zondag, april 30, 2006

Traditionalism: René Guénon's legacy today - Interview with Mark SEDGWICK op Religioscope

A newly-published book by Cairo-based scholar Mark Sedgwick, "Against the Modern World" is the history of one of the most important anti-modernist movements of the twentieth century.

In the nineteenth century, at a time when progressive intellectuals had lost faith in Christianity's ability to deliver religious and spiritual truth, the West discovered non-Western religious writings. From these beginnings grew Traditionalism, emerging from the occultist milieu of late nineteenth-century France, and fed by the widespread loss of faith in progress that followed the First World War.

Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century is the history of one of the most important anti-modernist movements of the twentieth century. The Traditionalist movement, composed of a number of often secret and sometimes very influential religious groups in the West and in the Islamic world, affected the lives of many individuals and entered into both mainstream and radical political life in Italy and Russia. It also influenced the development of religious studies in the United States and France. At the end of the twentieth century it began to enter the debate in the Islamic world about the desirable relationship between Islam and modernity.

Mark Sedgwick is an assistant professor of modern Middle East history at the American University in Cairo, and the author of Sufism: The Essentials (Cairo: AUC Press, 2000; Le soufisme, Paris: Cerf 2001) and of Saints and Sons: The Making and Re-making of the Rashidi Ahmadi Sufi Order, 1799-2000 (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2004). Since studying European history at Oxford University and doing his Ph.D. at the University of Bergen (Norway), he has been conducting research on modern Islamic intellectual history, mostly in the Arab and Malay worlds, but also in Europe.

ReligioscopeThe name of René Guénon (1886-1951) is probably better known in areas other than the English-speaking world. Surprisingly, the first full-length academic survey of the Traditionalist movements comes from the pen of a British scholar. Are you yourself a Traditionalist? If not, how did you become interested in that phenomenon?

Sedgwick – No, I’m not a Traditionalist, though I have a certain amount of sympathy for some Traditionalist views and positions. I don’t think I could have written this book otherwise. One of the ways in which Traditionalism started was through people thinking about East and West (Orient et Occident is of course one of Guénon’s important early works). Well, as a Westerner living in Egypt, I can hardly avoid being interested in issues of East and West, and as a historian of modern Islam I spend a lot of time with tradition and modernity. That Guénon himself was also a westerner who ended up living in Cairo just as I have may have something to do with it.

But in fact the real reason that I became interested in Traditionalism as a subject for research was growing astonishment at the extent and importance of the movement. I remember spending an evening, shortly after the Internet had reached Egypt, looking through the various editions and translations of Guénon’s works in European library catalogs—I couldn’t believe it. And the more I looked, the more I found, and the more convinced I became that here was a story worth the telling.

Religioscope"Traditionalism" is a word which one could associate with different types of movements, e.g. Roman Catholic Traditionalism. Since not everybody is familiar with Guénon, could you please remind us first in a few words who was Guénon and what the basic tenets of Traditionalism are?

Sedgwick – It’s a bit difficult to describe Guénon in a few words—which is one of the reasons why he is such an interesting character. He was French—except that by the time of his death he had actually become Egyptian. But really he stayed French in so many ways, so let’s say he was French. Then he was a philosopher—but not an academic philosopher, although at one point in his life he tried to be one. But "amateur philosopher" sounds too patronizing. Once, he was an occultist; later, he was a Sufi. He was certainly a writer, a prolific one. Perhaps he was an intellectual, a commentator on modernity? Somehow, he was more than that. Anyhow, he was born in 1886 and died in 1951. There’s no doubt about that.

The basic tenets of Traditionalism are easier to describe, since in working on the movement I’ve had to boil it down to its essentials. Some Traditionalists will object that in boiling it down I’m removing much of the subtlety, but there’s really no way around that. Anyhow, Guénonian Traditionalism — since you’re quite right, and there are all sorts of other traditionalisms that have nothing to do with Guénon — Guénonian Traditionalism is a school inspired by Guénon, and taking various different forms.

What they all have in common, apart from Guénon, is a conviction that the modern world is not the result of progress out of darkness but of descent into darkness, that this — the time we live in — is a last age, a pretty low point of a last age at that. What has been lost — and what needs to be recovered, reinstated even — is "tradition". And tradition can be fairly precisely defined, as the truths that should have been handed down from time immemorial, approximately the perennial philosophy, the original Ur-religion of humanity.

Traditionalists are those who want to recover what has been lost, and who also recognize the "true" nature of modernity. And recognize that one of the most important aspects of modernity is inversion — that the world sees the valuable as worthless and the worthless as valuable, the good as bad and bad as good. Guénon never saw a punk, but it would have made a lot of sense to him. And with that comes "counter-initiation" — religious movements that are actually irreligious, that actually lead away from what religion is meant to lead to. Again, Guénon would have nodded knowingly at certain recent developments in the Catholic Church. Against counter-initiation, the only thing left is real, genuine initiation — into traditional esoterism.

ReligioscopeOne could however wonder if Guénon and Traditionalists have not sometimes been more influenced by modern developments than they are themselves aware. For instance, Guénon wrote a whole book to expose the teachings of the Theosophical Society; on the other hand, one could suspect that Traditionalism wouldn't have been possible without some of the impulses brought by Theosophism in the contemporary intellectual history of the West...

Sedgwick – Absolutely. It’s not just the Theosophical Society, either. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the origin of the perennial philosophy that is so important for Traditionalists was in fact the Renaissance! Because for most Traditionalists it’s precisely at the Renaissance that it all goes wrong. And then when was the period in which interest in Traditionalism really took off in Europe? The 1960s! Somehow, there’s something very modern about anti-modernism. Actually, one could even make an argument for Traditionalism as a sort of precursor of postmodernism.

ReligioscopeAt the heart of Traditionalism, there is a complex relation between Guénon and the West. Guénon would have liked to find an authentic, still operational tradition (as he understood it) in the West, but finally there seemed to him to be no other practicable solution than Islam, despite the fact that he had written more on the Hindu tradition. Did Guénon convert on Islam's own terms? Did his practice of Islam change something in his own approach to religion and "Tradition"?

Sedgwick – No, Guénon converted to Islam on his own terms, perhaps even in his own terms. Or rather, in his own terms he refused to call it "conversion" — he said that anyone who really understood the perennial philosophy was "un-convertable" to anything, as a result of that understanding. He said that he had "moved in" to Islam.

Now, that may be all fine from Guénon’s point of view, but it’s not a view that many Muslims in the Islamic world would think much of. Still less would they think much of his idea of the fundamental unity of all religions. Sure, there have been and are dissenting voices, but the overwhelming consensus among Muslims is that other religions are just plain wrong. That’s very different from the standard Traditionalist view.

Turning to your other question — did Islam change anything for Guénon. Yes, I think it led to what was perhaps the most important change in the whole history of Traditionalism. I can’t be 100% sure, but I can’t see how else that change happened. Traditionalism at the start was more or less an intellectual movement — find the true religion of mankind, that sort of thing. And then after Guénon had been in Cairo for a while, had been living with Islam — which is a religion that really emphasizes daily practice — suddenly it was all about practice. Well, perhaps not all about — the intellectual element stayed. But practice was really emphasized, became really very important. And that was because of Islam, I’m almost certain.

