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Shalini Randeria, Anna Wójcik

Mobilizing law for solidarity

An interview with Shalini Randeria

Legal transnationalization takes place at different paces, setting human rights against trade and property protections, argues social anthropologist Shalini Randeria. The instrumentalization of solidarity by nascent ethno-nationalism must be resisted at the political not the legal level. [ more ]

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Solidarity after Machiavelli

Camille Leprince, Lynn SK

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Eurozine Review

Eurozine Review

The destruction of society

'Osteuropa' rages at the destruction of Russian society; 'Merkur' delves into the history of Eurasianism; 'Vikerkaar' is sanguine about the decline of universalism; 'New Eastern Europe' has divided opinions about borders; 'Ord&Bild' finds humanism at sea; 'Il Mulino' debates the difficulties of democracy in Italy and the West; 'Blätter' seeks responses to the whitelash; 'Mittelweg 36' historicizes pop and protest; 'Critique & Humanism' looks at Bulgarian youth cultures; 'Res Publica Nowa' considers labour; and 'Varlik' examines the origins of literary modernism in Turkey.

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The ordinary state of emergency

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The Lilliput syndrome

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The violent closet?

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Peak democracy?

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Sea and sun for Europe

A new project for the next generation

Democratic upsurge in North Africa can combine with the renewable energy revolution to inject new life into the European project. Two-way developmental traffic across the Mediterranean would leave new generations in both North and South with fair chances of a good life, Claus Leggewie suggests.

Both the European Union and the "idea of Europe" are facing their sternest test since 1945: this is the pessimistic tenor of many of the comments on the euro crisis and the unpopular cuts being made in national budgets. Members of the wartime generation refer warningly to Europe's self-destruction and division in the twentieth century. Europe, they say, is the sole insurance against war and poverty, the guarantor of economic prosperity. They call on the younger generation, who take Europe entirely for granted, to show more commitment to the European future. Otherwise, they threaten, freedom of movement, study and work will soon be a thing of the past.

The EU: Broken or just broke?

This article is part of the Focal Point The EU: Broken or just broke?.

Can Europe really break apart? Jacques Delors, Jürgen Habermas, José Ignacio Torreblanca, Daniel Daianu, Ulrike Guérot, Slavenka Drakulic, John Grahl and others discuss the causes for the current crisis -- and how to solve it. [ more ]
The achievements of European unification are indeed under serious threat. No one demonstrates in support of the European Union, which has come under heavy fire from "the markets", in other words financial capital. Instead we hear more and more carping at the "monster of Brussels", while rightwing populist Eurosceptics and opponents of the Union are gaining ground, particularly among young men. The EU continues to be very attractive beyond its borders – for the long-suffering civil opposition in Ukraine and Belarus as well as for the democratic movements in North Africa. But where outrage is expressed within Europe, from Syntagma Square in Athens to Puerta del Sol in Madrid, the EU is regarded as the merciless executor of an unjust austerity policy that is clouding the future of young people in particular.

Reminiscing about history is of as little use here as moral appeals. What we need is a fresh project that, once again or for the first time, motivates and mobilizes young Europeans for a "United States of Europe". In opinion polls, people under 30 declare themselves overwhelmingly to be cosmopolitans and advocates of global justice, as champions of ecological sustainability and local civil engagement. This initially leaves little room for Europe as project for the future. It may be that what I'd like to suggest below is nothing more than the pipedream of an ageing pro-European. But why not bring together the three things that most interest young adults in Europe today: a basic sympathy with the emergence of democracy in the Middle East, a strong willingness for more environmental and climate protection, and the opportunities brought by an energy changeover? Could a project that both in a literal and a metaphorical sense brings new energy to Europe north and south of the Mediterranean not fill the vacuum?


