Footnotes on Jürgen Habermas’ lecture in Leuven about the European crisis
This post is archived. Opinions expressed herein may no longer represent my current views. Links, images and other media might not work as intended. Information may be out of date. For further questions contact me.
On April 26 2013, I had the great honor to attend a lecture on Democracy, Solidarity, and the European Crisis by one of the foremost thinkers of our age, Professor Jürgen Habermas. The event, which can now be watched online, took place at the premises of a very important center of knowledge in Belgium, if not worldwide, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and was introduced by the President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy.
The purpose of the present blog post is not to put forward a eulogy to Habermas, nor to engage in a hermeneutical exercise of the meaning underlying his pronouncements, but only to isolate some of the key remarks in his speech and use them as an impetus for propounding my own thoughts on the subjects concerned.
Without willing to dwell on introductory remarks, I shall proceed with the present post that is divided into thematic sections that are based on quotes excerpted from the transcript of Habermas’ lecture. Please note that this is a very long piece of text, containing a number of ideas I have on a range of issues and, as such, I would recommend that you consider each section as an article in its own capacity, even though all of them are constituent parts of the same architecture of thought and should be treated as such (I allowed each section to have its own permanent link which you can copy, bookmark or share separately). Parts I, II and III are closely related to actual European politics, whereas IV falls under the realm of political theory, most probably in the Aristotelean sense of the term “political”.
I. “Postponing democracy is a rather dangerous move”
II. The politics of the Eurocore
III. Germany in the context of an asymmetric Europe
IV. Of the organic democracy and its tension with the heteronomy of the existing nation-state
I. “Postponing democracy is a rather dangerous move”
On the tension between technocracy and democracy that is inherent in European integration and especially on the Blueprint towards a Deep and Genuine Economic Monetary Union that was put forth by the Commission in late 2012, Habermas spoke thus:
Supranational democracy remains the declared long term goal on paper. But postponing democracy is a rather dangerous move. If the economic constraints by the markets happily meet the flexibility of a free-floating European technocracy, there arise the immediate risk that the gradual unification process which is planned for, but not by the people will grind to a halt before the proclaimed goal of rebalancing the executive and the parliamentary branches is reached. Uncoupled from democratically enacted law and without feedback from the pressing dynamics of a mobilized political public sphere and civil society, political management lacks the impulse and the strength to contain and redirect the profit-oriented imperatives of investment capital into socially compatible channels. As we can observe already to-day, the authorities would more and more yield to the neoliberal pattern of politics. A technocracy without democratic roots would not have the motivation to accord sufficient weight to the demands of the electorate for a just distribution of income and property, for status security, public services, and collective goods when these conflicted with the systemic demands for competitiveness and economic growth. […]
[T]he steering capacities which are lacking at present, though they are functionally necessary for any monetary union, could and should be centralized only within the framework of an equally supranational and democratic political community.
In as far as technocracy is concerned, I certainly agree with the distinguished professor. Besides, I have already published a scathing critique on the rise of technocracy in Europe (December 15, 2012), as a reaction to the Commission’s blueprint and the European Council’s corresponding roadmap for the completion of the EMU. Today, under the profoundly intergovernmental principle of “shared sovereignty” or “joint responsibility”, decision makers have emphasized on the rules and institutions governing the fiscal conduct of individual Member States. The deficiencies of the original Stability and Growth Pact, namely the effective non-enforcability of its provisions on an ex ante basis, are now being addressed by means of secondary legislation that have introduced such confederal arrangements as the European Semester and which have placed the ideocentric foundations for the installation of a permanent “troika” mechanism of surveillance and economic control, manifested in the euphemistically branded “reform contracts” for “competitiveness and growth”.
