Sunday, December 06, 2015

Jonathan White on Habermas's "The Lure of Technocracy"

In "Boston Review" (December 1, 2015), Jonathan White reviews Jürgen Habermas's "The Lure of Technocracy" (Polity Press, 2014): 

The Riptide of Technocracy. Can there be a democratic EU?


"For Habermas, a straight choice between democracy and the EU must be refused. The losses incurred by renationalization—including losses to democracy itself—would simply be too great. “The national scope for action that has already been lost and is still shrinking can be made good only at the supranational level.” Only re-regulation “within an economic region of at least the size and importance of the Eurozone” can be effective in bringing market forces to heel. A more democratic order must proceed via, not in repudiation of, the interdependent condition in which Europe finds itself." (.....)

"Habermas consistently emphasizes national institutions as the legitimizing pillar of transnational politics. Repeatedly we are told that nation-state democracy is an achievement that, even if insufficient to the demands of the global economy, must not be sacrificed in the building of a transnational order. Popular hostility for the EU is cast as rightful recognition of this fact: “the fear of a superstate mainly betrays the desire to hold on to the democratic substance guaranteed by one’s own nation-state.” A significant passage in the book is devoted to a constitutional thought-experiment intended to clarify the proper balance between national and supranational sources of authority. With the concept of a “double sovereign,” he evokes a compound image of the EU in which the national and the supranational are mutually supporting. (......)"

"For Habermas and the wider Frankfurt School, political philosophy is not about imagining a better world from first principles: it must always proceed from the ideas and practices of the existing order. Rather than reflect on abstract ideals, it must look for the logic that is already present, however imperfectly, in existing institutions and explore how they may be reformed to better express it. It is a deliberately non-utopian approach and reflects a conscious rejection of grand theorizing. Indeed, for all the skepticism of Streeck and others, it may signal too great a concession to realism."

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