According to the critics of the "democratic deficit", formal democratic principles receive mere lip service as political and economic political elites retreat to a hidden realm of unaccountability. Yet liberal democratic pathos ignores an awkward question: whether, in late consumer societies, representative democracy is a reliable instrument for planning the future. Have we entered an age of post-democracy? Read contributions to the debate from Seyla Benhabib, Ingolfur Blühdorn, Daniel Daianu, Ivaylo Ditchev, Claus Leggewie, David Van Reybrouck, Slawomir Sierakowski and Charles Taylor. Supported by the Natur & Kultur Foundation, Stockholm.

Ingolfur Blühdorn
"The sustainability of democracy"
Ivaylo Ditchev, Judith Vidal-Hall
"Democracy live: Media, politics and the tyranny of the opinion poll"
David Van Reybrouck
"Is Belgium the test-bench for democracy 2.0?"
Daniel Daianu
"Markets and society: When high finance cripples the economy and corrodes democracy"
Claus Leggewie
"Sea and sun for Europe: A new project for the next generation"
Seyla Benhabib
"The Arab Spring: Religion, revolution and the public sphere"
David van Reybrouck et al.
"G1000 manifesto"
Slawomir Sierakowski, Charles Taylor
"The de-politicization of politics"
Certainly not if energy cooperation is seen merely as a gigantic engineering project principally serving the interests of the big energy and insurance companies, as with the billion-euro Desertec project for feeding solar-generated electricity from the desert into the European grid. Economic and technological plans can unleash political energy if, like the European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom in the 1950s, they become part of the same project for peace and development that the older generation still recall fondly today: an economic community that fundamentally served to prevent war, to reconcile former enemies and to bring social advancement for many.

Of course the European Coal and Steel Community cannot be brought back to life, Euratom even less so, particularly since that both would be disastrous for environmental and climate politics. Nevertheless, it is possible to conceive of a European industrial and social policy on the basis of renewable energies, one which mobilizes the imagination of entrepreneurs both within Europe and on its periphery, offering the contractual basis for a truly modern and self-chosen project for the current generation. That would be a true, vibrant Mediterranean union. If new industrial centres are created in North Africa, this will in turn create development opportunities for the sub-Saharan countries. The one way energy traffic heading north would become a developmental transfer heading south that benefited both sides.

This project would be the fitting answer to climate change, peak oil and the nuclear catastrophe in Japan. Fukushima showed that the peaceful use of nuclear energy is inappropriate both as an alternative and as a transitional technology. We need a consistent shift to renewable energies and worldwide cooperation.

A different energy policy towards the countries of the Middle East and North Africa that linked these to the European energy grid would also be the best way of supporting the democratization of the region and the development of an entrepreneurial class not solely interested in income from exports of raw materials.

The close relationship between the export of oil and oriental despotism was fatal. Now, thanks to the Arab Spring, the petrodollar regimes are on their last legs, both materially and politically. Moreover, this is a young revolution: in North Africa and the Middle East, roughly two-thirds of the population is under 30. From the October Riots in Algeria in 1988 to the Iranian democratic movement of 2009, we have seen that the younger generation, and young women in particular, want democracy with no ifs or buts. The Internet and social media have provided them with a means with which to circumvent the gatekeepers of state-censored and state-controlled TV channels and newspapers. Old ideologies of freedom such as nationalism, pan-Arabism and socialism have been thoroughly discredited among the young; nor is it a politicized Islam that they want, but the rule of law and good governmental practice.

Certainly, the Arab Spring, which has spread from the Tunisian hinterland to the centres of the Arab world, is drawing to a close, and the prospects of the democratic movement are clouded. There could be a worsening of religious tensions between Shiites or Alawites and Sunnis, or between Muslims and Christians, and fundamental tribal differences might also intensify. The Arab revolution was secular at its root, and Islamic groups have thus far, if anything, moderately endorsed it. Even so, radical Islamic as well as terrorist minorities can exploit the post-revolutionary uncertainty and sow the seeds of instability. Equally, Tunisia and Egypt might prove the forerunners of an autonomous democratization, Morocco and Jordan could provide examples for an orderly transition and even Syria, following Libya, could be liberated through external military intervention. Many observers are comparing the irreversible popular movement with the wave of revolutions in 1848 in Europe; although it will retain some specifically Arab characteristics, including a less consistent process of secularization. Interesting is whether democratization will also improve the situation of women and homosexuals and of religious minorities and agnostics, and whether there will be sufficient incentive for and pressure on the Islamists to play by the rules of democracy.