There is no doubt whatsoever that institutions must be set in place to provide for the application of laws and agreements and to ensure the predictability and foreseeability of political action at the Community level, as well as guarantee a degree of coordination and homogeneity. What has been meticulously omitted from this much-needed reformulation of the legal-institutional context, is the corresponding legitimacy that derives from the sovereignty of the citizens. The reconstruction of the EMU has been limited to the reinforcement of the preemptive and corrective arms of fiscal discipline and macroeconomic symmetry, exemplified in the fiscal compact, the two-pack and the six-pack. In this regard and without having improved the input legitimacy of the institutional architecture, Europe qua technocratic abstraction presents itself as the arbiter of economic prudence and the enforcer of budgetary orthodoxy, without any citizen or collective of citizens having a direct say on the matter; for while the EU is an amalgamation of democratic states, at least in principle or on paper, it nonetheless is not a genuine (representative) democracy as such, since as the fallacy of composition clearly illustrates, the aggregation of the parts is not necessarily equal to the whole; and the “whole” that is the EU unfortunately has as its executive function the Commission, which is non-electable by the citizens, and the European Council that is a platform for intergovernmental deliberations which on their own capacity are devoid of input legitimacy, let alone transparency, as they are an amalgamation of often opaque governmental interests, rather than having an organic form, as ought to be the case in any fully integrated polity, where the popular will is transmitted via the numerous media of political action to the decision-makers and vice versa, in a manner that represents a unified entity in which one part cannot operate without the other; or in other words, in which secrecy and democratic illegitimacy are not tolerated and cannot withstand the test of time.
Underpinning these shifts in European diplomacy from looser inter-governmentalism to tighter confederalism, is the static rationale of incrementalism to integration, which presupposes the passivity of the electorate vis-à-vis the harmonization or approximation of the technocratic aspects of the EU, the corresponding concentration of power at the EU level and the concomitant erosion of democracy at the national level and in whole, manifested in the incapacity of an elected government—any government at any level of power—and a politically-conscious populous to conduct, inter alia, economic policy on a self-determined basis. The most visible change that the Great Recession and the Eurocrisis brought upon Europe is the realization by the people that the European Union, apart from being heavily exposed to the vicissitudes of global finance, shadowy banking and the increasing complexity of financial and fiscal engineering, is of utmost importance in the daily life of each citizen, even at the local level, which suggests that the pervasive indifference that once allowed European politicians congregating some European institution to determine policy in the absence of popular will or even against such a volksgeist, is about to become—or already is—a legacy of the old, probably defunct modus operandi of European integration.
As I have noted before in my critique of European meta-nationalism and the usually oneiric exogenous impetus to integration it makes judicious reference to, the magnificent phantomality of “More Europe”, the vagueness and nothingness it entails, cannot delude vigilant citizens for much longer, for it has already been understood that state power must be counter-balanced by popular control and meaningful participation, rather than the pitiful scaffolds appended to the EU architecture on the institutional “involvement” of citizens within the framework of the year 2013, the “European year of citizens”; implying that a thoroughgoing democratization of the EU edifice is necessary in present time, not as a groundless wish or a figment for the years to come; because as soon as citizens witness, for instance, the annual budget of their elected government being vetoed against by the Commission, following the proceedings of the European semester, they will no longer be keen to proceed with “more Europe”, as that phraseology will rightly offer them the impression of granting even more power to unelected overlords and economic tzars. A genuine EMU pre-requires the institution of a true European democracy—and it needs it now, before the euroscepticism of our time blends naturally with the exuberant europhobia that technocratic oversight over daily political life will certainly engender.
Alas, if one is to read through the aforementioned Commission Blueprint for the EU, will see on page 35 the clear intention to obfuscate and to hide the fact that the we are already living in a democratically inadequate European entity; in a piece of text which, in addition, provides the grounds for the derision and vilification of anyone willing to extend a critique to the citadel of technocracy that is gaining shape in Europe. The said text of page 35 of the Blueprint reads as follows (emphasis mine):
The Lisbon Treaty has perfected the EU’s unique model of supranational democracy, and in principle set an appropriate level of democratic legitimacy in regard of today’s EU competences. Hence, as long as EMU can be further developed on this Treaty basis, it would be inaccurate to suggest that insurmountable accountability problems exist.
I am afraid to point out that such Olympian pronouncements have nothing to do with reality and as a matter of fact they are a panoply of misinformation and falsehoods. The EU’s democratic legitimacy is largely inadequate and if there is no Treaty change, ideally a true European constitution, or at least a proto-contistution, it will be impossible to remain silent to the accountability and power asymmetries that will arise or be aggrandized and the problems resulting from them be exacerbated. Professor Habermas is certainly correct in saying that postponing democracy is a rather dangerous move, especially in these times where people across the land are becoming ever more loud and vociferous in asking for justice and democratic legitimacy, properly understood.
