Latest Articles

Eurozine News Item

The School of Kyiv – Kyiv Biennial 2015

8 September – 1 November

This year's Kyiv Biennial provides fora for an international cast of artists and intellectuals to address issues of burning importance for the citizens of Ukraine, Europe and beyond. Exhibitions and arenas for public reflection offer a basis for imagining egalitarian and alternative futures, as well as the counter-propositions of art. [ more ]

Timothy Snyder

Commemorative causality

Sofi Oksanen

A lion in a cage

Ivan Krastev

Don't fear political emotions

Jaroslaw Kuisz, Martha Nussbaum

Liberalism needs love

New Issues


Merkur | 9/2015


Transit | 46 (2014/15)

Krise Kritik Kapitalismus

A2 | 17 (2015)

Atentát na underground [The assassination of the underground]

Eurozine Review

Eurozine Review

Still outraged and seeking alternatives

"Kultura Liberalna" discusses the new industrial revolution; "Blätter" predicts that the European divide will keep growing; "Samtiden" says Europe should count itself lucky; "openDemocracy" says the Greek crisis is all about Germany and France; "Soundings" seeks European alternatives; "La Revue nouvelle" considers why the wealthy hate the Greens; "L'Espill" asks whether Podemos and Catalanism can hook up; "Osteuropa" sets the record straight on Russian gas; and "Dialogi" celebrates the power of the documentary.

Eurozine Review

Something has to give, soon

Eurozine Review

Life after debt

Eurozine Review

In search of eutopia

Eurozine Review

If Greece falls

My Eurozine

If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Share |

The euro crisis seen from atop the Empire State Building

Europe's leaders need to take a hard look across the Atlantic before they start dismantling the Union, writes George Blecher. Emulating the US would risk forfeiting all the things that make Europe the best of all worlds.

Many of the articles I've written about US culture for European publications over the past twenty years have had the same message: Here's something stupid that we're doing in the US. If you don't watch out, somebody will be doing it in Europe in the next five years. Some of these stupidities included the takeover of independent publishing houses by conglomerates with no interest in publishing; the commercialization of everything from higher education to art to sports to medicine; the switch from consensus to adversarial politics, to the point where nobody in American government can agree on anything, and politicians become spoiled kids who look at compromise as a sign of personal weakness.

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 ]
I was no soothsayer: changes always flow from the bigger countries to the smaller. What was interesting was that, thanks to technology, the lag-time between events in the US and Europe started to decrease: what used to take years to cross the ocean now could happen overnight.

Then came the US financial crisis. Though it was initially treated by the American press with a kind of breathless surprise – and by the European with a hint of condescension – plenty of people saw it coming. Last year an excellent American financial writer, Michael Lewis, wrote a book called The Big Short, in which he described a bunch of Wall Street "contrarians" – speculators who watched the crisis developing (at first they were just flabbergasted by the shakiness of bad home mortgages and investment-banking-generated "derivatives") and made fortunes from what they saw.

In the space of a few nanoseconds, the crisis came to Europe. How could it not? And for many of the same reasons.

Some aspects of the euro crisis ring old bells to anyone familiar with the American version. For example, the response to the bank speculation that helped foment the crisis has been just as timid in Europe as in the US; only the Icelanders, and the brave initiators of Occupy Wall Street, allowed themselves to get really pissed off. And even though the EU seems to be trying to punish speculators a little by reducing the payback on Greek governmental bonds (as opposed to the US government rewarding big banks for their avarice), the main blame for the crisis has settled on the Greek citizenry, in particular those employed in the public sector. The banking/financial complex, many of whose members were making fast money à l'américaine, has largely been overlooked; certainly no one – with the possible future exception of the ex-Prime Minister of Iceland! – has gone to jail. (Not that European bankers needed to be inspired by American greed; I suspect that they had enough of their own.)

However, there's one disturbing subtext to the euro crisis that's different from the American version: the fact that Europe has begun to see itself as divided into two distinct classes of nations – not only rich vs. poor, but "grown-up" (the North) vs. "childish" (the South), "responsible" vs. "irresponsible", "hard working" vs. "lazy" – you get the idea. Not only is this dichotomy wildly simplistic, but it has spooky echoes of earlier classifications about IQ, ethnicity, race, religion – things that nobody wants to talk about.

But now that Mrs Merkel and Mr Draghi have taken over the management of the euro crisis, sitting in judgment over the poor Greek state like stern parents preaching abstinence, it feels like the right time to offer a few kind words about the post-war European project, and about its future – from a perspective of 5,000 miles away.

