’Unione Europea è un impero

Pubblicato su Voci Dall’Estero, 01 aprile, 2019.

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Fighting the State

Review of Quinn Slobodian (2018), Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Appeared in Development and Change 50 (3), 2019, 1-12.

Neoliberalism, we learn from this truly eye-opening book, is not new at all; it is, in fact, almost a century old. Why ‘neo’, then? Because it was conceived and intended to promote the return of the stateless liberal Weltwirtschaft (the globally integrated world economy of the gold standard) which even Karl Polanyi sometimes celebrated with a note of nostalgia. Conceived it was by an identifiable, and now precisely identified, group of people who carried it and the project it stood for to its, however preliminary, victory in our time. The end of liberalism and the rise of neoliberalism began in 1918 with the fall of the empires of free trade and their replacement with a host of sovereign and potentially democratic nation states, carriers of a dangerous virus called ‘economic nationalism’. After 1945 followed decolonization and the introduction of majority voting in the General Assembly of the United Nations — anti-liberal political architectures that, together with the Keynesian gospel of national self-sufficiency, threatened not just economic progress but also, this was the claim, the open society, human freedom and dignity. Therefore, neo. (…)

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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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