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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Capitalism and Democracy Are at Odds

Interview by Mohnsen Abdelmoumen, American Herald Tribune, June 9, 2020.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: Can Europe survive the Covid-19 crisis?

Wolfgang Streeck: It depends on what you mean by “survive“. Complex societies don‘t “die“; something always remains—the question is: what? If you mean the European Union or the European Monetary Union, will they still exist when the virus has left? Of course. If you ask if the virus is undermining them, I think one must not forget that both EU and EMU were already undermining themselves before the pandemic; remember Brexit? Also remember the tensions between Germany and the Mediterranean countries, and between Germany in particular and the new, peripheral member states in the East. The pandemic may or may not have accelerated the decay of “Europe“ as an international organization, or institution; but apart from this and more importantly, the virus has not derailed older tendencies of development that are too deeply rooted politically and economically to be undone by a tiny virus. (…)

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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. (…)

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Versión española:
¿Construir el Estado a hurtadillas?

El Salto, 20 de mayo, 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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Progressive Regression. Metamorphoses of European Social Policy

In: New Left Review 118, July-August 2019, pp. 117-139.

Has any polity in world history undergone such a rapid and far-reaching series of transmogrifications as the European Union? Founded as an organization for joint economic planning among six adjacent countries, in the context of the state-managed capitalism of the post-war era, it grew into a free-trade zone, increasingly devoted to neoliberal internationalism under the rubric of the ‘Internal Market’. As the number and heterogeneity of member states grew, ‘positive integration’ was replaced by ‘negative integration’, in effect market-building: the removal of national regulations impeding trade, in an ever-broader sense, within the union. After the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989, the EU became in addition a geostrategic project, closely intertwined with American strategy in relation to Russia. From a handful of countries jointly administering a small number of key economic sectors, the EU developed into a neoliberal empire of 28 states, obliged under union treaties to allow for freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and labour, and to refrain from ‘anti-competitive’ intervention in their economies. (…)

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Versión española [Descarga PDF]

First appeared as MPIfG Discussion Paper 18/11. To be downloaded here.

Comment on della Porta

In: Johannes M. Kiess and Martin Seeliger, Trade Unions and European Integration. A Question of Optimism and Pessimism? Routledge, London and New York 2019, pp. 46-50.

This is a useful chapter. It summarises the state of the art on an often-overlooked subject, listing the relevant literature in case readers want to explore the matter further. And it supplements this with concise case accounts of recent developments in the relationship between social movements and trade unions in a number of countries. I have nothing to hold against or add to Donatella’s piece. So I will limit myself to one specific aspect of what now tends to be called the “framing” of an issue before I proceed to several, more or less related general remarks on social movement and trade union politics in, and in relation to, the European Union (EU). The intention here is to sketch out a baseline for research and theory on this subject, in the sense of a list of fundamental conditions underneath whatever conjunctural, sectoral, topical, etc., modulations may be observable on top of them. I am doing this because I suspect that much of the work on and discussion of “European integration” is far too occupied with minor fluctuations in current events, to the neglect of deeply rooted priors that remain importantly in force regardless of what happens on the surface.

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Was ist los mit der europäischen Linken?

Makroskop, 09. Juli 2019.

In kaum einem der unzähligen Artikel, die derzeit die Ergebnisse der Wahl des neuen Europäischen Parlaments (EP) kommentieren, wird die nicht-sozialdemokratische radikale Linke erwähnt. Dies ist ein Ausdruck von wohlverdienter Missachtung. Vor fünf Jahren wurde die Linke, unter dem unbeholfenen Kürzel GUE / NGL (Confederal Group of the European Left/Nordic Green Left) von niemand anderem als Alexis Tsipras angeführt. Später wurde Tsipras als griechischer Premierminister Angela Merkels Lieblingsschüler in der hohen Kunst des Verrats. Nach Aufnahme verschiedener Splittergruppen raffte die GUE / NGL im Laufe der Zeit 52 Sitze zusammen, etwas weniger als sieben Prozent der 751 Sitze des EP. Jetzt, nach den Neuwahlen, hat sie nur noch 38 Mandate, ein Verlust von mehr als einem Viertel. (…)

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English version:
Four Reasons the European Left Lost

Jacobin online, May 30, 2019.

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Spanish version:
¿Qué pasa con la izquierda radical en Europa?

El Salto, June 12, 2019.

Read the full article on elsaltodiario.com