II. The politics of the Eurocore
Habermas clearly is in favor of a European democracy and he believes that this can or must emerge within the EU rather than being a democracy of the EU. He stated the following:
What is necessary in the first place is a consistent decision to expand the European Monetary Union into a Political Union (that would remain open, of course, to the accession of other EU member states, in particular Poland). This step would for the first time signify a serious differentiation of the Union into a core and a periphery. The feasibility of necessary changes in the European treaties would depend essentially on the consent of countries preferring to stay out. In the worst case a principled resistance had to be overcome only by a re-foundation of the Union (based on the existing institutions).
I term this kind of approach, which I essentially disagree with even though it is the zeitgeist in many influential circles, the politics of the “Eurocore”, for it clearly advocates the formation of a politically integrated core that will stand against or in juxtaposition to the rest of the EU’s Member States, presumably exerting a power of attraction on them, which is nonetheless a mere hypothesis of an optimistic sort. I have taken note of this tendency in many of my previous articles, such as “The (euro)crisis of nationalism” (August 6 2012) and “The failure of ideology, not Germany” (December 12, 2012).
The very existence of the Euro area, as a stage of closer state cooperation within the European Union, constitutes a turning point in the history of European integration. Its significance exists in the shift in approach the governments of Member States adopted with respect to the diplomatic means used for the further development of the European project. The principle of unanimity, which once was the condicio sine qua non for integration, was decisively swept into the dustbin of history with the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht and the consequent Treaties, which introduced the possibility of a number of states to proceed with further integration, leaving others behind in the process. The creation of the Euro as a de facto “enhanced cooperation” of certain Member States was the manifestation of this change in principles.
The euro was and is a stateless currency, yet it is crystal clear that the imaginary institutions of a fiat monetary system and a sovereign state are so inextricably bound up together, both conceptually and historically, that no monetary union per se may ever be made sustainable on a long term basis, as has already been proven to be the case with the eurocrisis; and, conversely, no unified state may ever be truly sovereign as state without a fully and properly functioning common currency in place. Historically, logically and practically the Euro has always been the conduit to a European federation, with the tacit understanding that “federation” in this respect means nothing more than a mere re-allocation of state functions across the various layers of government, without entailing some of the ideologically-intensive elements that the original federalist and democratic movements envisioned. Should a federation of this de-conceptualized version emerge in Europe in the years to come, it will most likely spring from the Euro area and might not necessarily encompass the EU as a whole but only a collective of states, who will effectively usurp the European Union or completely reshape its institutional morphology.
In light of the politics of the Eurocore and to appreciate the significance of the Euro in the concatenation of events leading to a European federation, it is of paramount importance to remind our selves of the original approach governments had to European politics. Ever since the early years of European integration, from the 1950’s onwards, the governments of the six founding Member States of the European Community thought it expedient and politically pragmatic to proceed with incremental and orderly steps for the harmonization of certain economic policies along the lines of the Aristotelian golden mean or, more fully, by adhering to the principle of unanimity as the only suitable way for the materialization of the project for an ever-closer community of states in the post-WWII Europe.
The process was excruciatingly slow, sclerotic and inefficient, requiring laborious efforts from all sides involved, in finding common grounds for agreement between all six governments whose commitment to economic protectionism was still quite strong and readily apparent. Protectionist mentalities did indeed hamper European integration in its early decades, preventing the implementation of important agreements on the single market. Had it not been for the broad interpretations of the Treaties from the side of the European Court of Justice, it could well be said that the political deadlocks could persist for years, making an already cumbersome process ever more inflexible and unworkable.
For reasons that transcend the boundaries of the present essay, this approach was effectively, though partially, discarded with the ratification of the Treaty of Maastricht in the early 1990’s. It then became possible, especially theoretically or rather in terms of political strategy, for certain Member States to proceed with deeper integration while other states could choose to remain outside of the process, clinging on to their sovereignty and the specificities of their national agenda. This change in diplomatic conduct did in effect signify the end or the beginning of the end of the principle of unanimity or consensus as the precondition to integration. Most importantly it effectively separated the European Union as such from the objective of a European federation. The two were no longer considered identical or necessary parts of one another, litanies to the contrary notwithstanding. Though never admitted in the open, it was implicit in the 1990’s agreements that European integration could and would thenceforth mainly be predicated on the basis of the intergovernmental cooperation of a number of consenting states, who would in effect establish a permanent majority within the broader European Union architecture, to forward their own understanding of a European political union. Such a permanent majority has been no other than the euro area’s Member States, which in the passage of time have shown signs of acting more like a unified bloc rather than an amalgamation of otherwise squabbling states; in spite of occasional differences in opinion, approach, tone and objectives. The opt out clauses from the euro area that the UK and Denmark received were the first signs of this seemingly timid and cautious yet profoundly radical shift in political approach. Their exclusion from the monetary union made it evident, even though it remained tacit, that under certain perhaps pressing conditions some states could choose to proceed further in pursuit of any common objective deemed essential for the continuation of the European project, while others could decide not to be involved, remaining therefore at an outer ring, so to speak, of the evolving European Community.
