Alex Cistelecan despre două cărți cum nu se poate mai diferite despre criza în Europa.
Here are two books on the European crisis that couldn’t be more different from one another: one written by a German philosopher that, in the last decades, had come to play the role of major advocate of the European construction, the other written by a Greek economist focusing critically on the actual mechanisms and structure of the EU; one dwelling exclusively in the elevated realm of constitutional settings and moral grounding, in which all problems appear as mere passing accidents to be remedied by more communication and better legal frameworks, the other highlighting precisely the link between the bright legal and institutional continental design and its underlying contradictions; and, last but not least, one that sees the solution to the European crisis in basically ‘more of the same’ – more integration, more transnationalization, the other pointing to the ‘progressive exit’ of the periphery as the only solution to its distress.
The most striking thing in Habermas’s The Crisis of the European Union is that there is almost no trace of the crisis of the European Union – perhaps this is why the book is subtitled ‘A Response’. In Habermas’s account, everything about the EU seems to be ultimately positive and utopian – at least everything that matters, that is. The European Union is the most daring and advanced project of ‘transnationalization of democracy’, the closest we have ever got to the ‘legal domestication and civilization of state power’ at the international level (x). This process is not necessarily new – it actually started centuries ago with the secularization of political authority and its consequent grounding in processes of legitimation. With the contemporary continental construction, this process is, however, brought to a new peak, since the taming of the Leviathan now acquires also a transnational dimension – replacing thus the more or less enduring law of nature existing at the international level. In order to be able to understand the benefits of this transnationalization of democracy, argues Habermas, we should separate the usually conflated notions of popular and state sovereignty – their association has been merely a contingent, historical fact, originating in the French Revolution. In reality, they are two completely different things: state sovereignty having to do with the freedom of action of states in the international domain; popular sovereignty having to do with the Kantian autonomy under the laws of freedom. Hence, restricting national sovereignty by no means entails restricting popular sovereignty: on the contrary, this process (exemplified by the EU) ‘carries forward precisely the kind of constitutionalization of political authority to which citizens within the nation state already owe their liberties’ (18-19). The perceived menace is the solution itself: the state’s loss of sovereignty is the citizens’ gain.
There are two major institutional innovations that the EU has brought with itself, and that give the real measure of its utopian potential: first, the separation of the monopoly of legitimate violence (which remains with the national state – there is no NATO, nor private armed forces for Habermas) from the power of decision and the authority of the constitution (which are more and more transferred to the continental level). And the double constituency of the European Union: the fact that its citizens are represented and politically active (that is, through representation) both as citizens of their national states and as European citizens. This perfectly balanced institutional and constitutional framework guarantees that the old beast called state-power is completely neutralized, the citizen is not only once, but doubly represented, and ‘the civilizing force of democratic legal domestication’ (3) reigns supreme. Ultimately, everything essential about the EU is good – that’s Habermas’s response to the critics and the alleged ‘crisis’ of the European Union.
All these, as one could easily see, are perfectly in line with what we would expect Habermas to claim in the context of the European crisis – yet, generally speaking, this is a rather curious thing to propose as a major achievement for the EU, especially in the context of its deep and enduring crisis. In this particular context, the liberal focus on the necessary and ultimately redeeming taming of the national Leviathan sounds a little bit out of tune: after all, wasn’t the utmost (yet almost, as it were, deliberate) incapacity of the national states in relation to international capital one of the major catalyzers of the contemporary crisis? In this problematic context, to claim that the clear-cut contradiction between the internationalization of capital (as the only global ‘basic structure’) and the defenseless partialization, nationalization of political and popular power (or, as it is reproduced at the European level, between the common monetary policy and the
lack of a similar fiscal policy) is merely a ‘negligence’ (50) to be remedied later by better communication, is, in the best case, proof of an understandable – and ultimately very liberal – desire to sweet-talk oneself. In this context, to brag about the over-representation of the European citizens, when the farces of the French and Dutch referenda, or the mild irrelevance of the European Parliament are so widely known, is, perhaps, somehow emphatic. Not least, to elude the ‘legitimate empirical question of an economic dynamic within world society which has for decades been exacerbating a long-standing democratic deficit’ (12) ‘for reasons of space’ is a little bit too easy: it is like giving a ‘response’ by conjuring away, for being in a hurry, the question itself.