Capital, the State and European Integration
Seminar, 17 - 19 October 2015
Until too long ago, even amongst parts of the left the historic decline of the relevance of the state was taken as a 'given'. Under the umbrella of 'globalization theory' far-reaching proclamations on deep tectonic shifts were the height of fashion. At closer inspection, however, the impatiently sweeping character of many such generalizations more often than not revealed itself to be the consequence of a lack of both conceptual rigor and empirical scrupulousness, embarrassingly echoing much of the imaginary of neoliberalism's triumphalism and its intellectual proponents.
The onset of the financial and economic crisis of 2007/2008 and its consequences made many of these theoretical constructs seem obsolete over night. Large, coordinated state interventions and rescue packages were the order of the day, pointing to complexities in the relations between states and capital which simplistic end-of-state narratives seemed decisively bad equipped to tackle, let alone explain in any meaningful fashion. In some quarters this then lead to talk of a 'return of Keynes' or, more generally, proclamations of a 'return of the state' itself. But this pendulum swing in the opposite direction proved no less superficial and premature than what had preceded it. Rather than leading to a restoration of post-war keynesianism, the dominant drive of crisis policies reaffirmed a preference for neoliberal solutions, now of an increasingly authoritarian character, devoid of old democratic niceties and former procedural inhibitions. Here too, a complex and often untransparent assemblage of markets, transnational institutions, nation states and their mutual interactions confirmed the deficiencies of much left thinking to adequately account for these processes and the shifting institutional architecture underpinning them.
Yet without a proper understanding of the contemporary configuration of relations between capital, the state and transnational institutions, it will be impossible to judge the plausibility or implausibility of various competing proposals on the left and their respective strategic projections. Nowhere more so than within the European Union, where deepening integration now assumes the seemingly paradoxical form of deepening socio-economic fragmentation along national lines and a palpable regional polarization into core and periphery. Centripetal and centrifugal forces seem to overlap and intertwine in a complex process with as of yet unclear long-term consequences for the future of the European project itself. The increasingly authoritarian character of 'crisis-resolution' policies pose long-term dangers for the subaltern classes and endanger formal-democratic standards long considered an irreversible historical achievement. In parallel, a new surge of right-wing populism all over Europe seeks to take advantage of the ensuing socio-economic degradation and political disillusionment...
In trying to address these complex issues, the seminar will revisit fundamental questions on the nature of the capitalist state, the degree of transfer of some of its prerogatives onto EU and transnational institutions, the ensuing 'division of labour' between national and transnational levels, the class character of these processes, their implications for democratic standards, as well as their possible contradictions and future perspectives. The political stakes are clear: only by properly understanding the structural conditions of the current conjuncture, its institutional complexities, inherent limits and contradictions, can viable left strategies be formulated.
Friday, October 17th
11.00 - 12.30: Lecture Jens Wissel: The EU as a new state project
15.30 - 17.00: Lecture John Kannankulam: Competing Hegemony Projects in the Current European Crisis: a Historical Materialist Policy Analysis on Political Struggles
17.30 - 19.30: General discussion
Saturday, October 18th
11.00 - 12.30: Lecture Werner Bonefeld: European Economic Constitution and the Transformation of Democracy: On Class and the State of Money and Law
15.30 - 17.00: Lecture Bob Jessop: States and State Power: A Strategic-Relational Approach
17.30 - 19.30: General discussion