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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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.

Read the full article on jacobinmag.com


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

El Salto, June 12, 2019.

Read the full article on elsaltodiario.com

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.(…)

Continue reading on spiked.online.com


Italian translation:

L’Unione Europea è un impero

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

Legga l’intervista completa su vocidallestero.it

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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