The first point is that no matter what bad names American Presidential candidates attach to the European welfare state, it's a pretty spectacular achievement, and one that Europeans should be proud of. If you only knew how hard it is to live in the US without the safety net of a welfare state! How much effort parents put into finding either a decent public school for their kids, or enough money to send them to an expensive private one. How much time Americans waste dealing with their private medical insurance plans, and how, at least until Obama-care kicks in years from now (if it ever does), the many millions without insurance let their illnesses worsen to a point where they can hardly walk through a hospital door. I could go on. The point is that for me and other admirers, the European welfare state doesn't look like a universal fact of Nature so much as an act of will and self-sacrifice. The EU really is based on the same noble premise: the wish to create a society of nations willing to look out for each other. Instead of shaking a parental finger at the errant Greeks, the EU would do better to find a way to nurture its partner-nation back to health by centralizing the debt and softening the rhetoric of austerity.

The second point is probably obvious to the point of banality – and yet, given the anti-American feeling of many European intellectuals, it may also sound counter-intuitive: Europe seems still to be suffering from a post-war inferiority complex, which makes it admire and emulate the US for the wrong reasons. Take the speculation of the past twenty years. Rather than looking at the heated-up American markets with a dose of scepticism, too many Europeans jumped on the bandwagon. Following the rhetoric of both the American Right and Left, several European countries tried to privatize public services, but without much success: they didn't gain popular support or cut their costs to any significant degree. Their mistake was that they saw the US as a European outpost (or Europe as an American outpost!) instead of what it really is: a rich Third World country with a weird overlay of Puritanism.

A few summers ago I saw a TV interviewer ask Slavoj Zizek if he liked being European: "Oh sure," he said, "it's the only big public space in the world where one is free to be an atheist." Underneath the clowning, I thought he was saying something important. If you look around the globe, you'll see that he was right. He was expressing a necessary Eurocentrism that wasn't snobbery as much as gratitude: a lot of the best European thinking (humanism, the Enlightenment, scientific inquiry, etc.) thrives best in an atmosphere where religion or worship of the state aren't oppressive forces.

So then – why can't the euro crisis be an opportunity for Europe to take a hard look at its past and future? To get some distance from either the American or Chinese models, and come up with a quieter, more humane, less volatile system than either of the superpowers is able to muster? Maybe it's asking too much of a group of nations still learning to get along with each other, but doesn't it make more sense to rekindle a sense of solidarity within the EU than to break Europe up into classes again while the financiers wait for the next exciting way to fill their pockets?

This article was commissioned by Berliner Gazette.


Published 2012-03-12

Original in English
First published in Eurozine (German version); Berliner Gazette (German version)

© George Blecher
© Eurozine

Focal points     click for 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]

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 focus
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

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?
Victor Tsilonis
Greek bailout referendum, Euro Summit, Germope
Victor Tsilonis of "Intellectum" (Greece) comments on recent developments in the Greek crisis: the short-lived euphoria of the 5 July referendum, Alexis Tsipras's subsequent "mental waterboarding", and the outlook for a German-led Europe. [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
Does migration intensify distrust in institutions?
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]

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.

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

Felix Stalder
Digital solidarity
As the culture and institutions of the Gutenberg Galaxy wane, Felix Stalder looks to commons, assemblies, swarms and weak networks as a basis for remaking society in a more inclusive and diverse way. The aim being to expand autonomy and solidarity at the same time. [more]

Literature     click for more

Olga Tokarczuk
A finger pointing at the moon
Our language is our literary destiny, writes Olga Tokarczuk. And "minority" languages provide a special kind of sanctuary too, inaccessible to the rest of the world. But, there again, language is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond itself and starts to create an alternative world. [more]

Piotr Kiezun, Jaroslaw Kuisz
Literary perspectives special: Witold Gombrowicz
The recent publication of the private diary of Witold Gombrowicz provides unparalleled insight into the life of one of Poland's great twentieth-century novelists and dramatists. But this is not literature. Instead: here he is, completely naked. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
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]

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.
Law and Border. House Search in Fortress Europe
The 26th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Conversano, 3-6 October 2014
Eurozine's 2014 conference in southern Italy, not far from Lampedusa, addressed both EU refugee and immigration policies and intellectual partnerships across the Mediterranean. Speakers included Italian investigative journalist Fabrizio Gatti and Moroccan feminist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rita El Khayat. [more]

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

powered by