A Philosopher’s Mission to Save the EU

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Georg Diez, November 25, 2011. Translated from the German by Paul Cohen. Watch the 5 photos by internal link.

Jürgen Habermas has had enough. The philosopher is doing all he can these days to call attention to what he sees as the demise of the European ideal. He hopes he can help save it – from inept politicians and the dark forces of the market. Jürgen Habermas is angry. He’s really angry. He is nothing short of furious – because he takes it all personally … //  

… No Convictions:

  • And then he’s really angry again: “I condemn the political parties. Our politicians have long been incapable of aspiring to anything whatsoever other than being re-elected. They have no political substance whatsoever, no convictions.”
  • It’s in the nature of this crisis that philosophy and bar-room politics occasionally find themselves on an equal footing.
  • It’s also in the nature of this crisis that too many people say too much, and we could definitely use someone who approaches the problems systematically, as Habermas has done in his just published book.
  • But above all, it is in the nature of this crisis that the longer it continues, the more confusing it gets. It becomes more difficult to follow its twists and turns and to see who is responsible for what. And the whole time, alternatives are disappearing before our very eyes.
  • That’s why Habermas is so angry: with the politicians, the “functional elite” and the media. “Are you from the press?” he asks a man in the audience who has posed a question. “No? Too bad.”
  • Habermas wants to get his message out. That’s why he’s sitting here. That’s why he recently wrote an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, in which he accused EU politicians of cynicism and “turning their backs on the European ideals.” That’s why he has just written a book – a “booklet,” as he calls it – which the respected German weekly Die Zeit promptly compared with Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.”
  • But does he have an answer to the question of which road democracy and capitalism should take?

A Quiet Coup d’État: … //

… A Vague Future and a Warning from the Past:

  • All he offers is the kind of vision that a constitutional theorist is capable of formulating: The “global community” will have to sort it out. In the midst of the crisis, he still sees “the example of the European Union’s elaborated concept of a constitutional cooperation between citizens and states” as the best way to build the “global community of citizens.”
  • Habermas is, after all, a pragmatic optimist. He does not say what steps will take us from worse off to better off.
  • What he ultimately lacks is a convincing narrative. This also ties Habermas once again to the Occupy movement. But without a narrative there is no concept of change.
  • He receives a standing ovation at the end of his presentation.
  • “If the European project fails,” he says, “then there is the question of how long it will take to reach the status quo again. Remember the German Revolution of 1848: When it failed, it took us 100 years to regain the same level of democracy as before.”
  • A vague future and a warning from the past — that’s what Habermas offers us. The present is, at least for the time being, unattainable. (full long 2 pages text).

(My comment: unfortunately it’s not only in Germany like that. What about spending our politicians a crash course about: how react correctly when we are blackmailed).


Watch this video: Save the Rich by Garfunkel and Oates, 2.09 min, uploaded Nov. 9, 2011.

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