(at their own peril.)
I read an article in the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, that really got my eyes rolling. It is titled “Habermas, the Last European”:
Jürgen Habermas, 82, wants to get the word out. He’s sitting on stage at the Goethe Institute in Paris. Next to him sits a good-natured professor who asks six or seven questions in just under two hours — answers that take fewer than 15 minutes are not Habermas’ style.
Usually he says clever things like: “In this crisis, functional and systematic imperatives collide” — referring to sovereign debts and the pressure of the markets. … Sometimes he shakes his head in consternation and says: “It’s simply unacceptable, simply unacceptable” — referring to the EU diktat and Greece’s loss of national sovereignty.
I have an aversion to continental philosophy (I overwhelmingly prefer the analytic tradition), so I wasn’t expecting to be happy with the piece.
It started out okay:
Habermas says that power has slipped from the hands of the people and shifted to bodies of questionable democratic legitimacy, such as the European Council. Basically, he suggests, the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d’état.
Right on! It’s the renegotiation of the EU’s role that has led the euro zone to take a turn for the worst! It didn’t start out as a project to create co-dependency and give imperium to wealthier nations; it was designed to create a level playing field for all European nations.
Soon, though, Habermas reminded me why I think of his philosophy as a goofy branch of creative literature:
Habermas spells out precisely why he sees Europe as a project for civilization that must not be allowed to fail, and why the “global community” is not only feasible, but also necessary to reconcile democracy with capitalism. Otherwise, as he puts it, we run the risk of a kind of permanent state of emergency — otherwise the countries will simply be driven by the markets.
Dream on, buddy. Social democracy got the EU into this mess, freeing markets is going to get it out. Last I checked, giving people jobs and opportunities to voluntarily exchange goods has more net-benefits than sitting around thinking of laws to implement.
And “global community”? Um, sure, try getting a room full of people to decide on two pizza toppings and anyone could see how that concept is doomed to fail while retaining “the voice of the people.” Taking power from “outside of the people” is precisely what governments already do by seizing goods, nationalizing industries, creating restrictions for lenders, subsidizing certain industries, etc. etc. The EU Commission is just icing on top of a corrupt cake. No government is legitimate. It predicates on force.
Habermas in an eloquent fellow, and his criticism of postmodernism is one of the best reads on the subject, but I don’t buy this whole “people are bad so we need a government made out of … people” solution to capitalism*.
* – The Frankfurt School’s definition of capitalism looks nothing like what real people would call capitalism.