Thursday, 23 July 2015

On Europe

In a detailed exploration of Ukrainian history and philosophy, The New York Review of Books asks questions about the future of Europe that go beyond simply dealing with the current crisis in Greece: 
No one can know where this vision of Europe might lead; that is, in some sense, the point. But we do know that for Europe to exist as such it must also exist in broader institutions. Many Ukrainians understand this, which is why they made their revolution about Europe itself. These institutions must be improved, which is why we are all talking about Greece. Europe can fail in both Greece and Ukraine, which is why the Russian media in these weeks abounds in prematurely celebratory visions of a collapsed European Union. The underlying message of Russian propaganda is that working for Europe, whether inside the European Union or beyond it, makes no sense, since democracy and freedom are nothing more than the hypocrisy of a doomed order, and history has no lessons other than those of power. Russian nihilism cheers on European narcissism.
The European Union will no doubt survive both crises, at least for a time, but in neither has it provided much of a response to its existential and democratic problems. Ukraine deserves help but is largely ignored because it is not a member of the European Union; the Greek prompt for institutional reform is going unheeded. As European leaders struggle to define what Europe is, it is more useful, or at least more heartening, to read the grim universalists in Kharkiv than to watch the gleeful provincials in Moscow. 
The New York Review of Books: Edge of Europe, End of Europe, July 21, 2015

After leaving the Greek cabinet, former finance minister Yannis Varoufakis gives an insight into how the negotiations within the Eurogroup worked: 
It’s not that it didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken. 
New Statesman: Yanis Varoufakis full transcript: our battle to save Greece, July 13, 2015
And Tropics of Meta with a historic perspective on German economic thought and why Keynesianism never took hold there: 
In Germany, though, Keynesianism never really took hold. During the years of the so-called Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle” of the postwar years, West Germany only occasionally employed Keynesian policies. Indeed, the only real period of Keynesian influence in the economy was during the Grand Coalition government (1966-1969) and during the early years of Willy Brandt’s government (1969-1974). According to the political scientist Christopher S. Allen, “Keynesianism in Germany was effectively preempted by another set of policies, oriented toward the supply side and the social market economy, that was progressively reinforced—both institutionally and ideologically—over succeeding stages in the postwar period.” 
Tropics of Meta: Why German Economic Thought Made the Greek Crisis Inevitable, July 10, 2015
And the New York Times on Alexis Tsipras' struggle between being the head of a party with a leftist platform and pursuing pragmatic policies that were voted down by the electorate and members of his own cabinet (which he has now ousted), with new elections looming. 

This essay in openDemocracy criticises the current left trend to consider the European Union as an inherently neoliberal project rather than calling for institutional overhaul and reform. 
It might be tempting to put austerity down to the EU being a supranational structure and assume an alternative economic model is only possible once states break free of this international association. What this ignores, however, is how the current structure of the EU and its brutal imposition of austerity on the less competitive states of its periphery, reflects its failure to go beyond nation-states, not its success in doing so. 
openDemocracy: If we abandon the ideal of European unity, the only winner will be neoliberalism, July 22, 2015

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