Europeans, like most other inhabitants of the planet, are currently facing the crisis of ’politics as we know it’ - a state of “interregnum” – as the great Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci described a time in which the old is already dead or dying, but the new has not yet been born.
the nation-state is failing us on the global scale. It was the perfect political recipe for the liberty and independence of autonomous peoples and nations. It is utterly unsuited to interdependence... our problems are globally produced, whereas the instruments of political action bequeathed by nation-states’ builders were cut to the measure of services territorial nation-states required; they prove therefore singularly unfit when it comes to handling global challenges..
In studying the set of fateful departures occurring in Europe three centuries ago, the eminent historian Reinhart Koselleck introduced a metaphor of climbing up to a yet unmapped and un-reached mountain pass. But as you try to reach that pass far up, you can only guess what sort of sight will open to you once (if) you finally arrive there.
All you know for sure until then is that as long as it takes to reach the edge of that steep slope, you need to keep climbing; you can't stop and settle, pitch tents and rest: first gusts of gale will blow tents away, and next torrential rainfall would wash them away. Even short of a gale or torrent, staying put in the middle of such a declivity feels utterly uncomfortable; one look at the abyss below you've left behind but into which you may fall back with but one false step, will give you unbearable vertigo... So you keep climbing - up to that unknown place you hope will save you from the horrors you know...
Fitting metaphor for how we feel, we the twenty-first century Europeans, suspended betwixt and between a past full of terrors and the distant attempt full of risks. We can't know what we are to experience when you get there. But we do know that stopping now and keeping mum is not an option. Though neither can we stop guessing at what we might see and feel once we reach the pass...
At present, all settlements arrived at en route as we confront successive challenges and disagreements exude an air of temporality. They seem and indeed all too often prove to be only ’until further notice’, with a cancellation clause built in - just as our divisions and coalitions are ad hoc, frail and half-hearted. Worse still, we find it difficult to make a sensible story out of our past undertakings - our agenda is constantly a-changing and our attention abominably shifty for such a story to be established.
A few weeks ago, on the occasion of launching a new UK ITV series on current affairs, the highly respected Radio Times weekly sorrowfully opined that, "A new monthly strand looking at international news in greater depth has to be a good thing. The trouble is, the news agenda moves fast, and when headlines are dominated by Ukraine, Syria and China, it looks like a missed opportunity to have your first edition focus on Rwanda, Colorado and Norway...".
All the same, in Le Monde for February 2, Nicolas Truong, referring to the views expressed for some time by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Alain Finkielkraut, presented two opposite scenarios for the future of our, the Europeans', cohabitation; the only two scenarios to choose from as no other seemed to him realistic or indeed conceivable.
Cohn-Bendit, in cooperation with Guy Verhofstadt published a manifesto, "Debout Europe!" in which he promotes the fast track out of and beyond the myth of the nation-state’s territorial sovereignty and towards European Federation, stamped and sealed with a ’European identity’ yet to be patiently and consistently constructed. Finkielkraut is no less firmly convinced that the future of Europe is in its unity - but believes that it needs to be a unity (cohabitation? cooperation? solidarity?) of national identities.
Finkielkraut recalls Milan Kundera's insistence on Europe being embodied in its accomplishments, landscapes, cities and monuments; Cohn-Bendit invokes the authority of Jürgen Habermas, Hannah Arendt and Ulrich Beck, united as they are in their opposition to nationalism. These, logically speaking, are the two paths leading from the place in which we've collectively fetched ourselves up on the eve of the European parliamentary elections. Perhaps they point in opposite directions, though perhaps they are not at all as irreconcilable as their promoters aver...
Beyond doubt, the present institutional structure of the European Union, incoherent as it is, with the policy without politics conducted in Brussels set against the politics without policy for which the European Council is notorious and the parliament with a lot of talking and little power - a structure unsustainable in a long run and crying out for a thorough rehashing - feeds simultaneously both above mentioned tendencies.
Eighty years ago Edmund Husserl warned - so Nicolas Truong reminds us - that "the gravest danger menacing Europe is its lassitude". Time marches on, but warnings do not age. Time to dismiss them as outdated has not yet arrived. Neither is it likely to arrive in the foreseeable future.
The modern chapter of Europe’s attempts at unity, short of the unity of peaceful coexistence, came after the most successful thus far and most durable accomplishment of the Roman Empire - and after the posthumous attempt of its reincarnation in the phantom of a Holy Roman Empire bit the dust on the post-Reformation religious battlefields.
