The crisis of the European Union (EU) is multifaceted and has visibly deepened during the last year. The British referendum on EU membership and the vote in favour of Brexit have only been the most explicit symptom of the disintegrative tendencies. The core-periphery rift in the euro area has continued. The arrival of a large number of refugees from the war-torn areas of the Middle East has resulted in acrimonious conflicts in the EU on the question who should take care of them. The way in which the pro-free trade forces pushed through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada showed utter disregard for the objections of democratically elected bodies (e.g. the Belgian regions of Wallonia and Brussels).
In face of the multiple crisis of the EU, there is a relatively large consensus ranging from Social Democrats to right-wing nationalist forces to seek a flight forward towards an increasing militarisation of the EU. Otherwise, different strategies to deal with the crises can be discerned. The predominant response is muddling through. It is privileged by the majority of Christian Democrat, Social Democrat and liberal forces. This strategy continues the neoliberal mode of integration and seeks to preserve the present geographic shape of the euro area and the Schengen Zone. It will most probably not prevent the deepening of the disintegration tendencies. There are two sub-varieties of muddling through. One aims to combine it with more fiscal flexibility and more public investment. It is mainly advocated by Social Democrat forces in France and the Mediterranean. The other subvariety abandons the integrity of the Schengen Zone and rather advocates a smaller Schengen Zone with tighter border controls. It is favoured by a relatively broad range of forces particularly in Germany, Austria and Central Eastern Europe. A ‘core Europe’ conception with a smaller and more compact euro area is advocated by right-wing nationalist forces like Lega Nord in Italy, Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ) in Austria and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany as well as some Christian Democrat currents. On the right of the political spectrum, there are finally ‘Europe of Nations’ concepts. They tend to advocate focusing European integration on the Single Market and linked economic regulations. The nationalist right-wing demands more spaces of national competitive strategies. Right-wing nationalist parties, like Fidesz in Hungary and Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) in Poland, regard regional funds as an essential element of integration. Some forces of the nationalist right even tend towards leaving the EU.
On the political left, there are divergent strategies as well. Some forces advocate a form of democratic European federalism. The political presuppositions of such a project are extremely demanding. Other left-wing forces do not regard democratic European federalism as a realist solution and see the EU institutions as being particularly strongly shielded against popular pressures. They propose an explicitly pro-social agenda and defying EU regulations and abandoning the euro area if this is necessary to bring about progressive policy changes. Read more
For the complete text – in English – go to (PDF): The European Union: The Threat Of Disintegration
Die Arbeitsgruppe Europäische Wirtschaftswissen schaftlerInnen für eine andere Wirtschaftspolitik in Europa (EuroMemo Group) veröffentlicht am Dienstag, den 24. Januar 2017, das EuroMemorandum 2017 “The European Union: The Threat of Disintegration.” 270 Ökonomen und Sozialwissenschaftler aus ganz Europa fordern darin gemeinsam einen radikalen Kurswechsel in der europäischen Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik.
Das EuroMemorandum 2017 offenbart ernste Gefahren für die Integration Europas: Die Polarisierung zwischen den europäischen Kernländern und der Peripherie hält an. Der Umgang mit der großen Zahl an Flüchtlingen hat zu erbitterten Konflikten innerhalb der EU geführt und die Durchsetzung des europäisch-kanadischen Freihandelsabkommens CETA machte eine völlige Gleichgültigkeit gegenüber Einwänden von demokratisch gewählten Organen deutlich. Der Brexit war nur das klarste Zeichen der Gefahren für die europäische Integration.
Die wirtschaftlichen Aussichten Europas sind weiterhin düster: Während sich die Eurozone noch lange nicht nachhaltig erholt hat, erhöhen die nachlassende weltweite Konjunktur und der Brexit die Unsicherheit noch mehr. Die zaghaften Bestrebungen der EU-Politik wie der Juncker Plan und der etwas größere fiskalpolitische Spielraum für die Mitgliedsstaaten sind bei weitem nicht ausreichend. Das EuroMemorandum 2017 fordert eine koordinierte Wirtschaftspolitik, die statt auf ausgeglichene Haushalte auf eine ausgeglichene Volkswirtschaft mit hoher Beschäftigung und den Abbau von regionalen Ungleichheiten setzt. Eine effektive Fiskalpolitik auf EU-Ebene, die in der Lage ist, Abschwünge auf EU-, nationaler und regionaler Ebene zu bremsen, und eine langfristige Investitionsstrategie sind notwendig. Strategische Lohnzuwächse würden eine gerechte Teilhabe der Arbeiter am Wachstum und stabile Inflationsraten ermöglichen. Dem Steuerwettbewerb muss eine Ende bereitet werden.