The people who took to the streets wanted one thing above all: a better and more dignified life. However, the first things that they have faced have been instability and mass unemployment. That is why these societies in transition need economic success – i.e. investment, research cooperation and assistance in their development. Europe needs to finally acknowledge that the development of democracy on its periphery is its own business too, and to offer more active support to the pioneers of change in these regions. German foreign policy made an incomprehensible error first in abstaining in the UN Security Council vote for military intervention in Libya and then continuing its constitutionally and ethically dubious export of arms to Saudi Arabia. To which we might add that we are also wasting opportunities in the Balkans, where all the constituent republics of the former Yugoslavia wish to join the EU, with Europe thus providing the political level on which these ethnically and religiously antagonistic states can once again find economic and cultural common ground.

With Gaddafi gone, have we not become dependent on unpredictable elected regimes where sooner or later extortionate Islamists will turn off the solar energy? But Putin and Gazprom demonstrate this instrument of torture every winter and that fails to impress us. Genuine energy cooperation on an equal footing will convince Arab governments of the merits and responsibilities that result from reciprocal dependency. Democracies are always more reliable and predictable than dictatorships. Climate protection and the energy changeover are far more than technical upgrades: they provide nation-states with new economic and social models and open up areas for global cooperation. In this broad sense, climate protection can be the new peace policy of the post-ideological age: an imminent threat to nature can push mankind into new relationships of mutual benefit and global solidarity.

Only at first glance does this seem utopian. In matters of climate change – insofar as it is taken seriously at all – it is conflicts, more than anything else, that have been evident. The melting of the polar ice caps has awoken the hunger of countries in the region for the mineral resources of the Arctic, and squabbles over the division of the cake, the control of ice-free sea routes and the protection of nature reserves and the indigenous population have already become apparent. If there are at least economic benefits at the North Pole tempting those willing to exploit it, the dramatic shortage of water and fertile soil to be expected elsewhere as a consequence of climate change will aggravate conflicts between and within countries and, through migration, have an impact on less directly affected regions. The scenario of future "climate wars" causes concern in international security policy circles, and is rightly a concern for the German foreign office and armed forces.

Blocking a climate "peace" agreement is the incompatibility between natural spaces and the way the boundaries of old nation-states have been drawn. Rivers and mountain ranges have often been misused as "natural" boundary lines and lakes and bays politically divided – at great cost to environmental measures in border regions. Industrial plants and power stations responsible for substantial emissions are shifted to such areas so that prevailing wind directions can be exploited to export damage. But ecosystems do not know the concept of "abroad"; the threats they face have made the world a village and, just like financial markets, transnational enterprises and long-haul tourists, have turned the notion of one global society into a reality.

Faced with this geological and topological revolution, countries go on the defensive, serving only to intensify the "tragedy of the commons": the overexploitation of our collective global resources. Everybody loses out as sea levels rise and if too much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere; there are no winners if the last rainforests are felled. Global environmental law, still in a rudimentary state of development, must stop putting the interests of countries first and negotiating these between national governments. Instead, it must finally put the conservational and developmental interests of humanity on the agenda and increase the possibilities for checks and sanctions.

The paradox of cooperation is that during the Cold War, nations that were sworn political, ideological and military enemies were prepared to cooperate as long as the Damoclean sword of mutual destruction hung over them. Yet now, faced with a danger that is universally recognized, they still haven't established a means of genuine cooperation. This is extraordinarily short-sighted. Considering the enormous time pressure imposed on us by climate change, global cooperation is not only a moral imperative, it also offers a whole range of advantages, starting with the financial returns enabled by a green economy. And it is above all young people in countries both rich and poor that have this entrepreneurial attitude.

