Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Eurobarometer 2010 - 2020

Europe 2010 - 2020

The question of European governance is becoming paramount in view of the unsettling and deeply preturbing news about deficits in not only Greece, but in many other EU member states, including Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Portugal as well as in Germany, France and UK.

The European Commission has dedicated 2010 to combating poverty and social exclusion, but unfortunately culture is missing from the EU strategy paper for 2020 while the problem of unemployment is reduced to an acceptance of the given economic situation, if at least 75% of the working population finds employment.

A closer look at the parameters mentioned as being obstacles to social inclusion can all be subsumed under 'poverty of experience'. Insofar as those who fail to find employment and do not try again, they will confront very often fictitious, equally real limitations inside of themselves as much as in society. It has often been attributed to a lack of self confidence which contributes to a personal failure to integrate oneself in society and its work organizations.

In European reality with its institutionalized process, both socialization and cultural adaptation capacities make a real difference if someone fails or not to overcome the 'cutting edge of success'. If not, this person is bound to fail and thus stay below a certain level of co-existence with others struggling equally hard to make a living.

All these hardships can be considered as training grounds for self esteem, but not everyone shall make it. Hence there is also something at stake. At system level it is a matter what provisons can be made to alleviate the social plight of those without jobs. At social and cultural level, it is a matter if the moral authority of the person can be linked to the 'morality of payment' by which is meant as well recognition of the person's contributions with adequate compensation. Otherwise the system of selection (recruitment) will create criteria as to who is preferred to be hired e.g. the one having the reputation of being able to get things done. That means already the person is well adapted and suited for how the system works. Its chiffre is, however, of a different kind for those who seek to gain funds without having to work for it. That access to funds through the EU institutions is an extension of the lobby practice. How much these selection systems can err, that shows itself not only in the countless projects being funded without any significant impact but designed solely to consume money.

Aside from that it will also overlook creative people who are often shy and prefer to stay in the background, but who can offer many intuitive insights when given a chance to express themselves. Adorno once called it the 'boisterous newness' which drowns out everything else, including the shy ones. In the 21st century a new type will play out the game till all resources have been exhausted under this specific slogan and then move on. But it is not a new nomad in the making; rather, the Eurocrat under Delors shall be replaced by the school master turned official with no realization that hierarchical structures do not work.

Altogether citizen participation in the EU related decision making process has not been thematized although often this gap to the European institutions has been criticized (Jürgen Habermas). Basically it amounts to a failure to stand up to the coercive norm which links EU specific behavior to a certain terminology and model of behaviour. It is as if self governance is being practiced by a political administration, namely the European Commission, with everyone else wishing a share of the pie i.e. EU funds. How to make that accountable and transparent, that seems to be one of the most difficult processes which even the European Parliament does not succeed in as a whole. Consequently many stay away by default while others are driven out. Unfortunately these are often the most creative persons but who do not play along with the usual game being set anew every now and then.

That is why a European debate on how to link economy and culture should take place and not only for the sake of furthering innovation and creativity as new factors of productivity, but as a need to rethink qualification strategies while transforming firms and institutions into learning organisations putting a high emphasis on cultural experiences.

The gap between the spin-doctors and European reality

This deplorable situation in Europe 2010 reminds what economic historian Prof. Louis Baeck said already in 2006, namely that Europe has "a very mediocre record of economic growth and 13 million unemployed". The very high unemployment along with the poor economic record calls for more “efficient economic and monetary policies with visible social results". Yet this is not happening in his opinion, because there is to quote Goethe "a widening gap between Dichtung and Wahrheit” in Europe. To this has attested as well Bob Palmer when speaking most recently at the 25 years celebration of European Capitals of Culture in Brussels March 24 - 25, 2010. In other words, the gap between “the rhetoric of the EU-professionals and the real situation has never been so wide”.

Experiences with globalization and the need for a European accounting system

Louis Baeck has advocated such economic historical analysis which follows in the tradition of Polanyi, Schumpeter, Myrdal. While it is true that the budget has the final say in history (Schumpeter), a new cultural approach to the economic question must be attempted. Louis Baeck does not embrace either European Centrism nor a heavily leaning on the Atlantic tradition. The latter is based on a strict separation of economy and culture as advocated by the United States. In 2006 he published an article about the 'various stages of globalization' on the international platform organised by Jean Tardiff at www.planetagora.org. The intention behind this article is as he explains as follows:

This to illustrate that globalization is not that 'universal' but rather a cover for different experiences. The Americans come out with a new macro-economy on a global not a national scale like conventional macroeconomics. Especially the Europeans stay with the 'national' accounting. The Central Bank of Frankfurt are the monetarists of 2 decades ago. And the islamophobia, the unwill to reform and the pessimism in our continent make that we are the red lantern of the (trajectories).” (letter by Louis Baeck 12.4.2006)

In 2010 the Greek debt crisis highlights what this clinging to a national accounting system and an outdated monetaristic outlook entails especially for the Euro-zone. Europe can only get out of that crisis by translating its experiences with globalization into such economic governance which is based on a European wide accounting system. The latter should heed cultural differences especially when it comes to a most crucial term Louis Baeck coined to analyse the reason for the downfall of the Soviet Union, namely the 'morality of payment'. Such morality translated into a real commitment to pay back one's debts is crucial for retaining the confidence of the market forces.

In noticing that a sadness and pessimism dominates in Europe, he adds that the economic situation gives him the feeling that “something is burnt out in Europe and we play still schoolmasters for others, see the comedy towards Teheran.” (letter by Louis Baeck, 24.5.2006).

Can this be replaced in near future by a 'smile going through Europe', as envisioned by dancer choreographer Heike Henning in Leipzig? If yes, then optimism would have to be based on real success stories linking European citizens to EU institutions. Crucial for that to happen is that citizens and not the political elite takes possession of these institutions. For that to happen the European agenda must be made accountable to a bottom-up process when it comes to setting the agenda while the European Parliament must assure that a top-down information flow allows all citizens to participate actively in the system of Parliamentary democracy.


Further reading on the same subject matter:

Social Europe Journal, 7.5.2014

"Eurobarometer Says Goodbye To Social Europe" by Wolfgang Kowalsky

Working conditions are an important topic, in particular in the weeks before the EP election. The election campaign has started in many countries and voters are confronted with Eurosceptic arguments as well as with support for the European Union. Many MEPs try to sell the activities with which they were involved in the last 5 […]

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