Zwar haben die deutliche Niedrigzinspolitik und die unkonventionellen geldpolitischen Maßnahmen der EZB angesichts der restriktiven Fiskalpolitik höchstwahrscheinlich einen vollkommen wirtschaftlichen Zusammenbruch infolge der Finanzkrise verhindert, doch stößt diese Politik zunehmend an ihre Grenzen. Auch ist die geplante Kapitalmarktunion kaum in der Lage, einen maßgeblichen wirtschaftlichen Anstoß zu geben und gerät infolge des Brexit ins Ungewisse, da die britischen Finanzmärkte ganz klar als Zentrum des Wertpapierhandels vorgesehen waren. Unter Vorraussetzung einer koordinierten expansiven Fiskal- und Investitionspolitik fordert das EuroMemorandum 2017 daher eine “Normalisierung” der Geldpolitik mit niedrigen, aber positiven Zinsraten.
Auch im Hinblick auf die Flüchtlingsmigration zeigt das EuroMemorandum 2017 auf, dass der Druck auf die gesellschaftlichen Ressourcen vielmehr auf die jahrelang vernachlässigte staatliche Grundversorgung in den EU-Ländern zurückzuführen ist. Finanzierungsmodelle für die Integration von Flüchtlingen und EU-Migranten, die gleichzeitig den Volkswirtschaften der Zielländer zugutekommen, sind ganz klar möglich. Das Solidaritätsprinzip innerhalb der EU bietet eine Grundlage, um populistischen fremdenfeindlichen Positionen zu begegnen.
Die Krise der EU begünstigte den Anstieg rechtsorientierter Kräfte in Europa, die sich vom nationalliberal-konservativen bis ins faschistische Spektrum erstrecken. Wirtschaftspolitisch sind die Programme der jeweiligen Parteien eher neoliberal, teilweise in Verbindung mit national-konservativen und auch heterodoxen Elementen, ausgerichtet. Klar ist die Präferenz nationaler gegenüber europäischer Lösungen. Im Zentrum der Forderungen des EuroMemorandums 2017 stehen vielmehr inklusive Reformen, die soziale und wirtschaftliche Ungleichheiten abbauen. Der territoriale Rahmen ist dabei nicht Ausgangspunkt und sollte danach bestimmt werden, wo die größten Erfolgschancen sind. In der Tat ist dies oft eher die nationale als die EU-Ebene. Angesichts der strikten institutionellen Beschränkungen innerhalb der Eurozone, müssen auch Austrittsstrategien erwogen werden.
Während die Verhandlungen zum transatlantischen Freihandelsabkommen TTIP zeitweise ausgesetzt wurden, geriet das europäisch-kanadischen Freihandelsabkommen CETA ins Zentrum der Aufmerksamkeit. Doch ist CETA im Hinblick auf Demokratie und Rechtsstaatlichkeit genauso rückschrittlich wie TTIP. Auf Ebene der Mitgliedsstaaten sollte versucht werden, die noch ausstehende Ratifizierung von CETA durch die nationalen Parlamente zu verhindern. Im Hinblick auf die Europäische Nachbarschaftspolitik sollten statt weitreichendem Freihandel, untergeordneter Integration und Militarisierung, beiderseitig vorteilhafte Kooperationen zum Beispiel auf Branchenebene eingegangen werden.
Das EuroMemorandum ist eine jährlich erscheinende Publikation der EuroMemo Group, in der aktuelle wirtschaftliche Entwicklungen in Europa kritisch analysiert und Alternativen aufgezeigt werden. Die EuroMemo Group ist ein Netzwerk von Ökonomen aus ganz Europa mit dem Ziel, darzustellen, dass es eine wirtschaftlich nachhaltige und sozial gerechtere Alternative zu neoliberalen Liberalisierungsmaßnahmen gibt.
Mehr Informationen über die EuroMemo Group finden Sie unter www.euromemo.eu
Stefanie Marie Scholz, M. Sc.
Koordination der EuroMemo Group
Spinoza Lecture 2016 – Amsterdam, November 27
Part 1 ~ Personal meaning
It’s an honour to address the Spinozakring in Amsterdam on Spinozadag. As a young man, I was living in Belfast during the darkest years of the terrorist Troubles, when I set out for Trinity College, in Dublin to begin 5 years of post-graduate research on the subject: “Spinoza’s Ethics and the Meaning of Life.”