ReligioscopeQuite a number of readers of Guénon as well as followers of some other key Traditionalist writers, such as Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998), have converted to Islam. After writing this book, do you think that Traditionalist influence on Westerners' conversions to Islam has been underestimated?

Sedgwick – Well, no, not exactly underestimated—at least, not by the very few people who noticed that it existed. They saw how important it was. But most people working on Western conversions, indeed on Islam in the West, missed it altogether, because they simply didn’t know that Traditionalism existed. Well, now they’ve got a nice book all about it!

ReligioscopeAnd how do you explain the more recent surge of interest for Traditionalism in some countries of Islamic tradition, such as Iran or Turkey? Do people there become interested in Traditionalism to the extent that they are being increasingly exposed to Western modernity and its challenges?

Sedgwick – Yes, I think that’s exactly it. Although Traditionalism defines itself in terms of what it is for — tradition, the religio perennis and so on — in some ways it’s a lot easier for an observer like myself to define Traditionalists partly in terms of what they are against. And what they are against is modernity. And you can’t be against modernity until you have experienced it.

Now, Iran and Turkey are the two countries in the Middle East that have most experienced modernity. Morocco has a bit, too, and that’s where in the Arab world you find Traditionalism most important. There are no Traditionalists at all, so far as I know, in mountain villages in the Yemen. None of it would make any sense at all there. This is actually part of the point you made earlier about Traditionalism being, in many ways, essentially modern.

ReligioscopeIf we limit ourselves to the religious angle – but your book also illustrates the impact of Traditionalism in the political field – there seems to be today two trends among Traditionalists: those who feel encouraged by their reading of Guénon to look for a firm anchoring in a specific religious tradition, and those who seem to consider Tradition as explained by Guénon as a kind of "supra-religion"...

Sedgwick – Yes, quite. I call those who look for a firm anchoring in their own or some other religion those for whom Traditionalism is a "stepping stone" — it gets them somewhere, whether to Sufi Islam or Russian Orthodoxy or whatever, and then they just get on with where they are. Traditionalism may remain interesting to them, but it isn’t the main point. But then there are those for whom Traditionalism remains the main point, and for some of these it is indeed a sort of supra-religion.

ReligioscopeYour book explains well that there is a "soft Traditionalism" with access to the wider culture, beside Traditionalism stricto sensu. Which would be some of the best current examples of this "soft Traditionalism"?

Sedgwick – Well, the best known examples are people like E.F. Schumacher. Schumacher wasn’t a Traditionalist pure and simple, and if you read his Small is Beautiful you’re not going to find much Traditionalism there, not unless you really know what to look for. But I can’t imagine that Schumacher would have been Schumacher without his readings of Guénon and others, and Small is Beautiful would have been a different book, or might never have been written.

Schumacher isn’t really current, I suppose. I’ll take another current example, then — not so well known, but pretty interesting. In Bosnia, there’s a man called Rusmir Mahmutcehajic. He was a minister in the Bosnian government, but then resigned, essentially over the division of Bosnia — which he didn’t want. Nowadays, he’s one of Bosnia’s most important public intellectuals, and runs an important institute. He’s like Schumacher. Actually, his Traditionalism is more visible, but it’s the same basic idea. His views would be very different without the influence of Guénon; he would hardly be him. It’s almost like the "stepping stone" phenomenon I was talking about before. Traditionalism wasn’t a stepping stone to Islam for Mahmutcehajic, since he was a Muslim anyhow, though it may have been a stepping stone to the sort of Islam he now practices. Most importantly, it was an essential stepping stone to his mature intellectual positions. He’s a perfect example, but there are others with more access to the general Western culture. But I think I’ve said enough on that. It’s in the book (though Mahmutcehajic isn’t).

ReligioscopeConsidering the impact of Traditionalism in a variety of contexts, one is quite surprised to see that there been no other full academic treatment of that topic before your book – despite the fact that a number of scholars are themselves Traditionalists. The tendency to secrecy might of course partly provide an explanation, although it does not seems to be sufficient...

Sedgwick – The tendency to secrecy explains it quite a lot so far as scholars are concerned. People are quite happy to say "I’m influenced by Gramsci" or "I think Weber’s really great", but almost no-one acknowledges the influence of Guénon. People like Eliade even hid the influence. Of course, that’s because Guénon somehow isn’t intellectually respectable in the way that Gramsci or Weber are. That’s clearly the case, but I’m really not sure why it is the case. After all, he was a philosopher — ah, perhaps that’s it? "Amateur philosopher"? Simply that he wasn’t a professor? No, he was a philosopher, really, and was incredibly influential. For many, many people he has provided the key to understanding life and history and everything, as well as being the key figure in showing them how to live their lives. Rather like Sartre. OK, Guénon has some slightly strange things in his past—the occultism, I mean. But then Sartre’s biography isn’t spotless either.

I really don’t know. I’d honestly compare Guénon to Sartre — though I don’t mean to suggest that Guénon was as important to the century, just that they’re the same sort of figure. Anyhow, I’m hoping that my book may help produce a more realistic appreciation of Guénon, even a recognition, so that his ideas can be discussed just as Sartre’s can. I don’t know whether I myself prefer Guénon or Sartre, though!

ReligioscopeFinally, as one comes to the end of your book, there are ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, as individuals, a number of Traditionalists were or are extremely bright people, some of them top intellectuals. On the other hand, a number of Traditionalist groups appear to have been weird, or at least exhibit perplexing features. Probably you have also been surprised by such a contrast?

Sedgwick – Somehow I wasn’t surprised. Perhaps that’s partly why people often don’t acknowledge Guenon, by the way — that he’s associated with the "weird". No, in fact I think it’s normal. An author isn’t really responsible for his readers, and people do all sorts of things with what they read. There are weird readers of Tolkien enough, or Marx!

Perhaps it’s because Guenon appeals to the disenchanted — to those who are alienated from modenity. And if you’re disenchanted, you may want an alternative enchantment, and that can look "weird". But perhaps perhaps my lack of surprise at the "weird" is just personal — that I take the "weird" as seriously as the non-weird, that I think you can find truth in the weird as well as the orthodox, and that as a historian I’ve so often seen the weird become orthodox, and orthodoxies become weird. Or perhaps there’s always something weird about "top intellectuals"?

Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 368 pages.

zaterdag, april 29, 2006

Neoliberalism: Myths and Reality door Martin HART-LANDSBERG in Monthly Review, April 2006.

Agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have enhanced transnational capitalist power and profits at the cost of growing economic instability and deteriorating working and living conditions. Despite this reality, neoliberal claims that liberalization, deregulation, and privatization produce unrivaled benefits have been repeated so often that many working people accept them as unchallengeable truths. Thus, business and political leaders in the United States and other developed capitalist countries routinely defend their efforts to expand the WTO and secure new agreements like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as necessary to ensure a brighter future for the world’s people, especially those living in poverty.