The inferences that could be drawn—and were drawn—from the application of this principle were and still are quite far-reaching. For if it were legitimate or expedient to introduce opt-out clauses for certain states under a given political, economic, social and legal context, with the aim of allowing other Member States to commit to further integration, then it could be claimed, using the same tenets of reasoning, that a complete federation of a sort could emerge within the European Union, not necessarily from or of the European Union. The creation of the euro had set in place a precedent that would—and did—put two irreconcilable world views on European integration, in a collision course, where only one would prevail, leading us to either a loosely confederated, slightly hermaphrodite political system centered around the single market and its related areas of policy; or throwing us into a political milieu where the states in support of full integration would gain the upper hand, and by exercising their majority power, would gradually but systematically usurp the existing complex, multi-tier European superstructure.
Such a scenario can be particularly plausible once considered within the framework of the institutional but mostly political dichotomy within the European Union architecture between Euro area Member States and non-members. The EU as a whole, the one which transcends the boundaries of the monetary union, has in fact no real reason—no pressing need—to pursue any ambitious political end, for its very existence is not directly dependent on the degree of harmonization of policies its Member States may achieve, nor on the scope of such policies. As amiable as the EU, this sui generis political entity, may be for many people, as lofty as the principles underpinning it undoubtedly are, it must be stressed that its very form or main function is rather limited to the maintenance of a certain degree of conformity to some general guidelines of economic policy. The EU’s raison d’être is in practice to maintain a relative free trade zone in Europe, a quasi-single market, always by respecting one of the oldest meta-ethical doctrines of European political thought, that of the national sovereignty of all of its Member States. It is almost impossible for the EU qua single market organization to circumvent the obstacles that national sovereignties pose towards a transitory process for genuine federalization.
In contrast the euro area, for it to be economically but mostly socially and politically sustainable as a monetary union or as a union per se, may sooner or later only follow either of the two paths:
- the suboptimal one: the one leading to the orderly disintegration of the euro and the gradual re-introduction of national currencies, or to the creation of two or more homogeneous currency unions, to cater to the particular needs of the states involved, as a counter-measure to the impracticable one-size-fits-all approach in the absence of a surplus recycling mechanism,
- the optimal one: to the genuine federalization of the euro area, which implies the formation of a banking union, a fiscal union and a democratic political union to complete and to render workable the euro as a common currency and as a shared political cause.
With the above in mind, it is crystal clear that what Habermas suggests, is but a re-affirmation of the principle that has been carefully and consistently applied over the last two decades or so. The politics of the Eurocore are the standard of our time, be it a desirable one or not, thus the problématique which arises, at least for those willing to remain open to the greater picture, is to make them as workable as possible, so that they do not end up being divisive and to result in the kind of fission that characterizes European political history. Understandably the implicit “we-they” approach to integration and the accompanying introduction of ad hoc opt-outs or other institutional arrangements that compound the complexity of the broader edifice, shall place a time bomb at the foundations of the European polity, by producing varying and inconsistent classes of states and of citizens.
III. Germany in the context of an asymmetric Europe
Habermas also elaborated on his views about solidarity and the role of Germany in the present European context, saying that:
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.
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.
The element of correctness of this proposition exists in the fact that it recognizes the correlation between national unity and European orientation and that it stresses the importance of the formulation of a European social imaginary that shall provide the foundations for the political solidarity that citizens across countries will show, in having a normative obligation to provide to their fellows whatever they can afford in times of need, expecting for reciprocity in time.