It started in 1555 in a German town of Augsburg, to which the ruling dynasties of the parts of Europe most devastated by warring religious factions sent their plenipotentiaries to discuss and hopefully agree a formula of armistice capable of stopping the first (though as it was to transpire, by no means the last) all-out fratricidal war of the Europeans. The formula: cuius regio, eius religio, was coined and agreed, but the armistice needed almost a century more of killings, burnings, destruction and epidemics to be accepted, embraced and put into practice; till 1648, when spokesmen for the main adversaries sat once more around the negotiating table, this time in Münster and Osnabrück, to arrive at an agreement recorded in history as the ’Westphalian settlement’.
Once incorporated into the practice of governance, the formula of Westphalian settlement proved to be uniquely suitable for preparing the stage for the nation-building chapter in European history: it took but a substitution of “natio” for “religio” (as a matter of fact, a purely terminological change, not a substantive operation) to deploy it as the universal ordering principle in the lengthy and thorny process of the Europe-inspired and by-Europe’s-power-assisted transformation of the world, divided between the scions of divinely anointed dynasties into a world sliced into states resting their legitimation and so also their claim to the obedience of their subjects (that is, the population inside their boundaries integrated by the retrospectively postulated common origin and now also by the state-assured commonality of the future, into a nation) on ’national interest’.
The snag is, that it is also counter-factual and increasingly so - its premises being delusionary, its postulates unrealistic and its pragmatic recommendations impossible to fulfil. In the course of the last half century the processes of deregulation originated, promoted and supervised by state governments joining voluntarily or pushed to join the so-called ’neo-liberal revolution’, have resulted in the growing separation and rising probability of divorce between power (that is, the capacity of having things done) and politics (that is, the ability to decide, which things need and ought to be done).
Many of the powers previously contained inside the borders of the nation-state evaporated and flew into the no-man’s land of the “space of flows” (as Manuel Castells dubbed the politics-free expanses), whereas politics has remained as before, territorially fixed and constrained.
That process has acquired all the markings of a self-propelling and self-intensifying tendency. Seriously drained of powers and continuing to weaken, state governments are compelled to cede one by one the functions once considered a natural and inalienable monopoly of the political organs of the state into the care of already ’deregulated’ market forces, evicting them thereby from the realm of political responsibility and supervision. This results in the rapid fall of popular trust in the governments’ ability to deal effectively with the threats to the existential condition of their citizens. Citizens believe less and less that governments are capable of delivering on their promises.
They are not entirely wrong. One tacit yet crucial assumption underlying trust in the efficacy of parliamentary democracy is that citizens decide in elections who will rule the country for the next few years and whose policies the elected government will attempt to implement. The recent collapse of the credit-grounded economy threw that state of affairs into spectacular relief.
As John Gray, one of the most insightful analysts of the roots of the present-day world-wide instability, observes in the preface to the new (2009) edition of his False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, when asking why the recent economic collapse failed to increase international cooperation but instead released centrifugal pressures -
“governments are among the casualties of the crisis, and the logic of each of them acting to protect its citizens is greater insecurity for all”. And this is because “the worst threats to humankind are global in nature”, while “there is no prospect of any effective global governance to deal with them”.
As Benjamin Barber recently observed (in If Mayors Ruled the World, 2013)-“after a long history of regional success, the nation-state is failing us on the global scale. It was the perfect political recipe for the liberty and independence of autonomous peoples and nations. It is utterly unsuited to interdependence.”
Indeed, our problems are globally produced, whereas the instruments of political action bequeathed by nation-states’ builders were cut to the measure of services territorial nation-states required; they prove therefore singularly unfit when it comes to handling global challenges... read more:
Popular posts from this blog
Pakistan and National Unity is an important position paper of the Communist Party of India, and a far-reaching text in the history of the Indian communist movement. The resolution dated September 19, 1942 contains an outline of the CPI's support for what it called the 'just essence of the Pakistan demand'; and the Report by Gangadhar Adhikari is a detailed explanation of the resolution. The resolution was confirmed by the First Congress of the CPI in May 1943. Its arguments may be contrasted with the pamphlet titled Who Rules Pakistan? published in Bombay in August 1948, as a 'Communist Party publication' - and is one of the earliest position documents of the Communist Party of Pakistan. The document is titled File CPI-31/1942 ; and forms part of the P.C. Joshi Archives at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The text of the resolution and report is also available in the book entitled Remembering Dr Gangadhar Adhikari: Selections from Writings, Part 2 ; e