For example, Renato Ruggiero, the first Director-General of the WTO, declared that WTO liberalization efforts have “the potential for eradicating global poverty in the early part of the next [twenty-first] century—a utopian notion even a few decades ago, but a real possibility today.”1 Similarly, writing shortly before the December 2005 WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, William Cline, a senior fellow for the Institute for International Economics, claimed that “if all global trade barriers were eliminated, approximately 500 million people could be lifted out of poverty over 15 years....The current Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization provides the best single chance for the international community to achieve these gains.”2

Therefore, if we are going to mount an effective challenge to the neoliberal globalization project, we must redouble our efforts to win the “battle of ideas.” Winning this battle requires, among other things, demonstrating that neoliberalism functions as an ideological cover for the promotion of capitalist interests, not as a scientific framework for illuminating the economic and social consequences of capitalist dynamics. It also requires showing the processes by which capitalism, as an international system, undermines rather than promotes working class interests in both third world and developed capitalist countries.

The Myth of the Superiority of ‘Free Trade’: Theoretical Arguments

According to supporters of the WTO and agreements such as the FTAA, these institutions/agreements seek to promote free trade in order to enhance efficiency and maximize economic well being. This focus on trade hides what is in fact a much broader political-economic agenda: the expansion and enhancement of corporate profit making opportunities. In the case of the WTO, this agenda has been pursued through a variety of agreements that are explicitly designed to limit or actually block public regulation of economic activity in contexts that have little to do with trade as normally understood.

For example, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) limits the ability of states to deny patents on certain products (including over living organisms) or control the use of products patented in their respective nations (including the use of compulsory licensing to ensure affordability of critical medicines). It also forces states to accept a significant increase in the length of time during which patents remain in force. The Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) restricts the ability of states to put performance requirements on foreign direct investment (FDI), encompassing those that would require the use of local inputs (including labor) or technology transfer. A proposed expansion of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) would force states to open their national service markets (which include everything from health care and education to public utilities and retail trade) to foreign providers as well as limit public regulation of their activity. Similarly, a proposed Government Procurement Agreement would deny states the ability to use non-economic criteria, such as labor and environmental practices, in awarding contracts.

These agreements are rarely discussed in the mainstream media precisely because they directly raise issues of private versus public power and are not easily defended. This is one of the most important reasons why those who support the capitalist globalization project prefer to describe the institutional arrangements that help underpin it as trade agreements and defend them on the basis of the alleged virtues of free trade. This is a defense that unfortunately and undeservedly holds enormous sway among working people, especially in the developed capitalist countries. And, using it as a theoretical foundation, capitalist globalization advocates find it relatively easy to encourage popular acceptance of the broader proposition that market determined outcomes are superior to socially determined ones in all spheres of activity. Therefore, it is critical that we develop an effective and accessible critique of this myth of the superiority of free trade. In fact, this is an easier task than generally assumed.

Arguments promoting free trade generally rest on the theory of comparative advantage. David Ricardo introduced this theory in 1821 in his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. It is commonly misunderstood to assert the obvious, that countries have or can create different comparative advantages or that trade can be helpful. In fact, it supports a very specific policy conclusion: a country’s best economic policy is to allow unregulated international market activity to determine its comparative advantage and national patterns of production.3

Ricardo “proved” his theory of comparative advantage using a two country, static model of the world, in which Portugal is assumed to be a more efficient producer of both wine and cloth than England, but with greatest superiority in wine production. Ricardo demonstrated that, in his created world, both Portugal and England would gain by an international division of labor in which each produced the good in which it had the greatest relative or comparative advantage. Thus, even though England’s production efficiency was inferior to that of Portugal in both goods, the logic of free trade would lead Portugal to concentrate on wine production and England on cloth production, with the resulting trade between them generating maximum benefits for both countries.

Mainstream economists, while continuing to accept the basic outlines of Ricardo’s theory, have developed refinements to it. The most important are the Hecksher-Olin theory which argues that since a country’s comparative advantage is shaped by its resource base, capital-poor third world countries should specialize in labor intensive products; the factor-price equalization theory which argues that free trade will raise the price of the intensively used factor (which will be unskilled labor in the third world) until all factor prices are equalized worldwide; and the Stopler-Samuleson theory which argues that the incomes of the scarce factor (labor in rich countries; capital in poor countries) will suffer the most from free trade. None of these refinements challenge the basic conclusion of Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage. In fact they offer additional support for the argument that workers in the third world will be the greatest beneficiaries of free trade.

Like all theories, the theory of comparative advantage (and its conclusion) is based on a number of assumptions. Among the most important are:

# There is perfect competition between firms.
# There is full employment of all factors of production.
# Labor and capital are perfectly mobile within a country and do not move across national borders.
# A country’s gains from trade are captured by those living in the country and spent locally.
# A country’s external trade is always in balance.
# Market prices accurately reflect the real (or social) costs of the products produced.

Even a quick consideration of these assumptions reveals that they are extensive and unrealistic. Moreover, if they are not satisfied, there is no basis for accepting the theory’s conclusion that free-market policies will promote international well being. For example, the assumption of full employment of all factors of production, including labor, is obviously false. Equally problematic is the theory’s implied restructuring process, which assumes that (but never explains how) workers who lose their jobs as a result of free-trade generated imports will quickly find new employment in the expanding export sector of the economy. In reality, workers (and other factors of production) may not be equally productive in alternative uses. Even if we ignore this problem, if their reallocation is not sufficiently fast, the newly liberalized economy will likely suffer an increase in unemployment, leading to a reduction in aggregate demand and perhaps recession. Thus, even if all factors of production eventually become fully employed, it is quite possible that the cost of adjustment would outweigh the alleged efficiency gains from the trade induced restructuring.

The assumption that prices reflect social costs is also problematic. Many product markets are dominated by monopolies, many firms receive substantial government subsidies that influence their production and pricing decisions, and many production activities generate significant negative externalities (especially environmental ones). Therefore, trade specialization based on existing market prices could easily produce a structure of international economic activity with lower overall efficiency, leading to a reduction in social well being.

There is also reason to challenge the assumption that external trade will remain in balance. This assumption depends on another, that exchange rate movements will automatically and quickly correct trade imbalances. However, exchange rates can easily be influenced by speculative financial activity, causing them to move in destabilizing rather than equilibrating directions. In addition, as trade increasingly takes place through transnational corporate controlled production networks, it is far less likely that exchange rate movements will generate the desired new production patterns. To the extent that exchange rate movements fail to produce the necessary trade adjustments in a reasonably short period, imports will have to be reduced (and the trade balance restored) through a forced reduction in aggregate demand, and perhaps recession.

