Saturday, July 22, 2006

Radical Philosophy 133 Sept-Oct 2005

Very belated, but its worth recording the Radical Philosphy from Sept-Oct 2005.

The Commentary section takes in two interesting, but opposed assessments of the outcomes of the EU referendums earlier in 2005. These referenda remain of huge importance - the current political situation and positive possibilities for the Presidential elections in 2007 come directly out of the 'No' campaign of 2005 (see Murray Smith in Frontline Vol 2, 1 for further discussion of this). Michael Newman in 'Quite the opposite: The EU crisis and the left' poses what he describes as a cautionary note to the left view that this the beginning of the fightback and affirmation that 'another Europe is possible'. Newman outlines the argument for seeing the Constitution as reinforcing neo-liberalism: market principles and the European Central Bank are embedded in the constitution and the EU itself is moving in the direction of further marketization with the Bolkestein Directive. But Newman says the EU, going back to 1956 has had this basis and its the practice that has changed towards neolibralism in the 1990s. Newman refers to Jurgen Habermas as a supporter of the Constitution as a catalyst for 'creating a post-national political space through active citizen engagement', whereas the Constitution was really a project of elites and rejected as such. However Newman also records what he considers to be the positive features: the Charter of Fundmental Rights and Eurpean Convention of Human Rights, and a slight increase in the national democratic accountability of the EU. But it's less the loss of these positive features that Newman laments, its more the possibility of a revived right-wing anti-Europeanization, based on an anti-elitist euro-scepticism, mobilised by the left on this occasion - but maybe not in the future, especially if xenophobic forces are being strengthened. Newman finishes by saying he hopes he is wrong: events in France indicate that so far he is.

The alternative and powerful perspective was supplied by Pete Gowan in 'A salutary shock for bien pensant Europe', who starts out rejecting the main academic interpretation of the EU as being about integration. Instead Gowan argues that the 'EU project' has become a 'mechanism for transforming relations between social classes within each of the member states themselves'. This class restructuring is presented as a side-effect of changing relationships between member states and between the EU and the rest of the world, but Gowan insists it is the other way round. The key instruments are the Single Market Programme and 'competition' arrangements and 'Economic and Monetary Union'. The SMP and 'competition rules' is in Article 12 of the ('so-called') Constitution. But EU ecoonmic policy insn't based on free-market competition, but quasi-monoplies gaining economies of scale in oligopolistic markets. Article 12 is about privatisation and 'races to the bottom'. In terms of the EMU, the ECB is sovereign, aimed at low inflation and stands behind 'a race to the bottom on tax regimes' and the set of policies called 'economic reform', which Gowan decodes as 'undermining pay and working conditions... slashing welfare state entitlements for labour.' Gowan sees this as based on the political philosophy of Hayek, arguing since 1939 for European federation as a block to the democratic road to serfdom, with international law as a juridical block to popular soverignty. These ideas were put into the Treaty of Rome by devotees such as Erhard; but blocked by French Keynesianism until the 1980s when the Thatcherites and 'Giscadian elites' adopted these ideas. Talk of a 'European super-state' is Hayekian code for a democratic EU federation. Gowan does record some historical achievements of the EU: 'a multi-class polity within capitalism' as an advance on the free-market individualism of American liberalism. But the Hayekian turn is about negating the class collaborationist possibilities. There are still differences between the Giscardian strategy and Anglo-Saxon, especially about how it rleates to the 'new Anglo-American imperialism'. But now 'French popular republicanism' has again thrown a spanner in the works ad tuined the Constitutional project. Gowan ends up by asking if the social democrats pick up the banner and insist on a democratic constitution.

Skipping over David Cunningham on the philosophy of the metropolitan form and Gail Day on Italian workerism and architecture, there is also a very interesting article by Joseph Brooker on David Peace's GB84 and the roots of contemporary culture in the miner's strike. Reviews include the great idea of having James Finlayson review Andrew Edgar's book on Habermas, and Andrew Edgar reviewing James Finlayson's. And a review of a personal favourite: a delightful edition of Arthur Schopenhauer's The Art of Always Being Right: 38 Ways to Win When You Are Defeated. Schopenheuer, patron-philosopher I guess for the grumpiest of grumpiest old men is a marvellous satirical account of argumentative techniques: techniques still being used on you right now. Please read.


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