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New Left Review 73, January-February 2012


What longer-term political dynamics underlie the current dramas of the Eurozone? Notoriously, they pose stiff analytic problems, requiring attention both to the ongoing development of a supranational polity with no real precedent and to the varied trajectories of the—still—intractably national states it overarches. One attempt in this field has been Perry Anderson’s New Old World, which follows a comparative survey of pre-capitalist Europe in two much earlier works, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism and Lineages of the Absolutist State, with reflections on the continent at a high point of bourgeois rule, on the eve of the crisis that now grips the EU. To broaden debate on the nature of the institutional tensions within the Union, and the historical background to them, we publish below a three-part critical symposium on the book. Its contributors include the American Europeanist Philippe Schmitter, emeritus in Florence; the French jurist Alain Supiot, principal author of Beyond Employment (1999), commissioned by the EU to enquire into labour-law reform; and the German political scientist Jan-Werner Müller, who has written leading studies of the intellectual scene in his country. The symposium is followed by a reply from Anderson and a self-standing essay by Wolfgang Streeck, situating the turbulence of the Eurozone within the deeper contradictions of democratic capitalism that he analysed in NLR 71. The issues raised in these different interventions—the institutional incoherence of the Union; the economic disparities between its northern and southern tiers; the political gulf between its elites and popular classes; the sub-imperial pretensions of its regional policies—will continue to haunt the new Europe, whether the immediate emergencies of its monetary union are met or not. The zone that only yesterday was congratulating itself on combining prosperity, civility and democracy in a synthesis no other region on earth could match, has become a danger to the global stability of capital, watched not with envy but anxiety by its partners and rivals in the rule of the planet.

jan-werner müller


Perry anderson’s New Old World combines an original set of arguments about the evolution of the European Union with deeply informed analyses of the political cultures of some of its major states and its aspirant entrant, Turkey. As Anderson himself remarks, one could be forgiven for thinking that European high-cultural life was actually more integrated decades before the Rome Treaty; paradoxically, the more the continent unites politically, the more provincial individual European countries seem to become. Anderson has set an example of how to de-provincialize ourselves and, in particular, how to show sensitivity to national cultures while being sharply critical of political forces within nation-states—particularly the Centre-Left. Empathy and polemics can work together.

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Jan-Werner Müller, ‘Beyond Militant Democracy?’, NLR 73: £3

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