Also worthy of challenge is the assumption that capital is not highly mobile across national borders. This assumption helps to underpin others, including the assumptions of full employment and balanced trade. If capital is highly mobile, then free-market/free-trade policies could produce capital flight leading to deindustrialization, unbalanced trade, unemployment, and economic crisis. In short, the free-trade supporting policy recommendations that flow from the theory of comparative advantage rest on a series of very dubious assumptions.4

The Myth of the Superiority of ‘Free Trade’: Empirical Arguments

Proponents of neoliberal policies often cite the results of highly sophisticated simulation studies to buttress their arguments. However, these studies are themselves seriously flawed, in large part because they rely on many of the same assumptions as the theory of comparative advantage. The following examination of two prominent studies reveals how reliance on these assumptions undermines the credibility of their results.

In 2001, Drusilla Brown, Alan Deardoff, and Robert Stern published a study that claimed that a WTO-sponsored elimination of all trade barriers would add $1.9 trillion to the world’s gross economic product by 2005.5 Their study was widely showcased in media stories that appeared before the November 2001 start of WTO negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

The World Bank has also attempted to calculate, as part of its Global Economic Prospects series, the expected benefits from trade liberalization. In Global Economic Prospects 2002, it concluded that “faster integration through lowering barriers to merchandise trade would increase growth and provide some $1.5 trillion of additional cumulative income to developing countries over the period 2005–2015. Liberalization of services in developing countries could provide even greater gains—perhaps as much as four times larger than this amount. [The results also] show that labor’s share of national income would rise throughout the developing world.”6

The studies by Brown, Deardoff, and Stern, and the World Bank are based on computable general equilibrium models, in which economies are defined by a set of interconnected markets. When prices change—in this case because of a change in tariffs—national product markets are assumed to adjust to restore equilibrium. Since economies are themselves connected through trade, price changes are also assumed to generate more complex global adjustments before a new equilibrium outcome is achieved. It is on the basis of such modeling that the authors of these studies try to determine the economic consequences of trade liberalization.

This type of modeling is very challenging. Specific assumptions must be made about consumer and producer behavior in different markets and in different nations, including their speed of adjustment. Detailed national input-output tables are also required. But even more is required. For example, in order to ensure that their model will be solvable, Brown, Deardoff, and Stern assume that there is only one unique equilibrium outcome for each trade liberalization scenario. They also assume there are just two inputs, capital and labor, which are perfectly mobile across sectors in each country, but bound by national borders. In addition, they assume total aggregate expenditure in each economy is sufficient, and will automatically adjust, to ensure full employment of all resources. Finally, they also assume that flexible exchange rates will prevent tariff changes from causing changes in trade balances.

Said differently, the authors created a model in which liberalization cannot, by assumption, cause or worsen unemployment, capital flight, or trade imbalances. Thanks to these assumptions, if a country drops its trade restrictions, market forces will quickly and effortlessly encourage capital and labor to shift into new, more productive uses. And, since trade always remains in balance, this restructuring will, by definition, generate a dollar’s worth of new exports for every dollar’s worth of new imports. As Peter Dorman notes in his critique of this study: “Of course, workers and governments would have little to worry about in such a world—provided they could shift readily between expanding and contracting sectors of the economy.”7

World Bank economists also use computable general equilibrium modeling in their work. In Global Economic Prospects 2002, they begin their simulation study with “a baseline view about the likely evolution of developing countries, based upon best guesses about generally stable parameters—savings, investment, population growth, trade and productivity growth.”8 This baseline view incorporates only those changes in the “global trading regime” that occurred up through 1997 and uses these best guesses to estimate economic outcomes for the years 2005 to 2015. Next, they assume the removal of all trade restrictions in the period 2005 to 2010, with the restrictions reduced by one-sixth in each year.9 Finally, they compare the estimated economic outcomes from this liberalization scenario with those from the initial baseline scenario to determine the gains from liberalization.

This modeling effort also depends on several critical and unrealistic assumptions. One is that tariff reductions will have no effect on government deficits; they will remain unchanged from what they were in the baseline projection. This assumption claims that governments will automatically be able to replace lost tariff revenue with new revenue from other sources. Another assumption is that tariff reductions will have no effect on trade balances; they will remain the same as in the baseline projection. The final one is the existence of full employment. Once again, a powerful free-trade bias is built into the heart of the model by assumption, thereby ensuring a pro-liberalization outcome.

Although this bias is sufficient to dismiss the study’s usefulness as a guide to policy, its results are still worth examining for two reasons: First, the projected benefits are smaller than one might imagine given the World Bank’s unqualified support for liberalization. Second, later World Bank studies have revealed significantly smaller benefits. In its 2002 study, the World Bank concluded that “measured in static terms, world income in 2015 would be $355 billion more with [merchandise] trade liberalization than in the baseline.”10 Third world countries as a group would receive $184 billion, or approximately 52 percent of these total benefits. Significantly, $142 billion of this third world gain is projected to come from the liberalization of trade in agricultural goods. Even more noteworthy, $114 billion is estimated to come from third world liberalization of its own agricultural sector.11 Liberalization of trade in manufactures turns out to be a minor affair. Total estimated third world gains from a complete liberalization of world trade in manufactures amount to only $44 billion.

If we were to take these numbers seriously, they certainly suggest that the third world has little to gain from an actual WTO agreement. As Mark Weisbrot and Dean Baker note in their critique of this study, “the removal of all of the rich countries’ barriers to the merchandise exports of developing countries—including agriculture, textiles, and other manufactured goods—would...when such changes were fully implemented by 2015...add 0.6 percent to the GDP of low and middle-income countries. This means that a country in Sub-Saharan Africa that would, under present trade arrangements have a per capita income of $500 per year in 2015, would instead have a per capita income of $503.”12 Moreover, as they also point out, these meager gains would be far outweighed by losses incurred from compliance with other associated WTO agreements.

More recent World Bank estimates show even smaller gains from liberalization. In Global Economic Prospects 2005, the World Bank incorporated new data sets, which allowed it to “capture the considerable reform between 1997 and 2001 (e.g., continued implementation of the Uruguay Round and China’s progress toward WTO accession), and an improved treatment of preferential trade agreements.”13 As a result, total projected static gains from merchandise trade liberalization fell to $260 billion (in 2015 relative to the baseline scenario), with only 41 percent of the gains accruing to the third world.

Although working people have been ill-served by capitalist globalization, many are reluctant to challenge it because they have been intimidated by the “scholarly” arguments of those who support it. However, as we have seen, these arguments are based on theories and highly artificial simulations that deliberately misrepresent the workings of capitalism. They can and should be challenged and rejected.

