The Siege of the German Social Market
The paradox of post-war European politics is that the most democratic economy in Europe, the German Social Market Economy, has underpinned the stability of continental currencies. The rights available to German workers and citizens both individually and collectively have been, and remain, amongst the most extensive of any capitalist economy known to history. Ironically, to achieve this, it was necessary to conceal the institutions of democratic economic governance behind a facade of fiscal orthodoxy and Central Bank autonomy. The tragedy of Europe today is that the stringent requirements of the Maastricht convergence criteria are threatening not only the social guarantees embodied in the model but also the substantive practices of production that provided Germany with its industrial durability. In the name of creating a homogeneous ‘European Economic Space’, the conditions of economic nationalism are being created. This is not new. As Karl Polanyi has argued, the ever more intrusive commodification of human beings, nature and money has proved increasingly incompatible with human solidarity, and has furnished modern society with a fateful source of conflict for more than two centuries.
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