A doomed moth to a flame, I swing past the website of Social Europe.
You just know that anything with the word ‘social’ in the title is all about supposedly progressive but basically bossy collectivism, and if progressive bossy collectivism is what you want, Social Europe delivers bigly. In their parallel universe all markets are ‘unregulated’, which comes as startling news to anyone actually trying to do anything. Global capitalism is ‘unbridled’ or ‘unfettered’. Inequality is always ‘growing’. Pretty much anything non-Leftist is hegemonic (and therefore bad). Populism is always ‘right-wing’.
It turns out that to write for Social Europe it’s vital to throw the words neoliberal and neoliberalism around like confetti. Run the Search. Yet oddly enough the people running it are overwhelmingly pale, male and stale even if Polly Toynbee hurrah makes it on to the Advisory Board.
It’s also vital to use exotic mixed metaphors or other tragic language juxtapositions that no-one normal would use in intelligent conversation:
a variety of structural causes and many coincidences. What binds them together is the keyboard of nationalism
mobilisation of resentment is giving vent to social dislocations
hegemony generates potent antibodies
reactance, while disastrous, is only the lesser consequence of hegemony
a progressive identity which can provide an anchor in the vertigo of change
little has been done to rein in casino capitalism
in a word (sic): political polarisation should be re-crystallised between the established parties on substantive conflicts.
This is the site to go to for musty needy useless exhortations:
to win the struggle to define the policy paradigms, a practical utopia and a convincing change narrative are needed. To implement the policy shifts necessary to shape the digital transformation, a broad societal coalition for change needs to be mobilized. Finally, to lay the foundation for the digital social contract, new inclusive compromises between all classes must be struck. In short, what is needed is nothing less than a new progressive project for the digital age
2016 must be the year of integration
myths need to be confronted, not tolerated
the non-partisan media needs to recognise the responsibility they have
And so on.
The underlying problem with all this wearying stuff is that it starts and finishes in the thudding tradition of top-down vanguardist European Leftism as created in the age of mass. Or, to be precise, Habermas:
As a sensible alternative – as much to the status quo of feral financial capitalism as to the agenda for a “völkisch” or left-nationalist retreat into the supposed sovereignty of long-since hollowed-out nation states – I would suggest there is only a supranational form of co-operation that pursues the goal of shaping a socially acceptable political reconfiguration of economic globalisation.
Ha! NB this is the sensible alternative. I wonder what meetings of that fine new supranational new body would look like, and who would be in the room. Who decides? Who decides who decides?
One would therefore have to make contrasting political programmes recognisable again, including the contrast between the – in a political and cultural sense – “liberal” open-mindedness of the left, and the nativist fug of right-wing critiques of an unfettered economic globalization.
Right. A specific question for you, Jürgen. Should immigrants be expected by law or otherwise to ‘integrate’ with the core values of their new host country, or not?
The democratic constitution of a pluralistic society provides cultural rights for minorities so that these gain the possibility of continuing their own cultural way of life within the limits of the law of the land. Therefore, a constitutional integration-policy is incompatible with the legal obligation upon immigrants of a different origin to subject their life-style to an all-inclusive majority culture. Rather, it demands the differentiation between a majority culture rooted in the country and a political culture embracing all citizens equally.
Hmm. Not sure I follow.
This political culture is, however, still shaped by how citizens and their interpretation of constitutional principles draw upon the historical contexts of the country. Civil society must expect of the immigrant citizens – without being able to enforce it legally – that they grow into this political culture.
But what if the new immigrant citizens fail to meet those expectations?
Given that political culture will not stand still within a living democratic culture of debate, the newly arrived citizens on the other hand enjoy as much as the long-established ones the right to bring their own voice to bear in the process of developing and changing this common political culture.
So the answer is No. A religious extremist whose beliefs are completely if not dangerously at variance with the society in which s/he is now living has just as much right as the people whose ancestors built that society to define what happens there in the future. That might seem like a good reason to keep such people out?
Marc Saxer lives in India so has a rather different view on all this, complete with a brilliant Freudian slip:
high time for social democrat parties and progressive movements to learn from their strategic plunders over recent decades
This makes sense:
The question, therefore, is not if the pendulum will swing towards protectionism, but only how far it will swing. The liberal world order with the free exchange of goods, services, capital and people thus comes under pressure. The main victims will undoubtedly be the people in emerging economies who are dependent on open export markets to continue their race to development.
The point, folks. Unbridled globalisation is the best thing that ever happened for poor people around the planet. Why? Because it gives them options to do things on their own without waiting for plump development experts and/or their own incompetent leaders to proclaim. But as hundreds of millions of poor people start to do things, they start doing things that bring new competition of ideas and outcomes for everyone else. People like me and you.
This rebellion against globalism may give us a taste of what is coming once digital automations starts to eliminate middle class jobs. Again, it will not matter if the net sum of employment created by the digital revolution is positive. Just as in the case of trade, what matters is the perception of who wins or loses.
But it’s not just the perceptions of who wins/loses. Some people will in fact ‘win’ and others will in fact ‘lose’. Therefore what?
the Left must stop to lend itself as the repair shop of capitalism, and show pathways to the Good Life in the digital age. Not only must capital contribute its fair share to the public good. In the long run, it will be necessary to put a price on the currency of the knowledge society: information.
I have no idea what any of that means. But making information more expensive sounds stupid.
The problem now is that no-one knows what to do with the radically integrating and disintegrating effects of new technology. The new opportunities and problems issues those effects create far exceed the abilities of any government to keep up.
Above all the very idea of ‘the Left’ as defined by Social Europe makes no sense. It’s a dying redundant category from Machine Age times. The people who adhere to it are just the same as rust-belt Trumpists hoping against hope that something will turn up to keep them in secure ‘jobs’, clutching at grandiose waffle and bombastic wafflers.