Neoliberalism: The Reality

The post-1980 neoliberal era has been marked by slower growth, greater trade imbalances, and deteriorating social conditions. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that, “for developing countries as a whole (excluding China), the average trade deficit in the 1990s is higher than in the 1970s by almost 3 percentage points of GDP, while the average growth rate is lower by 2 percent per annum.”14 Moreover,

The pattern is broadly similar in all developing regions. In Latin America the average growth rate is lower by 3 percent per annum in the 1990s than in the 1970s, while trade deficits as a proportion of GDP are much the same. In sub-Saharan Africa growth fell, but deficits rose. The Asian countries managed to grow faster in the 1980s, while reducing their payments deficits, but in the 1990s they have run greater deficits without achieving faster growth.15
A study by Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, and David Rosnick on the consequences of neoliberal policies on third world development comes to similar conclusions. The authors note that “contrary to popular belief, the past 25 years (1980–2005) have seen a sharply slower rate of economic growth and reduced progress on social indicators for the vast majority of low- and middle-income countries [compared with the prior two decades].”16

For those that reject the major assumptions underlying mainstream arguments for the “freeing” of international economic activity, this outcome is not surprising. In broad brush, trade liberalization contributed to the deindustrialization of many third world countries, thereby increasing their import dependence. By making them cheaper and easier to obtain, it also encouraged an increase in the importation of luxury goods. And finally, by attracting transnational corporate production to the third world, it also increased the import intensity of most third world exports. Export earnings could not keep pace largely because growing third world export activity and competition (prompted by the need to offset the rise in imports) tended to drive down export earnings. Exports were also limited by slower growth and protectionism in most developed capitalist countries.

In an effort to keep growing trade and current account deficits manageable, third world states, often pressured by the IMF and World Bank, used austerity measures (especially draconian cuts in social programs) to slow economic growth (and imports). They also deregulated capital markets, privatized economic activity, and relaxed foreign investment regulatory regimes in an effort to attract the financing needed to offset the existing deficits. While devastating to working people and national development possibilities, these policies were, as intended, responsive to the interests of transnational capital in general and a small but influential sector of third world capital. This is the reality of neoliberalism.

The Dynamics of Contemporary Capitalism

While the term “neoliberalism” does, in many ways, capture the essence of contemporary capitalist practices and policies, it is also in some important respects a problematic term. In particular, it encourages the view that a wide range of policy options simultaneously exist under capitalism, with neoliberalism just one of the possibilities. States could reject neoliberalism, if they wanted, and implement more social democratic or interventionist policies, similar to those employed in the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, things are not so simple. The “freeing” of economic activity that is generally identified with neoliberalism is not so much a bad policy choice as it is a forced structural response on the part of many third world states to capitalist generated tensions and contradictions. Said differently, it is capitalism (as a dynamic and exploitative system), rather than neoliberalism (as a set of policies), that must be challenged and overcome.

Mainstream theorists usually consider international trade, finance, and investment as separate processes. In fact, they are interrelated. And, as highlighted above, the capitalist drive for greater profitability has generally worked to pressure third world states into an overarching liberalization and deregulation. This dynamic has had important consequences, especially, but not exclusively, for the third world. In particular, it has encouraged transnational corporations to advance their aims through the establishment and extension of international production networks. This has led to new forms of dominance over third world industrial activity that involve its reshaping and integration across borders in ways that are ever more destructive of the social, economic, and political needs of working people.

During the 1960s and 1970s, most third world countries pursued state directed import-substitution industrialization strategies and financed their trade deficits with bank loans. This pattern ended suddenly in the early 1980s, when economic instabilities in the developed capitalist world, especially in the United States, led to rising interest rates and global recession. Third world borrowing costs soared and export earnings plummeted, triggering the third world “debt crisis.” With debt repayment in question, banks greatly reduced their lending, leading to ever deepening third world economic and social problems.

To overcome these problems, third world states sought new ways to boost exports and new sources of international funds. Increasingly, they came to see export-oriented foreign direct investment as the answer. The competition for this investment was fierce. Country after country made changes in their investment regimes, with the great majority designed to create a more liberalized, deregulated, and “business friendly” environment. Transnational corporations responded eagerly to these changes, many of which they and their governments helped promote. And, over the years 1991–98, FDI became the single greatest source of net capital inflow into the third world, accounting for 34 percent of the total.17

New technologies had made it possible for transnational corporations to cheapen production costs for many goods by segmenting and geographically dividing their production processes. They therefore used their investments to locate the labor intensive production segments of these goods—in particular the production or assembly of parts and components—in the third world. This was especially true for electronic and electrical goods, clothing and apparel, and certain technologically advanced goods such as optical instruments.

The result was the establishment or expansion of numerous vertically structured international production networks, many of which extended over several different countries. According to UNCTAD, “it has been estimated, on the basis of input-output tables from a number of OECD and emerging-market countries, that trade based on specialization within vertical production networks accounts for up to 30 percent of world exports, and that it has grown by as much as 40 percent in the last 25 years.”18

Despite the fierce third world competition to attract FDI, transnational corporations tended to concentrate their investments in only a few countries. In general, U.S. capital emphasized North America (NAFTA), while Japanese capital focused on East Asia, and European capital on Central Europe. The countries that “lost out” in the FDI competition were generally forced to manage their trade and finance problems with austerity. Those countries that “won” usually experienced a relatively fast industrial transformation. More specifically, they became major exporters of manufactures, especially of high-technology products such as transistors and semiconductors, computers, parts of computers and office machines, telecommunications equipment and parts, and electrical machinery.

As a consequence of this development, the share of third world exports that were manufactures soared from 20 percent in the 1970s and early 1980s, to 70 percent by the late 1990s.19 The third world share of world manufacturing exports also jumped from 4.4 percent in 1965 to 30.1 percent in 2003.20

Mainstream economists claim that this rise in manufactured exports demonstrates the benefits of liberalization, and thus the importance of WTO-style liberalization agreements for development. However, this argument falsely identifies FDI and exports of manufactures with development, thereby seriously misrepresenting the dynamics of transnational capital accumulation. The reality is that participation in transnational corporate controlled production networks has done little to support rising standards of living, economic stability, or national development prospects.

There are many reasons for this failure. First, those countries that have succeeded in attracting FDI have usually done so in the context of liberalizing and deregulating their economies. This has generally resulted in the destruction of their domestic import-competing industries, causing unemployment, a rapid rise in imports, and industrial hollowing out. Second, the activities located in the third world rarely transfer skills or technology, or encourage domestic industrial linkages. This means that these activities are seldom able to promote a dynamic or nationally integrated process of development. Furthermore the exports produced are highly import dependent, thereby greatly reducing their foreign exchange earning benefits.

Finally, the transnational accumulation process makes third world growth increasingly dependent on external demand. In most cases, the primary final market for these networks is the United States, which means that third world growth comes to depend ever more on the ability of the United States to sustain ever larger trade deficits—an increasingly dubious proposition.

Few countries have escaped these problems. For example, UNCTAD studied the economic performances of “seven of the more advanced developing countries” over the period 1981–96: Hong Kong (China), Malaysia, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan Province of China, and Turkey. These are among the most successful third world exporters of manufactures. Yet, because much of their export activity is organized within transnational corporate controlled production networks, the gains to worker well being or national development have been limited.

