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

Danish Centre for Welfare Studies, Working Paper 2017-5, September 2017

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 – the interrogation of collective “ideas”, 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. (…)

Download [PDF]

The EU Crisis and Europe’s Divided Memories

Excerpts from an interview by Carlo Spagnolo with Geoff Eley, Leonardo Paggi, and Wolfgang Streeck, to be published in “Le memorie divise dell’Europa dal 1945”, monographic issue of the Journal „Ricerche Storiche“, n. 2/2017.

Right from the beginning, European integration encountered resistance and has experienced periods of stasis and regression but today’s crisis is of a new, more extreme kind. Since the rejection of the constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005 we have seen the growth of local “populist” movements opposed to immigration and the loss of control over the employment market, a resurgence of nationalism in many countries and the referendum vote in favour of Brexit on 23 June (2016). Is this a crisis of rejection connected to the almost unnatural and extraordinarily rapid expansion of the size and remit of the EU after the 1991-92 Maastricht Treaty? Are we now paying the price for the EU’s over-ambition or for the „democratic deficit“ on which it was built?

(W. S.) It is almost conventional wisdom today to answer both your questions in the affirmative: over-ambition and democratic deficit at the same time. Yes, integration has crossed the threshold beyond which it makes itself felt in everyday life, especially as member countries have become so much more heterogeneous. “Nationalism”, as you call it, has always been there, except in Germany and, perhaps, Italy – two countries whose citizens were for a long time willing to exchange their national identity for a European one. Elsewhere it was contained within national borders, which were still relevant. This has changed with the simultaneous widening and deepening of the Union. Also, as to nationalism, don’t forget that the Internal Market and monetary union and in particular the “rescue operations” for governments and banks, pitch countries against each other, making then compete for economic performance and fight over both austerity and “solidarity”. (Continue)

Macron, el hombre

Saltamos.net, 10 de mayo del 2017

La elección de Emmanuel Macron es otro síntoma más de la crisis del sistema de Estados democrático-capitalista, similar a acontecimientos como Trump, el Brexit o el declive de la Eurozona. En Francia, al igual que en cualquier otro lugar, el sistema de partidos de posguerra, dominado por el centro izquierda y el centro derecha, se ha roto en añicos. Esto ha hecho posible el auge de un artista del buen rollo, un hombre de confianza de los altos mandatarios de la sociedad francesa –que simboliza juventud, optimismo y la promesa de un futuro brillante y hermoso–, un hombre procedente de la banca de inversión, que viene directamente catapultado desde los departamentos de relaciones públicas del sector financiero. (Continue)

English version [PDF]

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)