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Toward A European Political Community.pdf

Toward A European Political Community.pdf

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Society Abr oad Abroad

TOWARD A EUROPEAN POLITICAL COMMUNITY
Jürgen Habermas

T

here is a peculiar contrast between the expectations and demands of those “very first Europeans” who dedicated themselves immediately after the Second World War to drafting the project which would further the goals of political unity in Europe and those whose task now consists of fostering the original aims of that same project.What strikes onlookers is the downward spiralling rhetoric register allied to the stark contrast regarding objectives. Although forerunner generations talked freely about the “United States of Europe” and made frequent comparisons with the USA, current discussions make no reference to such role models. Even the word “federalism” is unpalatable. Our current European situation cannot be compared to the one experienced by the “federalists” or the Assemblie nationale members. After 200 years of practical constitutional experience we no longer simply follow well-trodden paths and the constitutional issue cannot solve the problems at hand. Indeed, the challenge involved is not so much to invent something new but rather to preserve the achievements of the European nation state beyond its national boundaries in some other form; the only novel aspect is the new entity that will arise from this. The most powerful driving force behind integration right up to Helmut Kohl’s generation was the desire to put an end to the history of bloody wars in Europe.Another reason was to bind Germany firmly to Europe in order to mitigate the great historic distrust towards the politically insecure nation at the heart of Europe which was soon restored to economic health. From the outset, of course, there was a third consideration; quite simply, an interest in the economic unification of Europe. Since the onset of the Coal and Steel Community (1951), more and more countries have been brought together
58 SOCIETY • JULY / AUGUST 2002

through the mutual exchange of manpower and goods, capital and services; a process which culminated in the creation of the Common Market and the introduction of a common currency. However, economic expectations do not suffice when it comes to mobilizing popular political support for a high-risk project like the establishment of a union worthy of its name. For that you need a mutually compatible set of values. The transition societies in Central Eastern Europe that wish to join the European Union (EU) have to cope with the hard challenges posed by the break-up of a system; yet in response they chose to return to the nation state. Such countries cannot muster any enthusiasm for the transferral of their newly reinstated sovereign rights to European authorities. The lack of motivation on both sides only ser ves to reveal more strongly the shortcomings at the purely economic level. These should be joined together with quite different types of ideas in order to convince the majority of member states of the need for a change in the political status quo; for example, through the idea of preserving specific cultures and ways of life whose existence is now threatened. The great majority of European citizens are united by their desire to protect a way of life which they were able to develop during three post-war decades last century while being fortunate enough to live on the right side of the Iron Curtain. Of course, rapid economic growth provided the basis for the social welfare state which allowed for a regeneration process in post-war societies. Yet only one result really counts in this regeneration process—the emergence of wealth and national diversity in distinctive, separate ways of life based on an appealingly renewed culture going back hundreds of years and bolstered by prosperity and security.

