Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jakub Grygiel on the EU and European Identity

Jakub Grygiel

Jakub Grygiel, a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University and a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, has written a recent article for the Foreign Policy Research Institute on the Europen Union: "One Market, One Currency, One People? The Faulty Logic of Europe" (January 2012). I'll just quote a cut-and-paste summary and offer a brief, opaque commentary since I have little time this morning:
[N]o matter how much time and money European leaders put into this effort [of forging a common European identity], the outcome does not look promising . . . . The reason is that its causality is faulty . . . . The project of a united Europe is based on the belief that economic unity (itself poorly defined) will lead to political unity. The pooling of the economic aspects of state sovereignty . . . was meant to constrain and mitigate the nationalistic behavior of individual governments, thereby limiting the possibility of another war. Moreover, in the longer run, the expectation was that a growing economic integration, culminating in the establishment of a common currency, would create a common European identity . . . . Such a line of causation demanded a technocratic approach. Missing the underlying national unity, the establishment of a common market and a common currency had to be pursued by a supra-national elite with a very tenuous electoral accountability. Absent a demos, the technocrats had to take over the decision-making process. The hope, based on the assumption that a common economy creates a unified people, was that at a certain point a European demos would arise allowing the functioning of a European democracy. But until then, technocracy would have to suffice . . . . The "democratic deficit" of EU institutions is, therefore, a direct outcome of the faith in the transformative powers of economic structures. The economic, material conditions had to be first set up, then managed by the EU elites sheltered from electoral wishes (notice the EU's reluctance to allow, and fear of, referenda), and the effect would be the blurring of national differences and ultimately the birth of a European nation. One market, one currency, and -- sooner or later -- one people . . . . There was no need to figure out what Europe, as a cultural entity, really was because the new economic reality would have made a new nation. Hence, the EU technocrats strongly opposed any reference to a common religious background, Christianity, and ignored the three founding cities of Europe: Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. In their stead, an anemic paean to universal values, reason, and tolerance was much preferred, and the less defined these terms the better. In a way, there were meant to be empty vessels, so anyone could fill them with any substance they desired because they were simply temporary placeholders for the unity that would have sprung from the material conditions created by a common market. One Europe under one currency . . . . [But] Europeans will not be created by the euro and a common market, and what we have right now is a set of EU institutions with no Europeans. But to recognize this leads to the question of what Europe is, a question that neither Merkel nor Sarkozy nor Barroso are willing to ponder because they seem to have little memory of the Christian roots of Europe. Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome are seen as contemporary sources of security and fiscal problems, not as symbols of a great civilizational and religious inheritance that truly unites Europe.

I think that Grygiel is largely right about the limitations intrinsic to employing economic unification toward driving cultural unity. But the European elite would respond that they have not neglected a larger identity, for they do appeal to "universal values, reason, and tolerance." Grygiel calls these three rather "anemic" compared to Europe's Christian roots. I don't think that anemia is the real issue, however. The problem with these three Enlightenment values is that in a postmodern Europe, they are redefined and even contradict each other, for the radical multiculturalism implicitly adopted undercuts appeal to any universal value except for the universal value of tolerance, itself self-contradictory, and reason is distrusted as an authoritarian arbiter of differences that would seek to impose its metanarrative upon the various cultural groups of Europe's multicultural reality.

That's what needs to be discussed.

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