Saturday, May 11, 2013

Habermas: a solidariedade é do interesse da Alemanha

In the wake of the shock of the defeat of 1945 and the moral catastrophe of the Holocaust, prudential reasons of regaining the international reputation destroyed by its own actions already made it imperative for the Federal Republic of Germany to promote an alliance with France and to pursue European unification. In addition, being embedded in a context of neighboring European countries under the hegemonic protection of the United States provided the context in which the German population at large could develop a liberal self-understanding for the first time. This arduous transformation of a political mentality, which in the old Federal Republic remained captive to fateful continuities for decades, can not be taken for granted. That shift in mindset occurred in tandem with a cautiously cooperative promotion of European unification. Moreover, the success of this policy was an important precondition for solving a more long-standing historical problem that I am concerned with in the first place.
After the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, Germany assumed a fatal “semi-hegemonic status” in Europe — in Ludwig Dehios’s words, it was “too weak to dominate the continent, but too strong to bring itself into line.”[13] It is in Germany's interest to avoid a revival of this dilemma that was overcome only thanks to European unification. This is why the European question, which has been intensified by the crisis, also involves a domestic political challenge for Germans. The leadership role that falls to Germany today for demographic and economic reasons is not only awakening historical ghosts all around us but also tempts us to choose a unilateral national course, or even to succumb to power fantasies of a “German Europe” instead of a “Germany in Europe”. We Germans should have learned from the catastrophes of the first half of the twentieth century that it is in our national interest to avoid permanently the dilemma of a semi-hegemonic status that can hardly held up without sliding into conflicts. Helmut Kohl’s achievement is not the reunification and the reestablishment of a certain national normality per se, but the fact that this happy event was coupled with the consistent promotion of a policy that binds Germany tightly into Europe.
Germany not only has an interest in a policy of solidarity; I would propose that it has even a corresponding normative obligation. Claus Offe tries to defend this thesis with three contested arguments. To date, Germany has derived the greatest benefit from the single currency through the increase in its exports. Because of these export surpluses Germany furthermore contributes to aggravating the economic imbalances within the monetary union and, in its role as a contributory cause, is part of the problem. Finally, Germany itself is even profiting from the crisis, because the increase in interest rates for the government bonds of the crisis-hit countries is matched by a decrease in the interest rates on German government bonds.[14] Even if we accept the arguments, the normative premise that these asymmetric effects of the politically unregulated interdependencies between the national economies entail an obligation to act in solidarity is not quite easy to explain.


These European states assumed their present-day form of welfare states only after the catastrophes of the two world wars. In the course of economic globalization, these states find themselves in turn exposed to the explosive pressure of economic interdependencies that now tacitly permeate national borders. Systemic constraints again shatter the established relations of solidarity and compel us to reconstruct the challenged forms of political integration of the nation state. This time, the uncontrolled systemic contingencies of a form of capitalism driven by unrestrained financial markets are transformed into tensions between the member states of the European Monetary Union. If one wants to preserve the Monetary Union, it is no longer enough, given the structural imbalances between the national economies, to provide loans to over-indebted states so that each should improve its competitiveness by its own efforts. What is required is solidarity instead, a cooperative effort from a shared political perspective to promote growth and competitiveness in the euro zone as a whole.
Such an effort would require Germany and several other countries to accept short- and medium-term negative redistribution effects in its own longer-term self-interest — a classic example of solidarity, at least on the conceptual analysis I have presented.

Democracy, Solidarity and the European Crisis

Lecture delivered by Professor Jürgen Habermas on 26 April 2013 in Leuven


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