From Speciation to Specialization

Published in Social Research Vol. 85: No. 3: Fall 2018, 661-685.

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin

For a social scientist, reading Darwin’s origin of species is a simultaneously humbling and reassuring experience. What an achievement! Science and scientific writing at their best. A book that is the product of long thinking, such as we today, haunted by deadlines, can only dream of, and written in a clear, engaging language, immensely readable for even the (educated and interested) layperson. Everything is as simple as possible but no simpler, as allegedly demanded by none less than Albert Einstein himself. And profoundly honest: the open questions, the remaining mysteries carefully exposed, careful attention paid to the difficult spots, and the arguments of the opposition, both real and anticipated, treated with polite respect. (…)

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Taking Back Control? The Future of Western Democratic Capitalism

Published in Efil Journal of Economic Research, Vol. 1 (2018), No. 3, 30-47

The international state system is in turmoil, due to pressures on its architecture that emanate from capitalist-economic globalization. Large states in particular seem to be losing the capacity to hold their societies together through economic redistribution from prospering to lagging sectors and regions. The results are centrifugal tendencies toward decentralization and secession, as well as toward exit from international organizations. To defend centralized rule, governments of large political units tend to turn authoritarian. Experimentation with small-scale units of governance seems attractive in many places, given the example of successful small countries that have preserved their national sovereignty, like Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland. Small states tend to be more homogeneous, more suitable for democratic self-government, and more capable of specializing on niches in the global economy where they are comparatively safe from head-on competition. (…)

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Between Charity and Justice: Remarks on the Social Construction of Immigration Policy in Rich Democracies

Appeared in Culture, Practice & Europeanization, August 2018, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 3-22

As a sociologist working on political economy, one of the most difficult questions I encounter is how social norms, the location of actors in the class structure and the collective construction of reality, present and future, hang together. How are facts construed to fit, justify and make appear possible moral or economic practices, or economic practices defended as moral ones, and how do socially constructed factual accounts of the world reflect, preserve and produce political identities and cleavages and the prevailing interpretations of structurally based social interests? This is the classical theme of Ideologiekritik and, later, Wissenssoziologie. Both interrogate the collective “ideas”, the legitimacy-enhancing “narratives” and the conceptual “frames” of the common sense of the time as to the hidden impact on them of material interests growing out of the social locations of actors and the specific cognitive and moral perspectives they impose on them. It cannot possibly be my intention here to try to present a complete analysis of this extremely complicated subject. Rather, I will limit myself to exploring a few selected facets of the interconnections between interests, politics and moral values, drawing for illustration on one of the most intriguing moral-political-economic issues in the rich democracies of today, which is immigration. (…)

Continue reading on uni-flensburg.de

Die Zukunft der Linken

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 04. August, 2018, Seite 9

Nach dem Eintritt der SPD in eine weitere große Koalition gibt es in Deutschland derzeit keine oppositionelle Machtperspektive mehr. Die Scholz-Nahles-SPD schrumpft unaufhaltsam; mit ihrer „Erneuerung“ hat sie noch nicht einmal angefangen. Die Linkspartei wird durch ihren sektiererischen Flügel gelähmt, und die Grünen sind zu Merkels letzter Einsatzreserve mutiert. Wer sich nicht in die schwarz-rot-grüne Einheitsfront einreihen will, dem bleiben nur Protestwahl oder Wahlenthaltung. So landet mancher bei der AfD, der dort nicht landen müsste. Zugleich sind viele linke Mitglieder der SPD von vielen nicht-sektiererischen Mitgliedern der Linkspartei nicht zu unterscheiden, und dasselbe gilt für viele Nichtwähler. Alle diese könnten in einer neu organisierten Schnittmenge von linker SPD und realistischer Linker eine wahlpolitische Heimat finden. (…)

Weiterlesen auf faz.net [Bezahlschranke]
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Germany’s European Empire

Interview by Loren Balhorn, translation by Zachary Murphy King, Jacobin Magazine, August 2018
First published in German as Das deutsche Imperium europäischer Nation, Ada Magazin, July 2018

Let’s start with a simple question: what is your evaluation of Germany’s grand coalition after its first one hundred days? Is it a necessary evil, or would you have preferred something else?

No, no preferences. Maybe if there were any prospect that the left wing of an SPD [Social Democratic Party] in opposition would find itself forced to engage more with the non-sectarian elements in Die Linke, so that something new might emerge in the intersection where the Left could have something approaching prospects for taking power. But that would have been unlikely to happen even under a “Jamaica” government [i.e., a coalition between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats].

Are you worried about the possibility of new elections, given the ongoing dispute between Angela Merkel and her right-wing coalition partner, Horst Seehofer?

No, not at all. It would make no difference, except that the SPD would fall below fifteen percent, and the Greens would replace the CSU [Christian Socialist Union, the Christian Democrats’ Bavarian affiliate] in a “Merkel V” government. (…)

Continue reading on jacobinmag.com

Europe under Merkel IV: Balance of impotence

Appeared in American Affairs Journal Volume II, Number 2 (Summer 2018): 162–92.

Europe, as organized—or disorganized—in the European Union (EU), is a strange political beast. It consists, first, of the domestic politics of its member states that have, over time, become deeply intertwined. Second, member states, which are still sovereign nation-states, pursue nationally defined interests through national foreign policies within intra-European international relations. Here, third, they have a choice between relying on a variety of supranational institutions or on intergovernmental agreements among selective coalitions of the willing. Fourth, since the start of the European Monetary Union (EMU), which includes only nineteen of the EU’s twenty-eight member states, another arena of European international relations has emerged, consisting mainly of informal, intergovernmental institutions looked at with suspicion by the supranational EU. Fifth, all these are embedded in the geopolitical conditions and geostrategic interests of each nation, which are related in particular to the United States on the one hand and to Russia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East on the other. And sixth, there is at the bottom of the European state system an ongoing battle for hegemony between its two largest member countries, France and Germany—a battle that both deny exists. Each of the two, in its own way, considers its claim to European supremacy to be only just and indeed self-evident, Germany so much so that it doesn’t even recognize its ambitions as such.1 Moreover, both would-be hegemons are aware that they can realize their national projects only by incorporating the other within them, and for this reason they present their national aspirations as “European integration” projects based on a special relationship between Germany and France. (…)

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