'Do you know', Napoleon once said to Fontanes, 'what astounds me most about the world? The impotence of force to establish anything. There are only two powers in the world: the sword and the mind. In the end, the sword is always conquered by the mind' Conquerors, you see, are sometimes melancholy. They have to pay some price for so much vainglory. But what a hundred years ago was true of the sword is no longer true today of the tank. Conquerors have made progress, and the dismal silence of places without intelligence has been established for years at a time in a lacerated Europe. At the time of the hideous wars of Flanders, Dutch painters could still perhaps paint the cockerels in their farmyards. The Hundred Years War has likewise been forgotten, and yet the prayers of Silesian mystics still linger in some hearts. But today, things have changed; the painter and the monk have been drafted - we are one with the world. The mind has lost that regal certainty which a c
Mike Davis on COVID-19: The monster is finally at the door / Impact on the global poor / Capitalism vs human survival
NB : Mike Davis is the author of Late Victorian Holocausts , a detailed analysis of the 19th century drought and famine that took millions of lives of the poor in India and China DS The current pandemic expands the argument: capitalist globalization now appears to be biologically unsustainable in the absence of a truly international public health infra-structure. But such an infrastructure will never exist until peoples’ movements break the power of Big Pharma and for-profit healthcare. The original H1N1 found a favored niche in army camps and battlefield trenches where it scythed down young soldiers down by the tens of thousands. The collapse of the great German spring offensive of 1918 has been attributed to the fact that the Allies, in contrast to their enemy, could replenish their sick armies with newly arrived American troops.... It is rarely appreciated, however, that fully 60 per cent of global mortality occurred in western India where grain exports to Britain and bru
There are still people who admire Godse for shooting a defenceless, unarmed old man at point blank range in a prayer meeting.. After all, modern society is awash with extremist beliefs, including support for suicide bombers and vigilante violence. E xtremism has taken centre-stage i n the guise of communal ideology and prejudices. People in high of fice believe in collective guilt (denouncing entire communities for the sins of a few), controlled mobs, revenge killing and vigilantism. Click the title for Parts 1 & 2 of the Report [of the 6 volume document] of the Commission of Inquiry into the Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi by Justice Jeevan Lal Kapur [Supreme Court of India]. The commission was established in 1965 & submitted i ts report on 30 Sept 1969 . A whiff of evil A message and an appeal Peace as a punctuation mark in eternal war The Supreme Court,Gandhi and the RSS Apoorvanand: गांधीजी का आखरी महीना - Talk on Gandhiji's Last Month Pune, Oct
Alexandre Koyré: The Political Function of the Modern Lie (1945) /John Keane: lying, journalism and democracy
NB: This line of theoretical and sociological inquiry is crucial for an understanding of the contemporary world, and has been neglected (in the main) by political scientists and historians. Alexandre Koyre (1892-1964) was a Russian-born philosopher and historian of religion and science. His 1945 essay on The Political Function of the Lie was used by Hannah Arendt as a source for insights into her study of the origins of totalitarianism . Some observations and extracts are supplied below, along with links to Koyre's original essay, as well as a 2010 lecture on lying in journalism. They are worth reading, as a reminder that the deceitful and intimidatory atmosphere of our times is rooted in political phenomena that were commented upon decades ago - DS A perceptive analyst and a close reader of Alexandre Koyré, Arendt described totalitarian regimes as being “ secret societies established in broad daylight .” (see Koyre, pp 296-7). By imitating the apparatus of secret societies wit
NB: Today is my father's thirteenth death anniversary. A few of his students from the first few batches have circulated their personal recollections. It is mainly with them in mind that I post this essay which I wrote in 2008, for a Penguin collection. (And here is something I posted in 2018, on his birth centenary). I hope it triggers some golden memories! Love to you all. Dilip Of Bagpipes, Horses and Golden Orioles Dilip Simeon from Recess: The Penguin Book of Schooldays Palash Mehrotra (ed); New Delhi, 2008 This is a very personal story about a public school. There will undoubtedly be names that I’ve left out, but I trust I’ll be pardoned my lapses. What I’m sure about is that all of us who joined it in its foundational years share a powerful affinity with a Haryana village named Kunjpura. (Dist., as they say, Karnal). Thinking about schooldays at a point in life when middle-age is edging towards elderly-ness, can be a strange encounter with oneself. I recall
Covid County Simulator Overview Select the state and county using the drop-down boxes at the top of the page and the page will update with: Daily active cases 3-week forecast of active cases 100-day projection of active cases and deaths Note that you have to look below the graph to see the total projected deaths. Check covidcountysim.org daily as the regression forecast and simulation may change when we upload data each day from Johns Hopkins' GitHub site. Mortality rate : You can override the calculated rate by typing a new one into the field. The model will use the new rate to calculate the number of deaths at the end of the simulation until you refresh the page. Running a social distancing ‘intervention’ The intervention date is set to after the prediction period ends. Then use the slider to increase or decrease social distancing. You will notice that this changes the target Rt value, which is the value you are targeting based