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. (…)

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Das deutsche Imperium europäischer Nation

Interview mit Loren Balhorn, Ada Magazin, Juli 2018

Beginnen wir mit einer einfachen Frage: Wie schätzen Sie die große Koalition nach ihren ersten 100 Tagen ein? Notwendiges Übel, oder wäre Ihnen etwas anderes lieber gewesen?

Nein, keine Präferenzen. Vielleicht wenn Aussicht bestünde, dass eine SPD-Linke in der Opposition sich gezwungen sähe, sich mehr als bisher auf die nicht-sektiererischen Elemente in der Linkspartei einzulassen, so dass in der Schnittstelle etwas Neues entstehen könnte: eine Linke mit so etwas wie einer Machtperspektive. Aber dazu wäre es wohl auch unter einer Jamaika-Regierung nicht gekommen.

Machen Sie sich Sorgen über die Möglichkeit vor Neuwahlen angesichts des andauernden Streits zwischen Merkel und Seehofer?

Nein, überhaupt nicht. Das macht alles keinen Unterschied. Außer dass die SPD unter 15 Prozent fallen würde und die Grünen die CSU in einer Regierung „Merkel V“ ersetzen würden. (…)

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L’Europe sous Merkel IV : l’équilibre de l’impuissance

Original title: Europe under Merkel IV: Balance of Impotence, appeared in American Affairs Journal Volume II, Number 2 (Summer 2018): 162–92. French translation.

L’Europe, telle qu’elle est organisée – ou désorganisée – dans l’Union européenne (UE), est un étrange animal politique. Elle comprend d’abord les politiques intérieures de ses États membres qui, au fil du temps, se sont profondément entrelacées. Deuxièmement, les États membres, qui sont encore des États-nations souverains, poursuivent des intérêts définis au niveau national par le biais de politiques étrangères nationales dans le cadre des relations internationales intra-européennes. Troisièmement, ils ont le choix entre s’appuyer sur une variété d’institutions supranationales ou sur des accords intergouvernementaux entre coalitions choisies de volontaires. (…)

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Ein Weltbürger ist nirgendwo Bürger

Die Zeit, 21. Juni 2018, Seite 40

Kosmopolitismus klingt gut, verpflichtet aber zu nichts: Plädoyer für einen lokalen Patriotismus

Thomas » Tip« O’Neill (1912-1944) war einer der letzten allseits respektierten Politiker der Demokratischen Partei der USA. Aus der irischen Gemeinde Bostons stammend, war er fast ein halbes Jahrhundert lang Parlamentarier, erst in Massachusetts, dann für 33 Jahre im Kongress in Washington, wo er von 1977 bis 1987, länger als jeder seiner Vorgänger, » Sprecher« des Repräsentantenhauses war. Seine lange politische Erfahrung fasste er in einem Satz zusammen: » All politics is local« – jede Politik ist Lokalpolitik. (…)

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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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The fourth power?

Review of Joseph Vogl (2017), The Ascendancy of Finance, trans. Simon Garnett, Cambridge: Polity Press.
First published in German as Der Souveränitätseffekt (2015), Zürich-Berlin: diaphanes.

Appeared in New Left Review 110, March-April 2018, pp. 141-150

Like blood in Goethe’s Faust, money ‘is a very special fluid’. It circulates in the body political-economic, whose sustenance depends on its liquidity. [1] And it is surrounded by mystery. In fact, money is easily the most unpredictable and least governable human institution we have ever known. Allegedly invented as a general equivalent, to serve as an accounting unit, means of exchange and store of value, it has over time penetrated into the remotest corners of social life, constantly assuming new forms and springing fresh surprises. Even Keynes had to admit that his attempt at A Treatise on Money (1930) ran into ‘many problems and perplexities’. How money came to be what it is today, in capitalist modernity, may perhaps with the benefit of hindsight be reconstructed as a process of progressive dematerialization and abstraction, accompanied by growing commodification and state sponsorship. But how money functions in its present historical form is more difficult to say; where it is going from here, harder still. This social construction has always been beset with, and driven by, unanticipated consequences—caused by human action, but not controlled by it. (…)

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