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Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Habermas has written a turgid love song to the emerging European public. Chris Bertram at Junius has done a fine response and commentary, for those sufficiently interested in either the author or the topic. (Additional background on the link between the two available here - link via Andrew Sullivan)

For me, a comment buried in the middle of his paean to the French Revolution leapt out (can't say if it's as striking not-in-translation) which actually explains a lot.
On the other hand the achievements of capitalism are connected with sharp class conflicts.
Which is certainly true ... in societies with pre-existing sharp class divisions. Like, say, the Eurocore. One of the constituent Marxist dogmas has always been that this correlation is causal: that capitalism creates class conflict. But what if it only reveals it where it already exists? Exacerbates it, perhaps, and shifts it onto another playing field, where money becomes an easy way to keep score?

Another section:
In Europe class differences with their long-term effects were experienced by those concerned as a destiny which could be averted only through collective action. Thus in the context of workers' movements and Christian socialist traditions an ethos of solidarity in the struggle for "more social justice" aiming at equal concern for all became generally accepted against the individualistic ethos of the justice of achievement [? meritocracy], which accepts glaring social inequalities. [emphasis added]
Ah, but if you're mistaken about the source of a thing, how can you possibly grasp the course and destination correctly?

Capitalism accepts glaring social inequalities as a cost of doing business, as the price of economic (and therefore social) dynamism - in part because it's aware that they're not permanent. What the class-haunted Euros don't acknowledge is that fast-moving water raises more boats than a stagnant pond - though not all. Certainly not equally. It's also more dangerous, more exhilarating, and ultimately healthier.

What most Americans don't acknowledge - because it's not our destiny to think this way - is the extent to which European (and blue-state New Class) anti-Americanism is class-driven.

This also raises the interesting notion that capitalism might ultimately fare better in societies that have been brutalized by socialism (Eastern Europe, China) which levels all existing social divisions into rulers and ruled, than those that retain an aristocracy or a traditional hierarchical structure (Old Europe, South and East Asia). Socialism as a stage on the world-historical road to Capitalism? Oops ...

posted by Kelly | 1:44 PM link