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Met nog enkele dagen te gaan voor de EU-verkiezingen op 22 mei 2014 heeft de London Review of Books in zijn laatste nummer (22 mei) twee intrigerende stukken gepubliceerd over de EU en de Europese politieke situatie. Beide teksten zijn vrij toegankelijk op de site. Jan-Werner Müller bespreekt het boek Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy van Peter Mair (2013) in een artikel onder de titel: The Party’s over.
Dat wil hier zowel zeggen: 1) het feest van de ons vertrouwde democratie is voorbij, alsook 2) het is gedaan met de traditionele politieke partijen zoals we die ooit hebben gekend.
Het andere essay telt 17686 woorden en is van Perry Anderson: The Italian Disaster. Anderson doet aanschouwelijk uit de doeken hoe deerniswekkend en naargeestig de politiek-economische situatie is waarin EU-land Italië verkeert om te eindigen met de vrolijke vaststelling: “Italy is not an average member of the Union. But nor is it a deviant from any standard to which it could be adjusted. There is a consecrated phrase to describe its position, much used within and outside the country, but it is wrong. Italy is not an anomaly within Europe. It is much closer to a concentrate of it.” Italië als ingedikte, geconcentreerde, EU dus. Het houdt bepaald niet over.

Van Müllers review geef ik enkele saillante passages. Zowel zijn artikel als dat van Anderson zijn vrij integraal op de LRoB-site te lezen. http://www.lrb.co.uk/


Jan-Werner Müller (ingekort door mij; jm)
“There is a compelling case for thinking that something has gone badly wrong when we see ourselves as being ruled by unaccountable, supposedly apolitical experts, but the only prospect of rescue is afforded by populists who promise to hand power back to the people. The former give us identical policies everywhere and no politics; the latter, you might say, give us politics and no policies.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the European Union. As Mair makes clear, the purpose of European integration was from the start to create a ‘protected sphere’ – protected, that is, from the vagaries of representative democracy.

All this proved acceptable so long as the elites were trusted – and so long as the decisions taken in the ‘protected sphere’ didn’t have dramatic effects on people’s everyday lives. Neither condition holds true any longer. As Mair points out, it isn’t just individual politicians but the political class as a whole that become a matter of contention in many parts of Europe. Four years of Eurocrisis have left us with technocracy on the one hand and populism on the other.

Turnout has dropped at each successive European election since the first one in 1979. But there is a feeling that the upcoming election may buck the trend. Few EU citizens would deny, in 2014, that Europe matters. And if they are willing to come out of what Mair calls comprehensive withdrawal, politicians seem ready to meet them halfway. The European Parliament has felt it necessary to spend money on a lavish ad campaign with the slogan ‘This time it’s different’ in an attempt to get people to the polling booths. And the supranational ‘party families’ in the Parliament have nominated ‘leading candidates’ for the presidency of the European Commission, promising that the job will go to the person who gathers most votes. The hope behind this proposal is that politicisation, even at the cost of polarisation, will prove the royal road to legitimacy.

[I]t is far from clear that a choice of personnel really amounts to a choice of policy, when the substance of EU policy is largely determined by treaties which aren’t agreed by the European Commission or the European Parliament, but by member states. Even putting aside the question of treaties, the Eurozone is steadily narrowing the scope for autonomous political choice.

Mair’s conclusion is that the EU is a house that party politicians built which has no room for politics, while national governments are ever more likely to pretend they are merely the branch office of Brussels. (After all, if Brussels has already decided, you don’t take the blame; never mind that you were there at the negotiating table.) In this situation, what Mair calls the Tocqueville syndrome becomes acute: if political elites are either inaccessible or impotent, why put up with them? Tocqueville was writing about the fall of the aristocrats in the Ancien Régime, who could no longer justify their privileges once they had lost power to a centralised monarchy. The worst of the economic crisis might be over, but the political crisis in Europe is only just beginning.”


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Een passage uit Alexis de Toqueville (1998:88): Democracy In America, Volume 1 (of 2); vertaling door Henry Reeve. Op papier in verkorte editie: Wordsworth eds. Ltd. / ISBN: 1 85326 480 6 (paperback).

“When the aristocracy governs, the individuals who conduct the affairs of State are exempted by their own station in society from every kind of privation; they are contented with their position; power and renown are the objects for which they strive; and, as they are placed far above the obscurer throng of citizens, they do not always distinctly perceive how the well-being of the mass of the people ought to redound to their own honor. They are not indeed callous to the sufferings of the poor, but they cannot feel those miseries as acutely as if they were themselves partakers of them. Provided that the people appear to submit to its lot, the rulers are satisfied, and they demand nothing further from the Government. An aristocracy is more intent upon the means of maintaining its influence than upon the means of improving its condition.”

Vervang in de Toquevilles tekst ‘aristocracy’ door ‘politiek establishment’ en het laat zich naadloos inpassen in de betogen van zowel Müller en Anderson.

Tocqueville is te bemachtigen via het Gutenberg-project – http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/815



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