Euro-sceptics reject a transfer of a basis of authority from international agreements to a European constitution on the grounds “that there is no European people. The coordination of other areas of politics would undoubtedly lead to a concentration of authority.” However. The crux is the disparity between the closeknit economic cooperation versus the relatively loose-knit political one in addition to the democratic shortcomings of the decision-making processes. Attempts to use the current problems involving expansion as a means of tackling more deepseated structural problems have been unsuccessful.or medium-sized nation states capable of acting independently when left to their own devices in order to resist being drawn into becoming assimilated to a social model which today’s dominant world economic force is proffering to them? Just as the Europeans want to balance out the undesirable social consequences of increasing inequality in distribution as well as exerting influence on a certain re-regulation of the world economy. the efforts of the (European) Union focused on the creation of monetary and economic union. The dense layers of European decision-making. are our small. we need a wider perspective going beyond this.”And the conference in Nice did nothing to ease the backlog of reforms either. Europe is much more than a market. otherwise Europe will become simply just another market which will disintegrate under the effects of globalization. the EU has put itself under pressure to reform since expanding the Union by twelve economically and socially relatively heterogeneous countries increases the complexity of regulation and voting requirements which cannot be overcome without further integration or “absorption. the collective singular known as “people” which could then set itself up as a nation with its own citizens. Mor e than a Mar ket More Mark In the argument over further EU expansion the economic advantages of European unification are viable only insofar as they have cultural appeal.This “no-Demos-thesis” has been criticized on abstract as well as empirical grounds. apparently. language and history. By setting an accession date for East European states. The threat to this way of life and the desire to preserve it arouses visions of a future Europe which is rising to the current challenges with one last innovative burst of strength. For this would deny the voluntary character of a nation state whose collective identity did not exist prior to the democratic process which. These two elements combined to produce the completely new phenomenon known as civic solidarity which has bound national societies together ever since.… Today. The discrepancy between the advanced economic integration and the lagging pace of political integration could be overcome by means of a policy aimed at promoting a higher level of political freedom of action in order to keep up with the deregulated markets. Even though a common language and way of life have facilitated this process of conscious awareness it cannot be assumed that the people take priority over the republic simply because democracy and the nation state have developed at the same pace. It symbolizes a social model whose growth has historical dimensions.A Social Model. In his brilliant speech of May 28.” as the former constitutional judge. After all. The lessons to be learned from the history of the emergence of Europe’s nation states are that the new forms of national identity have an artificial character which was only able to take shape under specific historical circumstances in the course of a lengthy process which lasted throughTOWARD A EUROPEAN POLITICAL COMMUNITY 59 . A nation of citizens should not be confused with a community bound together by a common fate unconnected with politics and characterized by shared origins. The national democratic state’s greatest achievement is reflected in the contrast between a nation state and a people’s nation through the status conferred by national citizenship which created a completely new and indeed abstract sense of legal solidarity. Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde. is the subject necessary to all constitutionallybased processes. although not vital to such states. they should also be interested in the negotiating power which an EU politically capable of action would have as one of the world’s global players. a context which stretches far beyond economic considerations. further exacerbating yet another dilemma. the lack of transparency as to how such decisions come about and the absence of opportunity for European citizens to get involved in the decision-making processes cause mistrust among the people. nevertheless gave birth to them. What is lacking. On the contrary: this process is part of an ongoing cycle in which national awareness and a democratic sense of citizenship have provided a mutually stabilizing basis. 2001 the French prime minister Lionel Jospin referred to this “European way of life” as the core of the political project:“Until very recently. wrote.