For example, average manufacturing value added for the group as a whole remained consistently below the value of manufactured exports over the entire period, with the ratio declining from 76 percent in 1981 to 55 percent in 1996. And, although the group’s average ratio of manufactured exports to GDP rose sharply, its average ratio of manufacturing value added to GDP remained generally unchanged.21 Moreover, while the group as a whole generally maintained a rough balance in manufactured goods trade until the late 1980s, after that point imports grew much faster than exports. Mexico’s experience perhaps best symbolizes the bankruptcy of this growth strategy: “between 1980 and 1997 Mexico’s share in world manufactured exports rose tenfold, while its share in world manufacturing valued added fell by more than one third, and its share in world income (at current dollars) [fell] by about 13 percent.”22

China: The Latest Neoliberal Success Story

Capitalism’s failure to deliver development is not due to its lack of dynamism; in fact quite the opposite is true. By intensifying the development and application of new production and exchange relationships within and between countries, this dynamism causes rapid shifts in the economic fortunes of nations, creating a constantly changing (and shrinking) group of “winners” and (an ever larger) group of “losers,” and masking the connection between the two. Even East Asia has been subject to the instabilities of capitalist dynamics, as the East Asian crisis of 1997–98 devastated such past “star performers” as South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. After quickly distancing themselves from these countries (and their past praise for their growth), most neoliberals have now eagerly embraced a new champion, China.23

According to the conventional wisdom, China has become the third world’s biggest recipient of foreign direct investment, exporter of manufactures, and fastest growing economy, largely because its government adopted a growth strategy based on privileging private enterprise and international market forces. In response to this new strategy, net FDI in China grew from $3.5 billion in 1990 to $60.6 billion in 2004. Foreign manufacturing affiliates now account for approximately one-third of China’s total manufacturing sales. They also produce 55 percent of the country’s exports and a significantly higher percentage of its higher technology exports. As a consequence of these trends, the country’s ratio of exports to GDP has climbed steadily, from 16 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2003.24 Thus, China’s growth has become increasingly dependent on transnational corporate organized export activity.

Foreign investment has indeed transformed China into a fast growing export platform, with some significant domestic production capacity. At the same time, many of the limitations of this growth strategy, which were highlighted above, are also visible in China. For example, foreign dominated export activity has done little to support the development of nationally integrated production or technology supply networks.25 Moreover, as the Chinese state continues to lose its planning and directing capability, and the country’s resources are increasingly incorporated into foreign networks largely for the purpose of satisfying external market demands, the country’s autonomous development potential is being lost.

China’s growth has enriched a relatively small but numerically significant upper income group of Chinese, who enjoy greatly expanded consumption opportunities. However, these gains have been largely underwritten by the exploitation of the great majority of Chinese working people. For example, as a consequence of Chinese state liberalization policies, state owned enterprises laid off 30 million workers over the period 1998 to 2004. With urban unemployment rates in double digits, few of these former state workers were able to find adequate re-employment. In fact, over 21.8 million of them currently depend on the government’s “average minimum living allowance” for their survival. As of June 2005, this allowance was equal to approximately $19 a month; by comparison, the average monthly income of an urban worker was approximately $165 dollars.26

While the new foreign dominated export production has generated new employment opportunities, most of these jobs are extremely low paid. A consultant for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that Chinese factory workers earn an average of sixty-four cents an hour (including benefits).27 In Guangdong, where approximately one-third of China’s exports are produced, base manufacturing wages have been frozen for the past decade. Moreover, few if any of these workers have access to affordable housing, health care, pensions, or education.28

China’s economic transformation has not only come at high cost for Chinese working people, it has also intensified (as well as benefited from) the contradictions of capitalist development in other countries, including in East Asia. For example, China’s export successes in advanced capitalist markets, in particular that of the United States, have forced other East Asian producers out of those markets. Out of necessity, they have reoriented their export activity to the production of parts and components for use by export-oriented transnational corporations operating in China. Thus, all of East Asia is being knitted together into a regional accumulation regime that crosses many borders and in so doing restructures national activity and resources away from meeting domestic needs. Instead, activity and resources are being organized to serve export markets out of the region under the direction of transnational corporations whose interests are largely in cost reduction regardless of the social or environmental consequences.29

The much slower post-crisis growth of East Asian countries, and the heightened competitiveness pressures that are squeezing living standards throughout the region, provide strong proof that this new arrangement of regional economic relations is incapable of promoting a stable process of long-term development. Meanwhile, China’s export explosion has also accelerated the industrial hollowing out of the Japanese and U.S. economies as well as the unsustainable U.S. trade deficit.

At some point the (economic and political) imbalances generated by this accumulation process will become too great, and corrections will have to take place. Insofar as the logic of capitalist competition goes unchallenged, governments can be expected to manage the adjustment process with policies that will likely worsen conditions for workers in both third world and developed capitalist countries. Neoliberal advocates can also be expected to embrace this process of adjustment as the means to “discover” their next success story, whose experience will then be cited as proof of the superiority of market forces.

Our Challenge

As we have seen, arguments purporting to demonstrate that free-trade/free-market policies will transform economic activities and relations in ways that universally benefit working people are based on theories and simulations that distort the actual workings of capitalism. The reality is that growing numbers of workers are being captured by an increasingly unified and transnational process of capital accumulation. Wealth is being generated but working people in all the countries involved are being pitted against each other and suffering similar consequences, including unemployment and worsening living and working conditions.

Working people and their communities are engaged in growing, although uneven, resistance to the situation. While increasingly effective, this resistance still remains largely defensive and politically unfocused. One reason is that neoliberal theory continues to provide a powerful ideological cover for capitalist globalization, despite the fact that it is both generated by and designed to advance capitalist class interests. Another is the dynamic nature of contemporary capitalism, which tends to mask its destructive nature. Therefore, as participants in the resistance, we must work to ensure that our many struggles are waged in ways that help working people better understand the nature of the accumulation processes that are reshaping our lives. In this way, we can illuminate the common capitalist roots of the problems we face and the importance of building movements committed to radical social transformation and (international) solidarity.