What followed was an unequal struggle – Spinoza was even more challenging than I thought – and I didn’t find the meaning of life. In the process, I struggled, mentally. No one I met seemed the slightest bit interested in Spinoza and the more I read and understood The Ethics, the more isolated, anxious and remote from everyday life I became – as if I was going in one direction and everyone else was headed in another.
And during those difficult years, I learned new ways of thinking and Being – perspectives and insights on life and the human condition. Things that have stayed with me to this day; that made me who I am; and that will – I hope – play an important part in my future. After much difficulty, I learned to see and understand the world the way Spinoza saw it.
Spinoza became my anchor – my reference – for exploring life — a beacon of intellectual strength and independence. ‘The Philosopher of Amsterdam” – became my cultural hero in Belfast – not only for his philosophy, but for his character. And just as he was an outsider in his community, so was I.
I learned that the concept of Unity – of living with an attitude towards One-ness, cohesion, and cooperation — was central to Spinoza’s thinking and that his greatest work, The Ethics, described a path to a radical form of mental health through three mutually reinforcing forms of unity, designed to cure three kinds of division.
The first step is to heal and unite the divided self, to overcome conflicted and self-harming emotions, using his psychology; the second, is to unite us with others in strong bonds of friendship, guided by his radical humanism; the third, a cure for ontological alienation in moments of insight when our drop-consciousness joins in an oceanic experience with the eternal.
These three perspectives on human existence – the psychological, the pragmatic and the metaphysical – define why Spinoza’s thinking is so powerful.
Part 2 ~ The two truths
And this brings us to the tension at the centre of his Ethics – and indeed, the terrible contradiction at the heart of the human condition – one that generates so much religious superstition and metaphysical speculation. I’ll try and put this as clearly as possible.
The first self-evident truth of the human condition is the subjective truth of Being, how we feel as we look outwards onto the world. We’ve already beaten astronomical odds to arrive as self-conscious beings and sense the significance of our moment. The truth of our individual identity – that we are separate and distinct from everything else – places us at the centre of our universe. We instinctively prioritize our needs and drives, those we love and care for, and the projects we value. Above all, we want our chance at life to continue.
The second self-evident truth – and it is just as mysterious — is that none of this matters. From the perspective of timeless eternity, whether we live or die, whether our projects succeed or fail, what we want for ourselves and others, means nothing. Everything we value – including our lives – will be taken from us, often brutally, no matter how hard we fight, how much we care, or how good or valuable we are to Mankind. If you want to believe our lives and hopes matter in some objective way, chose a religion, but don’t read Spinoza to find the answer.
These two truths represent life and death, or more accurately, time and eternity. They’re at war with each other and define the drama of the human condition. Their conflict inspires great art, writing, theatre and music — acts of courage, love and self-sacrifice. But it also drives the dark side – depression, meaninglessness, war, suicide …. and violent extremism. The conflict is resolved in death, in that the second truth always wins – and we, as individuals – must surrender. But, it’s our defiance, our stubborn striving to hold our identity in the face of inevitable loss that makes the human condition feel like a restless, if not urgent, roller-coaster ride.
Like many great thinkers, Spinoza tries to reconcile these two truths… and he does it beautifully. He teaches us how both perspectives, both truths can be held and experienced simultaneously. He shows us a way to bring them together as a lived experience – purely for the love, strength and peace of mind — it brings us. This is his magic.
His Ethics has gifted us a strange, extraordinary, philosophy; – of this world, and yet not of this world – that makes it one of the truly great philosophical masterpieces.
Monika Palmberger ~ How Generations Remember. Conflicting Histories And Shared Memories In Post-War Bosnia And Herzegovina
From: Introduction: Researching Memory and Generation
[…] The title of this book, How Generations Remember, is an allusion to the title of Paul Connerton’s seminal book, How Societies Remember (1989). In his book, Connerton opens up a timely discussion going beyond the textual and discursive understanding of remembering by concentrating on embodied/habitual memory and ritual aspects of memory. In terms of the study of generations he thus mainly discusses generations as transmitters or receivers of group memory. Although Connerton’s pioneering contribution to the study of memory is unquestioned, by focusing on how memory is passed down through the generations he primarily answers the question of how group memory is conveyed and sustained. This emphasis on transmission and persistence leaves open the question of where to locate the individual, the agent, the force and possibility for reflexivity and change (Argenti and Schramm 2010; Shaw 2010). My study, in concentrating on the role of generational positioning, reveals that past experiences inform present stances, but also shows that it is the actor in the present that gives meaning to the past. This is also true for narratives of the past that are passed on from older to younger generations, and are then scrutinised and contextualised by the latter. It is suggested that people’s sense of continuity can deal with the inconsistencies that arise with this transfer between generations. It is this field of tension between collective and personal, and between persistence and change that is central in the discussion of generational positioning in this book.