Solidarity, in its political and meta-ethical sense, only exists as the outward manifestation of the imaginary collectivity, as the primordial commandment for political action in the name of the collective, the milieu which furnishes one with all there is, in the socio-political order of things. In that sense, it has nothing to do with the altruistic teachings of wise people of the past and present, but with a tacit political obligation that is embedded deeply in the shared or common tissue of fixed perceptions that pseudo- a prioristic incorporealities bestow upon the acting subject. Solidarity as a self-instituted political act constitutes the cornerstone of the primary rules that ensure the integrity of the polity, along the lines of a constant reaffirmation of the commitment to the political process.
Against this backdrop, one is permitted to proclaim that in the absence of a European shared political perspective no solidarity of the political sort can be sustained, for the present reality of ad hoc fiscal transfers, conducted under the duress of markets and economic constraints, may only give rise to essentially xenophobic and fractionalistic tendencies.
Nevertheless, the formulation of a shared meta-narrative per se cannot be perceived as a remedy in its own accord and in an ex ante sense, for the quality and content of this imaginary is of cardinal importance in determining the longer-term effect on the community, the fusion or fission it will bring about. In line with what was elucidated in the previous section on the politics of the eurocore, the tendency of the present is to provide the first elements to a European metanationalism that necessitates a European identity, unfortunately brought about through the application of the methodological means of nationalism, in the identification of the people with a state of affairs and a given territory.
It is indeed correct to emphasize the need for all participants to account for the others, but this ought to be embedded in an understanding of the whole, rather than as a sectarian power surge that seeks to unite the “us” as against the arbitrarily defined otherness.
The kind of shared political perspective that the German government and others are molding is one that stems from the further integration of the Euro area, along the lines of an ordoliberal conception of the politico-economic order and in the framework of a confederated European institutional environment that introduces different classes of Member States and their people, thus providing grounds for contradiction and separation, instead of offering a benign impulse for the harmonious combination and infusion of the parts into the whole.
Germany cannot have a hegemonic role in Europe, even if that is depicted as a pressing necessity of the times, for that shall bring about the beginning of the end of the community element that is needed to construct a European democracy. There can be no hierarchies of this sort in a Europe that has been plagued by hegemonic syndromes and nationalistic antagonisms, underpinned by superiority complexes and the exuberant or banal racism they entail.
That granted, it is not enough to speak of the need for Germany to proceed with genuine solidarity, in the sense Habermas ascribes to the term, but to call for a novel approach to European politics, one that is inclusive and which is the product of deliberations among equals, rather than a set of edicts from a superior to an inferior in a typical power structure that cannot withstand the pressures a freedom-seeking people will exert upon it.
As such, the idea of a presumably enlightened “leadership role” for Germany is a pernicious folly, as it places the seeds of hegemonism at the heart of the European project, even if the intention is towards the opposite direction. The role Germany and all others need to conform with, is that of members of a community of equals, at the governmental and citizen level; as a collective of people who ought to define mutually beneficial ends, freed from national prejudices and stereotypical perceptions of policy and polity. This differs fundamentally from what we are currently witnessing or from what may be furnished upon us in the years ahead, should a state or group of states decide to impose upon the rest their understanding of “the good”, in the name or under the pretense of some mystical “historical” responsibility of theirs to act with an iron will (and fist).
IV. Of the organic democracy and its tension with the heteronomy of the existing nation-state
Habermas also touched upon the presumed function of the nation-state in the supranational structure of a European democracy and suggested something which appears to be very similar, in terms of substance, to a position that moderately conservative leaders such as Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso have put forth before. The following quote is one that I, a libertarian federalist, will subject to criticism:
On the other hand, the step to supranational democracy need not be conceived as a transition to a “United States of Europe.” “Confederation” versus “Federal state” is a false alternative (and a specific legacy of the constitutional discussion in 19th century Germany). The nation states can well preserve their integrity as states within a supranational democracy by retaining both their roles of the implementing administration and the final custodian of civil liberties.
