David Garcia on Wed, 2 Nov 2016 14:02:31 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Franco Berardi & Geert Lovink: Zero Work is the Tendency, Negative Money is the Tool

Europe: More or Less ?

In their wholly justifiable rage, Geert & Franco assert the need to -kick a moribund union back to life- And that assertion raises the question of what it would or should look like 
once awoken. What kind of Union we are in search of. And who is the WE that is being addressed? Predictably they assert that this kicking must come from below. Maybe 
Brexit was one such kicking. Much of it was certainly mobilised from below and none of it was pretty  

As former Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis and main voice of DiEM25, argued, to an assembly of Progressive Remain Campaigners post Brexit: we have to confront 
the complete -failure of progressive forces to harness the anti-establishment rage-.

Yes indeed. From the outset we Remainers (now dubbed Remoaners) struggled to find a voice that resonated beyond our own echo chambers. Un-arguably that is still the 
case. Complex nuanced arguments fail to crystallise into cogent images or viable rhetoric. The language was and is technocratic, like so many unwanted memos from the 

Nothing in our rhetorical armory matches  -Take Back Control- or -Independence Day-. The challenge, not just in the dis-United Kingdom, but 
across Europe, will be to better understand the appeal of Brexit’s slogans if we are to stand a chance of arguing for greater EU democracy or closer integration. Hard 
thinking must be matched by communications that can can operate in the -social media vortex-.

Another Europe

I want to take the liberty of compressing Geert and Franco’s essay into four words -Another Europe is Possible - this is a slogan taken from DiEM25. It may lack immediacy 
or populist bite, but its a start. It also has the advantage of deliberately opening up a conceptual space by echoing the popular activist slogan -Another World is Possible-. 
This puts a wider utopian agenda on the table by hinting that a closer democratic Europe is a decisive step in our evolution towards a post-national world order. Progressive 
internationalism by other means...

The trouble is that as yet there is little apetite for these aspirations beyond the little -No one else believes in a Trans-national vision of Europe. It seems emblematic of the 
autocratic federalist -superstate- How can DiEM (and others committed to building -another europe-) contest the perception that -more- Europe must mean less democracy? 
Unless we can answer this question this EU is doomed to remain the world’s most successful example of a Hayekian social dictatorship, - in which the market is forever 
separated from politics -.

Habermas vs Streeck

As we saw from UK Labor's campaign of energised equivicaction, not all Euro skepticism comes from the right. For a serious discussion on what is at stake its 
best to look is elsewhere. I would recomend starting with the arguments as they unfolded in recent years between two German thinkers; the influential 
philosopher, Habermas and the sociologist Wolfgang Streeck. 

Its worth starting with two short and highly readable books. Habermas’s, The Lure of Technocracy, a warning against technocratic instrumentalism and a plea for 
European solidarity as well as an argument to keep faith with the EU's institutional architectures, however flawed. 
Whilst Wolgang Streeck’s, Buying Time.The Delayed Crisis in Democratic Capitalism. In the final chapter, Streeck argues that the EU is nothing less than an 
un-reformable deregulation machine -that has failed to protect nations from a capitalism gone wild but rather exposed them to it lock stock and barrel.- 
Adopting this perspective the news paper Die Zeit asked Habermas in a post-brexit interview, why not return to the old welfare state capitalism? Suggesting that 
far from -Another Europe being possible- In the real world - a unitary -Jacobin constitution for a democratic European state is unimaginable. P172
As for the belief that the answer lies in -democratisation- Streeck responds dismissively by asking whether a project of democratisation could possibly calm the conflicts that are 
today tearing Europe apart. -Could it stem the centrifugal forces that have arisen from straightjacketing of diverse societies in a common market and a common currency and the 
stripping of their capacity to act. P.177 

For Streeck, Habermas’s approach is, in its own way, profoundly technocratic, placing unwarranted faith in constitutionalism. He sees Habermas’s views as part of 
his failure to recognise that capitalism is not just a system purified of lifeworld connections. And he argues that this effectively de-politiceises the economic. (NLR95), 
The question is does DiEM and Varoufakis offer a model that is better aligned to current political realities ? If so I haven’t really seen it.

For Streeck the real task is that of reversing the devastation wrought by four decades of neoliberal -progress-. From this perspective we should not be spending our energies 
on pretentious utopian delusions of pan Europeanism but should conscentrate on defending and repairing what is left of national institutions -with whose help social justice might 
be able to modify or even replace market justice- P173-174..it is only in that context does it seem meaningful to speak of democracy today, since it alone makes it possible to 
avoid being "fobbed off” with the democratissation of institutions that have no power to descide anything. -P174.

At the heart of Streeck’s opposition (and its most tangible difference with Habermas) is his hostility to the currency of the Euro which he dubs a frivolous experiment (Polyanyi) 
which follows prescriptions of standard economics in its attempts to reshape a highly heterogeneous transnational society into a market society, with no regard for diverse structures, 
institutions and traditions…- He sees it as the modern equivalent of the Gold standard and argues that abandoning it would release energies as powerful as those released when the 
Gold standard was dropped. (Hopefully MoneyLab will find space to discuss the role of the Euro in shaping or distorting European consciousness).  

The difference between Habermas and Streeck is not so much theological but strategic, empiricle and practical. For Streeck, Hayekien neo-liberalism has too much of a head start. It is simply too 
strong, too embedded to be reversed at this stage. Unlike its Hayekian rival, the movements seeking to democratise Europe at this stage would be swept out to sea as they are swimming against 
the tide of history…. -The huge Hayekian lead means that implementing the Utopian model at this stage appears completely unrealistic.

Defeatism Disguised as Pragmatism?

Is Streeck’s powerful critique simply defeatism disguised as pragmatism? The fact that the neo-liberal project has such a head-start could equally demonstrate that it played a long game very well 
and so should we. This should be a reason enough to reject Streeck’s defeatist conclusions. Even a long journey must begin somewhere. And from the off-shore Island where I am reluctantly 
sitting, NOW seems like a good time to start. And join my Contiental friends in the long march to deepen and extend European democracy and open up the boarders. From this vantage point Streecks’s 
position feels a deeply regressive though extremely powerful critiques. They are a regression to a welfare state nationalism that no longer exists. By the way it won’t be this propistion in the coming years 
as Brexit proceeds (poor us!) but a ramped up neo-libralism.

In an extended Review of Buying Time, Habermas described Streeck's conclusions as -a nostalgic return to sovereign impotence of the nation state- That sounds ike Poundland to me!
It serves as a reminder that - like te EU the nation state also began as a highly artificial form of solidarity among strangers- And one equally based on elaborate legal and constitutional 
arrangements. The deep flaws in the EU are NOT a state of nature and so we must resist the fatalism that would accompany that conclusion and begin the detailed work of both opposition and 
re-design. Above all it means holding fast to the idea that democracy must mean halting the drift towards reducing social justice to market justice andopen boarders to barbed wire, forced marches  
and conscentration camps.

David Garcia

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