Dowload book: http://link.springer.com/book/
The African Studies Centre Leiden is the only multidisciplinary academic knowledge institute in the Netherlands devoted entirely to the study of Africa. It has an extensive library that is open to the general public. The ASCL is an interfaculty institute of Leiden University.
The ASCL adheres to the so-called Berlin Declaration on free access to electronic publications, which means that all ASCL publications are available in open access as far as possible. The African Studies Collection, ASCL Working Papers, African Studies Abstracts Online, ASCL Info Sheets and African Public Administration and Management, which are all published directly by the ASCL, can be downloaded free of charge from this website. There is an embargo period for books published by external publishers but when this has expired, these can also be downloaded from the ASCL website free of charge.
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If the world had any ends, British Honduras would certainly be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else’ (Aldous Huxley 1984:21).
When I had to do fieldwork in the Caribbean region for my final research several years ago, someone from the department of cultural Anthropology in Utrecht in the Netherlands asked me why I didn’t go to Belize. My answer to his question was at that time quite significant: ‘Belize??’ I had no idea where it was and could not picture it at all.
Libraries that I visited in the Netherlands hardly provided any solace. Most of the books on Central America hardly mentioned Belize. Booth and Walker describe the position of the country as follows in ‘Understanding Central-America’: ‘Though Belize is technically Central America, that English-speaking microstate has a history that is fairly distinct from that of the other states in the region. At present this tiny republic, which only became formally independent from Great-Britain in 1981, does not figure significantly in the ‘Central American’ problem’ (1993:3).
The fact that Belize receives little attention in literature on Central America underlines the peripheral position of the country in this region. Some authors qualify it as part of the Caribbean world; others primarily see Belize as a member of the British Commonwealth. Besides that it is also seen as part of the Central American context. The Formation of a colonial Society (1977) by the English sociologist Nigel O. Bolland was the first scientific work on Belize that I was able to acquire. The Belize Guide (1989) by Paul Glassman provided me with a tourist orientated view of this ‘wonderland of strange people and things’ (Glassman 1989:1). Collecting sustaining literature was and remains a tiresome adventure. Slowly but surely my list of literature expanded.
My knowledge of the region was limited. Reactions from others also confirmed that Belize is a country with a slight reputation. For example, I still remember being corrected by someone from a travel agency. After asking the gentleman if a direct flight to Belize existed, he answered somewhat pityingly: ‘Sir, you must mean Benin´. In my circle of friends, Belize also turned out to be unheard of. The neighboring countries Guatemala and Mexico are better known. An important reason for this is that the media informs people of the most important happenings in these countries. This information is often clarified using maps of the area on which Guatemala and Mexico, but also Belize, are marked. Nonetheless, time and time again Belize turns out to be a country that does not appeal to the imagination.
The comments I heard from tourists coming in from Mexico or Guatemala are notable. ´This is a culture shock´, ´where are the Indians´, ´this doesn´t look at all like Central America´, ´it´s surprising how well you can get by with English here, that was not like that at all in Mexico´. Many of the tourists that come from Mexico quickly go through Belize city on their way to one of the islands off the coast of Belize where they relax for a few days before going to Guatemala. Most of the tourists coming into Belize from Tikal (Guatemala) spend a night in San Ignacio, comment on the fact that everything is so expensive, and quickly travel on to Chetumal (Mexico) the next day.
Belize is a country that lies hidden between two countries with a certain reputation. I do not really think that it is an exaggeration to state that Belize is something of a fictitious end of the world, as formulated by Huxley. In order to obtain an impression of the country, in which this research took place, the next section gives a general idea of the topographic and climatic characteristics. Besides that, the compilation of the population, the constitutional and political situation, the economic position, the religious context and the multi-lingual structure of the country are discussed successively. Furthermore, it is essential to provide an outline of the historic context in which the various ethnic groups in Belize have taken in their place. In other words: How has this country come to be so multi-ethnic?
Belize, A Central American Country on the Periphery
On 21 September 1981, the former British Honduras becomes independent. This date is the formal end of a process of independence that took seventeen years. In 1964, British Honduras of the time received the right to an internal self-government and in 1973 the name of the country was changed to Belize. With an area of 22,965 km2, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America. El Salvador is smaller (21,393 km2), but has considerably more inhabitants with it’s population of 5.889,000. According to the census of 1991, Belize has just 189,392 (Central Statistical Office 1992). This comes down to eight inhabitants per square kilometer, whereas El Salvador has 275 inhabitants per square kilometer. With that, the two countries are each other’s opposites in Central America, Belize is the most sparsely populated and El Salvador the most densely.
