Playing Catch Up

Review of three recent books on Germany

London Review of Books, Vol. 39, No. 9, May 2017, pp. 26-28

How could Germany of all countries have become a paragon, politically stable and economically successful, of democratic capitalism in the 1970s – ‘Modell Deutschland’ – and later, in the 2000s, Europe’s uncontested economic and political superpower? Any explanation must have recourse to a Braudelian longue durée, in which destruction can be progress – utter devastation turned into a lasting blessing – because capitalist progress is destruction, of a more or less creative sort. In 1945 unconditional surrender forced Germany, or what was left of its western part, into what Perry Anderson has called a ‘second round of capitalist transformation’ of the sort no other European country has ever had to undergo. Germany’s bout was a violent – sharp and short – push forward into social and economic ‘modernity’, driving it for ever from the halfway house of Weimar, in a painful dismantling of structures of political domination and social solidarity, feudal fetters which had held back the country’s capitalist progress and which, in locally different manifestations, continue to block capitalist rationalisation in many other European countries. (Continue on lrb.co.uk)

Sonderweg aus der Solidarität

Besprechung von: Johannes Becker / Clemens Fuest: Der Odysseuskomplex. Ein pragmatischer Vorschlag zur Lösung der Eurokrise. Hanser Verlag, München 2017

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27. März 2017, S. 13.

Was tun, wenn man stecken geblieben ist – wenn es weder vorwärtsgeht noch zurück? Johannes Becker, Direktor am Institut für Finanzwissenschaft der Universität Münster, und Clemens Fuest, Präsident des Münchner Ifo-Instituts, versuchen es seitwärts. Die Währungsunion ist ein Desaster, aber die politische Union, die das heilen könnte, wird es nicht geben, und eine Rückkehr zu nationalen Währungen darf man nicht wollen. Der „pragmatische Vorschlag“: mehr nationale Autonomie durch weniger internationale Abhängigkeit; mehr nationale Demokratie bei mehr nationaler Verantwortung; weniger Politik und mehr Technokratie auf europäischer, dafür weniger Technokratie und mehr Politik auf nationaler Ebene. (Weiterlesen auf süddeutsche.de)

Scenario for a Wonderful Tomorrow

Review of Martin Sandbu, Europe’s Orphan: The Future of the Euro and the Politics of Debt, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2015

Appeared in London Review of Books, Vol. 38, No. 7, March 2016, pp. 7-10

Europe is falling apart, destroyed by its most devoted fans, the Germans. In the summer of 2015, having humiliated the Greeks by forcing another reform diktat down their throats, Angela Merkel started a new game, aimed at diverting attention from the economic and political disaster monetary union had become. Abrupt changes of policy are nothing new to Merkel, who is best described as a postmodern politician with a premodern, Machiavellian contempt for both causes and people. Having made her party adopt a radically neoliberal, deregulationist anti-labour platform in 2003, she barely escaped defeat two years later at the hands of Gerhard Schroeder. When she became chancellor, she used her office and the Grand Coalition with the post-Schroeder Social Democratic Party (SPD) to purge her own party of neoliberalism and neoliberals, and social-democratise it beyond recognition. In 2011, after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, which received extensive media coverage in Germany, it took Merkel, then known as the Atomkanzlerin, no more than a few days to order the immediate closure of eight nuclear power plants and to initiate legislation to end all nuclear power generation by 2022 at the latest. This was only a few months after she had, with much political arm-twisting, got the Bundestag to repeal the nuclear phase-out passed by the Red-Green coalition in 2001, and to extend the operating licences of German nuclear plants by an average of ten years. (…) Continue