Superficially the argument is plausible, for it suggests the mere addition of a democratic layer on top of the existing administrative architectures across Europe; and in some way, this is already happening to a considerable degree with the piles of European legislation being infused into national law. The presumption is that the democratic legitimation of the European political level can be achieved without substantial material and meta-ethical changes; that is to say without a root and branch reformulation of the imaginary institutions and meta-narratives underpinning the European polity. Such an essentially statist position rests on the age-old perception of the social contract as a pseudo-pragmatic manifestation of an agreement among citizens incorporated in a constitution from whence political legitimacy—sovereignty—springs from. The antecedence of the state and its presupposed legitimacy ex ante was introduced to the history of “Western” thought in Plato’s “Crito”, in which Socrates justifies his acceptance of the death sentence against him on the grounds of a tacit contractual obligation of his to the polity of Athens. In a similar sense, the constitutionalization per se of the EU edifice which does not necessitate the profound reorganization of the political order across Europe, can provide the legal fundament upon which European democracy will be erected, as yet another application of a theory that attributes sovereignty to the incorporealities emerging from the trapping of the imaginary named “social contract”.
The tension, if not antinomy, inherent in that conception exists in the indirectness in which legitimacy is achieved as a one-off deal rather than a continuous process of affirmation and self-institution through inclusive and substantive action on a popular level, via participation and interaction; for if the phantomality of the social contract qua legal fundament provides the patina of legitimacy to the state as such, then the organic interrelation of an autonomous polity is rendered obsolete, by virtue of the hetero-institution of legitimacy as an hegemonic and a prioristic, ex cathedra commandment, which transcends the specificities of self-will and time.
The phantasmagorized hetero-institution of society as a passive recipient of enlightened legality has been the standard method for the allocation of power among the members and classes of the arbitrary collective and has had varying forms throughout its long history, either as theocratic totalitarianism, secular imperialism or liberal statism, as in all cases the logos of legality has been the fictionalized emanation of the upper source, of the elite, in its theological, meta-ethical and meta-political context, as that which stands in contradistinction to the self-determination of the citizen qua individual or collective who is bound by—and who operates within—the specificities of locality, culturality, institutionality and temporality.
Politics as the distribution of power among the members of the organized human society, can only be of an autonomous, organic form once founded upon the basis of a self-instituted-and-instituting collective of sovereign citizens, of self-conscious political actors who are fully aware that legitimacy stems from within, as a continuous affirmation, a confirmation of the popular will, as an ongoing process of creative-and-creating change in the imaginary institutions that permeate and penetrate political conduct, in the primary rules that establish primordial relations and in the secondary rules that stipulate specific conditionalities for given actions.
Organic democracy as the polity of an autonomous society cannot withstand the hetero-institution that constitutionalism, nationalism, theocracy or other emanations of the incorporeal universal collective bestow upon the minds of the participants in the political process. A democracy that springs from the top, or from an exterior source that is indirectly related to the existing citizens cannot be anything than an enlightened version of the oligarchies and other heteronomous concoctions of political control that have dominated the history of humankind; as in those arrangements the meta-political element is that of a robust hierarchy, with legitimacy concentrated in an elitist center of a kind, whereas in contrast the organic polity is the self-determined society that always exists in the present as a continuous affirmation of legitimacy stemming from each and every citizen and which is free from any influence that spectralized collectives may impose upon political drasis and theorisis.
The “who” and the “what” in an organic democracy are determined from within, without any power structure determining the order and manner of that which is, in the way and extent that it is. Consequently, the preservation of the nation-state as the effective conservation of the meta-ethical incorporeality of the nation qua ontology cannot be perceived as anything but a permutation in the spectrum of heteronomy, as yet another manifestation of the exterior “who” and “what” that shapes and animates the society of citizens in ways that transcend individualities, space, time and related particularities. The hetero-institution of this nationalism can only be a hierarchical structure that places the locus of sovereignty in the fantastic realms of nationality and supra-nationality, whose being is postulated as anterior to the citizen and whose superiority to them is perceived as a given, as a quasi-religious conviction whose ethical veneer cannot be penetrated by the logic of the will to autonomy. The nation-state as being the “custodian” of civil liberties is but another application of the heteronomous doctrines that dominate history; it is, in other words, a reconfiguration, perhaps a relative rationalization, of the suboptimality that already exists.
An organic democracy in Europe cannot exist in the presence of such meta-narratives that are attached to the now-exalted notions of “nation” and “state”, for their being fictitious universalities introduces the heteronomous element to political action, undermining the self-determination and auto-institution of the citizens’ society.
One may only pause to ponder on all of the above, thinking of our present predicament, to choose the kind of future we wish to make out of it, for us.
Picture credit: Protesilaos Stavrou, Creative Commons BY-NC-SA