Thursday, September 13, 2007

Europe in his crosshairs

The prospect of a Perry Anderson article beginning with a quotation from Tony Judt cannot fail to attract the attention of the various Sheriffs and Robots of our community; however, I encourage everyone to read this. Probably the most informed, all-encompassing, devastating assessment of Europe, and what the EU has become in the age of neoliberalism, to be found in the world of print journalism. Anderson, currently my favorite writer on contemporary issues, contemptuously dismisses Habermas, reluctantly embraces the Robert Kagan thesis, and highlights the ways that the radically capitalistic thought of Hayek is shaping the European world today. It really needs to be asked: in what respect are we not, finally, "pillars of society, pimping for torture"?

4 Comments:

Blogger Robot said...

On my way to reading the article I saw Judt wrote a letter responding to a Thomas Lacquer review, the last sentence of which deserves repeating: "If Laqueur can’t see this, he should stick to the history of masturbation."

11:10 AM  
Blogger Robot said...

...and I'll be interested to see how Judt responds to this article, or if he responds at all. (He's a good leftist, in that even while he may disagree with those to his left, he won't mercilessly attack them as he does with Lacquer.) If we are to follow Kagan's logic, which I think does reflect a good deal of reality, then there's reasons to be sanguine, albeit in ways Perry Anderson would not allow. One can, for example, see the resistance to the Iraq War on behalf of European governments as entirely authentic. The U.S., after all, really did and does have chilly relations with Spain, and is only now after recent elections thawing a bit from Chirac and Shroder. The complicity in all of these governments in rendition was and remains a tremendous blow to their popularity amongst voters, and one can easily believe these governments complied only as a small token of appreciating (in the financial sense) American power and belligerence.

That power is now waning quickly, something Anderson does not and cannot really admit. The recent subprime crisis has proven, if anything, that Europe -- while obviously entangled in American finance -- will not accept the status quo of "neoliberal" American financial arrangements. Where does it fit in Anderson's analysis that these voluntary tools of American imperialism are getting uppity enough to call for things like international institutions, which do these like regulate and provide oversight and transparency. ''We need an international approach, and the United States needs to be part of it,'' Peter Bofinger, a member of the German government's economics advisory board recently told the New York Times (http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F20D16F63E5B0C7A8EDDA10894DF404482)

I'm sympathetic to a lot of Anderson's analysis, but to the question of pimping for torture or not I would say yes, but it can't and won't last forever. The Idea of Europe is still in my mind something very much to emulate.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Just a quick note before a longer response: Doesn't Anderson adequately handle the "resistance to the Iraq War" issue? There was mass public mobilization, resistance from political leaders, but after the war was actually launched, these quietly went away, at least on the governmental level. And doesn't your acknowledgment of the elections of Merkel and Sarkozy point to a sad truth, that rather than European voters getting rid of governments that eventually kowtowed to the US, they voted in even more conservative ones, which this time *actively supported* the Iraq War?

3:00 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

You're quite right to point out that Anderson does in fact discuss these things. But, again, he suggests that their "quietly going away" either a) reveals the true conspiratorial and bullshit nature of their opposition in the first place, or b) their need to eventually give in to the reality of U.S. power. As I said, I find the first suggestion to be untrue, and the second a likely possibility in a number of specific cases.

The ascendancy of Merkel and Sarkozy in my mind occurred IN SPITE of their positions on U.S. foreign policy. Obviously the U.S. media, particularly those on the right, would have us believe otherwise. If anything, Merkel's popularity has remained high precisely because she represents the kind of Europe Judt envisions and Anderson deconstructs: global institutions, transnational problem-solving, etc. It may be the case that at this point it's more rhetoric than policy, but that remains to be seen. It was both domestic pressure and Merkel's obstinacy that forced Bush to call for meetings involving the U.S., the E.U., Russia, China, India, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil, which are set to begin at the end of this month. I'm far from saying anything substantial will necessarily come out of such a meeting (indeed, I'm skeptical), but I don't think there's a secret agreement between Merkel and Bush here to fool the world into thinking they're doing something about it but really have no interest, either.

3:48 PM  

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