1. Quoted in Ha-Joon Chang, Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (London: Anthem Press, 2002), 15.
2. William Cline, “Doha Can Achieve Much More than Skeptics Expect,” Finance and Development (March 2005), 22.
3. Significantly, most neoliberal theorists do not include the free movement of people in their argument.
4. Additional discussion of the theoretical weaknesses underlying free-trade theories can be found in Arthur MacEwan, Neo-Liberalism or Democracy: Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives for the 21st Century (New York: Zed Press, 1999), chapter 2; Graham Dunkley, The Free Trade Adventure: The WTO, the Uruguay Round and Globalism—A Critique (New York: Zed Press, 2000), chapter 6; and Anwar Shaikh, “The Economic Mythology of Neoliberalism,” in Alfredo Saad-Filho, ed., Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
5. Drusilla Brown, Alan Deardoff, & Robert Stern, CGE Modeling and Analysis of Multilateral and Regional Negotiating Options, Discussion Paper 468 (University of Michigan School of Public Policy Research Seminar in International Economics, 2001), http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/workingpapers/
6. The World Bank, Global Economic Prospects 2002 (Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2002), xiii.
7. Peter Dorman, The Free Trade Magic Act, Briefing Paper (Washington, D.C., Economic Policy Institute, 2001), 2.
8. World Bank, Global Economic Prospects 2002, (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2001), 166.
9. The restrictions that are eliminated include import tariffs, export subsidies, and domestic production subsidies.
10. World Bank, Global Economic Prospects 2002, 167.
11. This result is largely a reflection of the assumptions of the World Bank model. Because the agricultural sector in the third world is protected by relatively high tariffs and assumed inefficient, its liberalization produces the biggest gains for the third world. This view of third world agricultural production ignores all cultural and ecological considerations.
12. Mark Weisbrot & Dean Baker, The Relative Impact of Trade Liberalization on Developing Countries, Briefing Paper (Washington, D.C., Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2002), 1.
13. World Bank, Global Economic Prospects 2005 (Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2005), 127.
14. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 1999 (New York: United Nations, 1999), vi.
15. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 1999, vi.
16. Mark Weisbrot, Dean Baker, & David Rosnick, The Scorecard on Development: 25 Years of Diminished Progress (Washington, D.C., Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2005), 1.
17. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2002 (New York: United Nations, 2002), 103.
18. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2002, 63.
19. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2002, 51.
20. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2005 (New York: United Nations, 2005), 131.
21. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2002, 77.
22. UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report 2002, 80.
23. For a discussion of the rise of China as a neoliberal success story see Martin Hart-Landsberg & Paul Burkett, China and Socialism: Market Reform and Class Struggle (New York: Monthly Review, 2005), especially chapter 1.
24. Martin Hart-Landsberg & Paul Burkett, “China and the Dynamics of Transnational Accumulation: Causes and Consequences of Global Restructuring,” Historical Materialism (forthcoming 2006).
25. Hart-Landsberg & Burkett, “China and the Dynamics of Transnational Accumulation.”
26. China Labor Bulletin, “Subsistence Living for Millions of Former State Workers” (September 7, 2005).
27. Edward Cody, “Workers In China Shed Passivity, Spate of Walkouts Shakes Factories,” Washington Post, November 27, 2004.
28. For more discussion of the destructive social consequences of Chinese state policies on working people as well as their growing resistance to these policies see Hart-Landsberg & Burkett, China and Socialism, chapter 3.
29. This restructuring is examined in detail in Hart-Landsberg & Burkett, China and Socialism, chapter 4, and “China and the Dynamics of Transnational Accumulation.”

dinsdag, april 25, 2006

Francis Fukuyama is a man held hostage by his publishers door Douglas MURRAY op The Social Affairs Unit, 25 april 2006

Douglas Murray - the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - reviews Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons. Douglas Murray finds an author held hostage by his publishers.

Francis Fukuyama's first book, The End of History and the Last Man, propelled him from the Rand Corporation and State Department into the role of "public intellectual". The problem with this was that having come up with one big idea, the trick now had to be repeated on a roughly biannual basis.

For Fukuyama, a low was reached with 2004's State Building. It should have been – as the publishers promised - a timely work. But the product was bitty, three potential tomes (the last especially full of promise) thrown into one brief, uneven, book. Fukuyama seemed to have become a hostage of his publishers, unable to exhaustively study any single issue and unwilling to commit to another grand narrative. Which is understandable if your most famous work is also an almost entirely misunderstood bestseller.

The original 1989 essay The End of History had a question mark at the end of its title. For the book, expanded from the essay, three years later, the query was (it seems for publicity reasons) removed: what had been a proposal became an announcement.

And so from the moment it was published, in 1992, The End of History was interpreted by those who hadn't read it as an announcement that history had come to an end. Since it was plain for all to see that it had not, by late 2001 Fukuyama's thesis was commonly thought to have joined Norman Angell's pre-First World War bloomer The Great Illusion as a book to be reissued – if ever - with a Foreword saying, simply, "Whoops".

But what many people missed (and others wouldn't get) was that Fukuyama's book identified not the end of "events", but the end of history in the Hegelian sense - the end of the evolution of human thought toward a specific type of governance. With enormous learning and flair, the work argued that the communist block's disintegration demonstrated not just the desirability of liberal democracy, but:

the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Though there was much to debate in this, the debate was never really had. People misrepresented Fukuyama, and he didn't manage to get them to misrepresent him a bit less.

Having written one book whose title helped it to be fantastically misunderstood, one might have hoped Fukuyama would learn the lesson and reign in his publishers. But with After the Neocons they are at it again. The special UK title (in the US it is America at the Crossroads) is clearly intended to appeal to the British fad for neocon-conspiracies and obsession with all things celebrity. The spin on the book allows journalists to once again talk not of issues or ideas but of personalities - of mea culpas, abandoned ships, and u-turns by people whose opinions they didn't understand first time around.

So the publishers give the following tag-line on the dust-wrapper:

Francis Fukuyama used to regard himself as a "neocon". Not any more.

So this is going to be a great attack on Bush from the inside is it? Michael Moore with facts, Arundhati Roy with ideas? Alas for the "anti-war" profession, anyone after such fare is going to be disappointed – a fact made clear in the very next paragraph of publisher's blurb, a paragraph which reveals not only that the publicists haven't read the book in question, but that they haven't read their previous sentence:

Attacking the right-wing policymakers who were previously his colleagues, Fukuyama argues that the Bush administration is applying the principles of neoconservatism wrongly.

Ah - well that's quite a different thing, and if I were a Moveon.org type I'd be demanding my money back at this point. This isn't a "Get-stuffed neocons" tome, so much as a "You're not quite following the neocon precepts right" affair. In other words, this book is a technical disagreement from an ally rather than a guerrilla attack from an apostate. I saw Fukuyama the other week in London, fielding questions from his new would-be fans who were trying to get him to admit that there's a Halliburton pipeline running from downtown Baghdad direct to Dick Cheney's office. Magnificently representing their profession, two BBC journalists separately tried to cajole a mea culpa from him for the Iraq war (which he hadn't supported). For leftists and the BBC, the "Bush / Blair lied" narrative is so clear these days that all that is still of interest to them is the wringing of confessions from people who they disagree with. But the business of democracy and the wars for democracy is serious, and Fukuyama is at least attempting to tackle them. Even though his publishers and most of the media refuse to take him seriously, we should.

Fukuyama's main point in this book is that neoconservatives have, in their support for the Iraq war, wandered from the precepts of their own beliefs. As a pupil of Allan Bloom and a former employee of Paul Wolfowitz, Fukuyama has a good idea of what such beliefs are. But although not wrong, his definitions are strangely limited. For the sake of ease, Fukuyama identifies neocons by four particular criteria. They are people who:

- believe that the internal nature of a regime is revealed by its behaviour;
- believe that American power should be used to spread good;
- are suspicious of ambitious social engineering projects;
- distrust international laws and institutions.

Certainly these criteria cover a substantial proportion of neoconservative beliefs. But it's hard to see what is especially "neocon" about them. Few students of politics would entirely disagree with the first notion, and few Americans would entirely disagree with the second. Most people from the political "right" would agree with the third. Which leaves only the distrust of international bodies, which – again – a good many people on the American right and elsewhere would share.