Belize borders on Mexico in the north, on Guatemala in the west and the south, and on the east the country borders on the Caribbean Sea. The area along the coast consists mostly of marshland with dense mangrove forests, mouths of rivers, lagoons and, every now and again, a sandy beach. Countless small and large rivers, that have played a crucial part in the infrastructure throughout the centuries, run through the country. Much of the wood chopped in the inland found and finds its way towards its destination at the coast via these waterways. It can rain abundantly in Belize in the months May to November, especially in the south, and then the waterways swell up to become rapid rivers.
The climatic conditions in Belize vary from tropical in the south to subtropical in the north. The climate is warm and the temperature varies between twenty-seven and forty degrees Celsius. It was especially the humidity, with an average of 85% in the southern part of the country that drew heavily on the physical condition of this researcher. The country officially has two seasons. The dry season, that lasts from November to June, and the wet season from June to November. During the wet season, tropical depressions regularly develop in the Caribbean region that reveal themselves as hurricanes. For this reason, this season is also called the hurricane season. This destructive force of nature has hit Belize several times in this century. The hurricanes of 1931, 1955 and 1961 have not failed to leave behind a trail of disaster.
The season in which it is relatively dryer than the rest of the year takes up a few months in the north (February to May), while in the south it only lasts several weeks (Dobson 1973:4). In fact, there is no telling what the weather will do in Belize. A Belizean friend of mine says the following on this matter: ‘We have two seasons here, a dry and a wet season; they generally take place on one and the same day’. Read more
The Spinoza Web is a website that seeks to make the Dutch philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677) accessible to a wide range of users from interested novices to advanced scholars, and everything in between. It is a continually developing, active project whose success depends on its users. Please contact us with feedback, suggestions, and ideas!
At present our website offers two points of entry. The ‘Timeline Experience’ tells the story of Spinoza, using rich graphic and other supporting material through which the user can navigate to enter and experience his very world. The ‘Database Search’ is a gateway to an enormous repository for the study of Spinoza, whose goal is eventually to assemble all first-hand documentation pertaining to him. Attractively designed without compromising on scholarly standards, our website promotes a source-based contextual approach to Spinoza who, revered and reviled, has had countless rumours and myths attached to his name over the course of the centuries.
The Spinoza Web is a creation of the ‘Spinoza’s Web’-project of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It traces back to an early initiative of its main executive, Jeroen van de Ven, and was implemented by the project’s principal investigator, Piet Steenbakkers, who had entertained a long-time wish for a website dedicated to Spinoza. In 2014 postdoctoral researcher Albert Gootjes joined their ranks in a largely advisory capacity. Later that year the team commissioned the Rotterdam-based advertising agency Nijgh, which gladly welcomed the new challenge of combining creative inspiration with scholarly rigour.
After extensive planning and user tests, November 2016 saw the beta release of The Spinoza Web, notably featuring the ‘Timeline Experience’ and Database with entries largely based on the historical and bibliographical research by Jeroen van de Ven. Subsequent releases are scheduled to boost the ‘Database Search’ by making available in open access Spinoza’s writings both in their original editions and in an authoritative English translation. Further plans include the addition of an interactive element facilitating Spinoza studies. To help us realize our pursuits, we welcome all contributions including but not limited to financial support. Potential contributors are encouraged to get in touch using the Contact page.
The Real Adam Smith: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg, takes an intriguing, two-part look at Smith and the evolution and relevance of his ideas today, both economic and ethical. It’s difficult to imagine that a man who lived with horse drawn carriages and sailing ships would foresee our massive 21st century global market exchange, much less the relationship between markets and morality. But Adam Smith was no ordinary 18th century figure. Considered the “father of modern economics,” Smith was first and foremost a moral philosopher. The revolutionary ideas he penned in The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, changed the world. Norberg explores Smith’s insights regarding free trade and the nature of wealth to the present, where they are thriving and driving the world’s economy.
In the second hour, Ideas That Changed The World, Norberg traces Smith’s insights regarding the benefits of free trade and the nature of wealth to the present, where they are currently in operation. He talks with some of the most distinguished Adam Smith scholars, as well as leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies to discover how Smith’s ideas continue to be relevant and drive the global economy today.
Visit our media website to find other programs here: http://freetochoosemedia.org/index.php