Viva Jürgen Habermas (at 84!)! now ‘criticiz[ing Germany’s] Social Democratic Party (SPD) for supporting – both in opposition and now in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel – the “drastic treatment” she forced on crisis countries – & warning them that ‘the Merkel government’s investor-friendly approach is damaging to democracy’, while its technocratically sustained ‘hegemonic position’ in the EU ‘has ‘built up huge resistance against Berlin […] and . . . has created an explosive situation,” he said.’ & he said a few other things too… (I’ve copied the above from the intro I wrote to my sharing of the article below on Facebook. To read the article, click on the photo or the article’s title.)
I’ve only recently begun to understand (I think) how in our time most governments aim to serve the interests of the investors, the corporations, not those of the people who elect them. I understand this is what is called Neoliberalism:
Neoliberalism is the resurgence of ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, whose advocates support extensive economic liberalization, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy. (Wikipedia)
Reductions in government spending: at the expense of education, health, social welfare, culture, sport & whatever is in the interests of the public, their electors. This is called austerity. What it means is deprivation, impoverishment, on all levels of life, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, for multitudes of people of all ages living in such a regime.
So Habermas is castigating them. How can someone be in such a coalition & call him or herself a Social Democrat? A Social Democrat is concerned with social issues, with the real public’s interests, is something (at least) of a socialist — & surely something of a democrat?
This coalition government is not democratic. Although elected by the voters of the country, it does not represent them. It does not listen to them, it does not act in response to their decisions. There as yet exists no system in which the voice of the voters may be heard by those who govern, so there exists as yet no real democracy in any state system in any country. The buds & even some fruits of such a system have begun to appear in two of the poorer countries in the EU, which are among the more struck by the austerity demanded by their “national debt”: Spain (about which I know a little), where I hope the Podemos party will win the next elections & Greece (about which I know less), where Syriza has now come to power. I think that the various “waves” (as the Spaniards call their organizations of people who specialize in different public spheres, such as sanitation, education, health, housing, etc. etc.) & the neighborhood councils (in which chairpeople & office bearers serve for limited periods so as to prevent any corruption) out of which the Podemos [“We can”] party emerged & which form the backbone of its strength are a working prototype of a participatory (rather than a “representative”) democracy that could develop into the system of governance after the present parliamentary system is seen for what it really is, the servant of the oligarchs, the investors, & is replaced by the will of the majority. No violence need be required if before this the majority have elected a Podemos-like government.
But for that to happen you’d probably need conditions at least as bad as in Spain & Greece, & maybe in a few other places. & maybe you’d need a history of some serious militancy and solidarity among the common populace in your country, as both the Spaniards & the Greeks do. I don’t know. If things get bad enough for them, people may move in such a direction. Perhaps by then the Spanish example will have helped to persuade people in other countries. But as things are here in Australia, & probably not a few other places, most people seem to be willing to leave things be. Indeed, laissez-faire. I don’t see many people making a move to change anything in the system. There are activists & people who express their angst or anger at all kinds of injustices the state is responsible for or complicit in. Such people would probably participate &/or such ‘waves’ or ‘councils”, but unless those waves & councils can gain mass support they can do nothing, even in their own spheres.
& Habermas is warning them — while also telling them that there are ‘good reasons to demand greater European integration’, & indeed there are many, apart from peaceful cooperation among the member countries & joint projects for common ecological & other goals — he is warning them that if Germany continues its high-handed forcing of countries it has “rescued” into austerity it will disintegrate (I take the liberty to use this as an active verb here) the EU, & I seem to hear behind this warning a vision of more wars among the many nations of Europe, who knows, maybe a world war (both previous ones, I note in passing, were begun by Germany).
But I don’t want to end on this pessimistic note. & perhaps Habermas’ words will stir the SPD? Anyhow, I prefer to share here two gleanings from the Wikipedia entry in Habermas:
1. Habermas’s works resonate within the traditions of Kant and the Enlightenment and of democratic socialism through his emphasis on the potential for transforming the world and arriving at a more humane, just, and egalitarian society through the realization of the human potential for reason, in part through discourse ethics. While Habermas has stated that the Enlightenment is an “unfinished project,” he argues it should be corrected and complemented, not discarded. In this he distances himself from the Frankfurt School, criticizing it, as well as much of postmodernist thought, for excessive pessimism, radicalism, and exaggerations.
2. Habermas outlined how our everyday lives are penetrated by formal systems as parallel to development of thewelfare state, corporate capitalism and mass consumption. These reinforcing trends rationalize public life. Disfranchisement of citizens occurs as political parties and interest groups become rationalized and representative democracy replaces participatory one. In consequence, boundaries between public and private, the individual and society, the system and the lifeworld are deteriorating. Democratic public life cannot develop where matters of public importance are not discussed by citizens.