. Initially. This doubtless explains its aggressive disposition regarding expansion as well as its considerable potential for violence. Europe has to exercise on itself.out the 19th century. as part of a competing legislative system. the reflexive logic of that ongoing cycle which produced both the democratic state and the nation respectively. by means of ritualization. there would be a constitutional referendum which would unleash a great debate in the whole of Europe since the constitutionally-based process is. liberal and socialist interpretations of capitalist modernization. Europe. Yet two specific experiences within Europe have had a resounding impact on events. In the course of painful and often fatal entanglements Europe has learned to deal with the rivalry between ecclesiastical and secular powers. Should this be true. This formation of an identity owes itself to a painful process of abstraction which finally elevated local and dynastic loyalties to conscious awareness among democratic citizens of the desire to belong to the same nation. the schism between faith and knowledge. Europeans have displayed a productive attitude towards such challenges and have learned two important things: how to live with permanent stabilized conflicts and how to adopt a reflexive attitude towards their own traditions. We have achieved this not by resolving such conflicts but by turning them. The perceived transnational overlap of parallel running interests and similar sets of values would encourage the creation of a European party-political system and cross-border networks. there is no reason to assume that the formation of such a form of civic solidarity should stop at the boundaries of the nation state. the creation of a political culture. discontinuities and tension inherent in all modernization processes which it has experienced throughout the course of fume. into a permanent situation and a source of innovative energy. so to speak. Concern centres around the fact that the achievements of European culture have now spread worldwide. Such processes can be guided by a constitution acting in a certain sense as a catalyst in order to accelerate and steer everything to converge at a given point. However. 60 SOCIETY • JULY / AUGUST 2002 Second: Undoubtedly. A European constitution would not only expose the shift in power which has been quietly taking place. more so than other cultures. has undergone a history of far-reaching structurally rooted conflicts and tension. in itself. thus attracting more attention. the quarrels endemic among religious denominations and even the hostility and rivalry which exists between warmongering nation states. the necessity of a European civic society. both on a timescale dimension as well as a social level. a troubled debate on this subject is now under way. The circumstances under which a sense of national identity emerges do however remind us of the empirical requirements which have to be fulfilled in order for such an improbable formation of identity to spread beyond a country’s own national boundaries: first. then the Parliament. First: Once the EU was able to raise its own taxes and become financially autonomous and once the Commission and a permanent European Council were prepared to share government functions. the sole remedy for the democratic deficit is the simultaneous emergence in Europe of a public firmly rooted in the democratic process. Third: The politically-oriented public throughout Europe is dependent on the one hand on the lively pensions of civic-minded actors. democracy and human rights. a Constitutional Ref er endum Initially Refer erendum These three functional requirements of a democratically organized EU can be regarded as points of reference for complex yet converging developments. a singularly effective means of crossborder communication. Even although intellectuals up to the 19th century saw no apparent reason to reflect on the idea and essence of Europe.This applies not only to the missionaries of Christianity but also to secular achievements like science and technology.The classic partypolitical system ensures the reproduction of a broad spectrum of conservative. The political axis would revolve away from the national capitals closer towards Br ussels and Strasbour g. second. yet it skill needs to be rooted in a mutual political culture. the Europe of the French Revolution has instituted an ideological rivalry between political parties. would theoretically also be capable of communicating its already considerable powers better to the public. it would also encourage new constellations of power. Roman law and the Napoleonic code as well as the nation state. Within this social dimension modern Europe has devised procedures and institutions for dealing with intellectuals and social and political conflicts. the build-up of a politically oriented public throughout Europe and third. In response to the breaches. Initiall y.

The American Dream of 40 years ago. It was overconfident. Transaction and its flagship publication. look like an achievement. would have been requisite to make the dream sufficiently universal to endure. by con- trast. 2002 Author of: Abundance for What? — 1993* Thorstein Veblen — 1995* On Higher Education — 1998* The Academic Revolution — 2001* (with Christopher Jencks) * Refers to date of publication of the Transaction edition “What makes interpretive. Greek. Massive social inventions.. This historical background could smooth the way to post-nationalist democracy. ethnographic exploration so exciting is the opportunity to be surprised. and beyond these. Europe has displayed a consistent ability to adopt a sensitive attitude to the Janus-like face of modernism. At the heart of European identity lies the nature of the painful learning processes rather than the results there of. Roman and Christian heritage. a sense of civic fairness. history which has taught us how to manufacture increasingly abstract forms of “solidarity among strangers. to be curious about a phenomenon and then to discover that it is changing or different from what one had supposed. Neither “assimilation” nor mere “co-existence” can serve as suitable models for history such as this. 1909 — May 10. Society.... Certainly. founded as that is on mutual recognition of the differences between proud national cultures. If I did not fear for the planet.In the wake of the heroic intellectual assimilation of an incomparably rich Jewish. the egalitarian and individualistic universalism which characterizes our overall conception of ourselves to this day is not the least of European modernism’s achievements. I could regard domestic crusades with greater detachment. was in several senses of the word a domestic dream.. NEW JERSEY 08854-8042 TOWARD A EUROPEAN POLITICAL COMMUNITY 61 . a rapid growth of tolerance and even of empathy. The memory of the moral depths into which nationalist extremism led us makes our present political commitment. 1990) TRANSACTION PUBLISHERS RUTGERS—THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY PISCATAWAY. This article is based on a previous version that appeared in Deutschland magazine. but not mean-spirited..” Jürgen Habermas is one of Germany’s most influential contemporary philosophers and social scientists.” (David Riesman. “Innocence of The Lonely Crowd” from Society . with all its elements of boosterish optimism. mourn the loss of one of their closest friends and life-long contributors DAVID RIESMAN September 22.

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