The EU Crisis and Europe’s Divided Memories

Interview by Carlo Spagnolo with Geoff Eley, Leonardo Paggi, and Wolfgang Streeck, published in “Le memorie divise dell’Europa dal 1945”, monographic issue of the Journal „Ricerche Storiche“, n. 2/2017, pp. 27-44.

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)

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Imaging Europe: Beaucratic Narratives and Ideological Dreams

The Frisby Memorial Lectures, University of Glasgow, September 19, 2017

The European Union is not Europe. Europe is a two thousand year old civilizational landscape housing a multitude of different but related societies. The European Union is a political construct dating from the 1950s that has in its short lifetime undergone continuous deep transformation. Like earlier political constructs in Europe, it seeks legitimacy by encouraging stories about itself that connect it to Europe as a continent and its supposed historical purpose, cultural identity, and moral unity. European cultural and historical narratives deployed to legitimate the European Union as a political project are the latest in a long line of earlier stories of Europe, each linked to the political and economic objectives and power relations of the day. Like other ideologies, they are dropped and replaced depending on what political opportunities allow or require; they tell us more about Europe’s politics than about Europe. Identification with Europe as a civilization does not require identification with the European Union as a political construction. Depending on the changing condition of the latter it may in fact be incompatible with it.


Auf der Suche nach der Zusatzbevölkerung

Die Zeit, 21. September 2017, Seite 45-46

Reiche Länder mit niedriger Geburtenrate und deshalb langfristig schrumpfender Arbeitsbevölkerung sind auf Masseneinwanderung angewiesen. Kurz bevor die Regierung Merkel im September 2015 monatelang die deutschen Grenzen öffnete, hatte Prognos eine Studie veröffentlicht, der zufolge Deutschland bis 2040 eine jährliche Netto-Einwanderung von einer halben Million Personen benötigte, nur um das nationale Arbeitsangebot konstant zu halten. Ein Jahr davor hatte eine umfangreiche Evaluation der deutschen Familienpolitik ergeben, dass der deutsche Staat pro Jahr etwa 200 Milliarden Euro für familienbezogene Programme ausgibt, weit mehr als vergleichbare Länder, ohne dass dies die Lücke zwischen Geburtenrate und Bevölkerungsersatzrate auch nur annähernd geschlossen hätte. (…)

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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. (…)

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Schulz, Corbyn und der Brexit als Denkhilfe

Cicero 09/2017, S. 46-49

Im März endete die einst so stolze Partei der Arbeit (PvdA) bei den niederländischen Wahlen bei 5,7 Prozent, ein Verlust von 19 Punkten gegenüber 2012. Kurz darauf, im ersten Wahlgang der französischen Präsidentschaftswahlen, erreichte der Kandidat der noch regierenden Sozialistischen Partei 6,4 Prozent, und im ersten Wahlgang der anschließenden Parlamentswahl erhielt seine Partei 7,4 Prozent. Im Jahr davor gewann der Kandidat der österreichischen Sozialdemokratie im ersten Wahlgang der Präsidentenwahl nur noch 11,3 Prozent, und bei den Wahlen in Griechenland 2015 erreichte die Pasok, die Partei der drei Papandreous, 6,3 Prozent. (…)

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