The more democratic the world becomes, so the conclusion, the sooner a new era of global cooperation will become possible, one which finally tackles the planet's most pressing problems and gives future generations in both the south and the north a fair chance of a good life. The European Union must not waste the opportunity for a new Mediterranean union a second time. The "mare nostrum", as the Romans called their Mediterranean empire, is a thing of the past. Today we must offer young people on both coasts of the Mediterranean concrete alternatives for the future and provide a lasting political, economic and cultural foundation for relations between Europe and the Arab world. This new project could be called "Our Sea", and it will involve the Europeanization of our democratic institutions and practices beyond our national borders. Notions of "going it alone" and the "core Europe" are now obsolete: the current crisis compels a "United States of Europe" out of sheer necessity. What Europe still lacks is democratic legitimacy and support.


Published 2011-11-02

Original in German
Translation by Saul Lipetz
First published in Bl”tter f¸r deutsche und internationale Politik 10/2011 (German version); Eurozine (English version)

Contributed by Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik
© Claus Leggewie / Bl”tter f¸r deutsche und internationale Politik
© Eurozine

Focal points     click for more

Debating solidarity in Europe
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, questions of inequality and solidarity have become intertwined. Over the past year, however, questions of solidarity have also been central in connection to the treatment of refugees and migrants. [more]

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Follow the critical, informed and nuanced voices that counter the dominant discourse of crisis concerning Ukraine. A media exchange project linking Ukrainian independent media with "alternative" media in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. [more]

Russia in global dialogue
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Ukraine in European dialogue
Post-revolutionary Ukrainian society displays a unique mix of hope, enthusiasm, social creativity, collective trauma of war, radicalism and disillusionment. Two years after the country's uprising, the focal point "Ukraine in European dialogue" takes stock. [more]

Culture and the commons
Across Europe, citizens are engaging in new forms of cultural cooperation while developing alternative and participatory democratic practices. The commons is where cultural and social activists meet a broader public to create new ways of living together. [more]

2016 Jean Améry Prize collection
To coincide with the awarding of the 2016 Jean Améry Prize for European essay writing, Eurozine publishes essays by authors nominated for the prize, including by a representative selection of Eurozine partner journals. [more]

The politics of privacy
The Snowden leaks and the ensuing NSA scandal made the whole world debate privacy and data protection. Now the discussion has entered a new phase - and it's all about policy. A focal point on the politics of privacy: claiming a European value. [more]

Beyond Fortress Europe
The fate of migrants attempting to enter Fortress Europe has triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A focal point featuring reportage alongside articles on policy and memory. With contributions by Fabrizio Gatti, Seyla Benhabib and Alessandro Leogrande. [more]

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

Eurozine is seeking an Online Editor and Social Media Manager for its office in Vienna.

Preferred starting date: February 2017.
Applications deadline: 31 January 2017.

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Mobilizing for the Commons
The 27th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Gdańsk, 4-6 November 2016
The Eurozine conference 2016 in Gdańsk framed the general topic of solidarity with a focus on mobilizing for the commons. The event took place in the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk and thus linked contemporary debate to the history of a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement which has started in the city's shipyard in 1980. [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
In memoriam: Ales Debeljak (1961-2016)
On 28 January 2016, Ales Debeljak died in a car crash in Slovenia. He will be much missed as an agile and compelling essayist, a formidable public speaker and a charming personality. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Neda Deneva, Constantina Kouneva, Irina Nedeva and Yavor Siderov
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How do migration and institutional mistrust relate to one another? As a new wave of populism feeds on and promotes fears of migration, aggrandising itself through the distrust it sows, The Red House hosts a timely debate with a view to untangling the key issues. [more]

Editor's choice     click for more

Jürgen Habermas, Michaël Foessel
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Literature     click for more

Karl Ove Knausgård
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To write is to write one's way through the preconceived and into the world on the other side, to see the world as children can, as fantastic or terrifying, but always rich and wide-open. Karl Ove Knausgård on creating literature. [more]

Jonathan Bousfield
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Literary perspectives
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Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Multimedia     click for more
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]

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