In any case, the central arguments of this new book constitute an attempt to shift the emphasis of these thoughts, whether neocon or not. Fukuyama states, perfectly reasonably, that the neoconservative label is now unhelpful, and that a new political identity should be argued for. The label which Fukuyama lands on is "Realistic Wilsonianism". Under this nomenclature, Fukuyama argues that America should spend more time on international alliances and organisations, and concentrate less on the military exertion of its power. It should rethink its attitude to development (which he rightly describes as "always…something of a stepchild in American foreign policy") and states that it should distribute more of its wealth.

Anyone expecting "realistic Wilsonianism" to be a new opening in the political landscape, or even a particularly new branch of Wilsonianism, is going to find After the Neocons disappointing stuff.

For there is no way of disguising the fact that this ends up as merely another call for new and invigorated international institutions, overlapping in their areas of expertise, restraining American power and building up transnational alliances. Fukuyama is kind enough to admit that the recent Iraq war:

exposed the limits of existing international institutions, particularly the United Nations.

This is good. But what is not good is what he attempts to draw from this lesson. His vision for finding ground between the UN-dominated la-la land of the left and the anti-UN fervour of many neocons is to encourage a sort of strengthened market of international institutions, in which overlap (and competitiveness?) smudges the authoritarian tendencies neocons see in such "care" monopolies. This seems to me a very unsatisfactory proposal, institutionalising a quasi free-market pretence to a naturally anti free-market paradigm.

Fukuyama understands the foolishness of attempting to solve the failure of international institutions by simply replacing them with other international institutions. In only one case is a possibly edifying and practical direction suggested. That is the suggestion of greater support for the Community of Democracies, which though likely to be as impractical as all such set-ups, is at least an improvement on a UN in which parity is given to dictatorships and republics.

But this one positive step aside, Fukuyama evades the crucial point - a point of which he must be aware. Neocons are wary of international institutions only because they recognise the unique dangers such bodies represent. The United Nations has failed (as Fukuyama agrees it has) for the same reasons that the League of Nations failed and for the same reason that all such organisations will fail - which is that the watering-down effect of such broad platforms make them uniquely prone to inaction, moral quietism, and a particularly seductive soft tyranny which levels the good and elevates the malign. Fukuyama's call for bigger and better international institutions at this stage lacks conviction. Knowing how un-original it is, and apparently under the impression that it's the only option left, he simply rattles it off. Fukuyama's retreat to such old tunes demonstrates a new-found lack of imagination and conviction.

Even his discussion of democracy and its spread – the theme on which he made, and deserves, his name – has become fateful and subdued. He admits that:

Democracy in my view is likely to expand universally in the long run.

His parting-of-the-ways with some one-time colleagues lies in this territory. He still believes, in regard to democracy, "What's the alternative?" (as Secretary Rice put it on her recent tour of Blackburn). But Fukuyama, who once encouraged democracy-spread, now believes it should be just left to happen. He claims this "Marxist" interpretation of his "End of History" theory is what separates him from the Kristol and Kagan "Leninist" approach, which likes to encourage history on its way.

There seems little doubt that this divergence will be welcomed by certain figures in the current debate. Many will welcome it as both moral and practical. In fact it is neither. Such an approach ends up covering the same ground as the amoral Kissingerian school of realpolitik, but with an added (and previously alien) twist of sanctimony. What it ends by saying is that doing nothing is doing something – that by not meddling you are actually assisting the inevitable working-out of history. This is undoubtedly appealing, but it is also amoral, cowardly and dangerous.

The thinker who wrote so movingly of human aspiration in modern states now takes consideration of the personal entirely out of his philosophy. Like his new-found stance on international institutions, this seems based not on any great change, so much as the intellectual equivalent of battle-fatigue. Looking around him, Fukuyama is not certain that the battle is being won. He still knows which side he supports, but he's forgotten how he got into it.

In fact, Fukuyama's current stance is rooted in an acute and interesting depiction of the roots of what he identifies as over-ambition on the part of certain neocons. Covering the same territory as Dana Allin and others, Fukuyama has a point – tracing a certain neocon ambitiousness to their interpretation of the way in which the Cold War ended. Though the speed of democracy-spread in Eastern Europe was the spur for the main argument of his first book, here Fukuyama is critical of those neoconservatives who came away from that period convinced that democracy is the default mode of all societies, and that most only need a nudge to get there. Fukuyama performs a number of disservices in this analysis. Firstly in eliding the fact that most neoconservatives believed all this long before the wall fell, and remain convinced of it for exactly the same reasons now. But also because in talking-up the unlikeliness of swift democracy-spread he exaggerates the ambitions of the most prominent neoconservatives of the post-Cold War era.

Anyhow, this is in-house stuff. What is more concerning, and will reverberate further, is Fukuyama's new pessimism on the chances of a further eruption of democracy. Particularly in relation to the contorted situation in the Middle East, Fukuyama's presumed narrative now seems misplaced and misinformed. He is right to state that by the time of its fall (if not long before) the Eastern bloc was ripe to fall because:

communism was a uniquely hollow and artificial ideology.

But – and Fukuyama never even approaches this fact - Ba'athism is at least equally hollow as an ideology, as is (and this can be seen in the flourishing of democratic sentiment across the region) the assumption that Muslim and Arab peoples don't mind living under manipulative tyrannies of theocratic populists and crime-syndicate families. No prominent neocon ever implied or argued that the Middle East was going to swiftly resemble a Jeffersonian democracy. What they argued was that non-representation was (and is) harmful to the peoples who live under that system, as well as threatening – when not lethal - to those of us who live outside them.

Fukuyama writes:

Whether the rapid and relatively peaceful transition to democracy and free markets made by the Poles, Hungarians, or even the Romanians can be quickly replicated in other parts of the world, or promoted through the application of power by outsiders at any given point in history, is open to doubt.

Not to Fukuyama it isn't. The explosions of freedom in former communist countries are, he writes:

likely to be exceptions rather than the rule.

Many people, neocons and non-neocons alike, will agree with Fukuyama on the direction in which history is going. Having agreed on that, the only debate is on whether anything should be done to help it along. It is all very well to tell a people that one day they will have freedom, but it is quite another - and quite a terrible - thing, to tell a people that though they deserve freedom, and though they may want it, they shouldn't expect it in their lifetime. It could be argued that misreading the signs of democratic aspiration around the world is forgivable: ignoring those aspirations, however, is not. Today Fukuyama manages to do both. Fukuyama has treated history with leniency and generosity throughout his career. It is hard not to feel, on the basis of this latest book, that history is unlikely to return the favour.

Douglas Murray is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.

zondag, april 23, 2006

Demographie des Verschwindens interview met bevolkingswetenschapper Prof. Dr. Josef Schmid in Sezession nr. 13, 2006

Sezession: Die Demographie prognostiziert, daß Deutschland sich entvölkere. Seit wann weiß Ihre Wissenschaft um diese Zukunft?

Schmid: Eine direkte Bevölkerungsabnahme errechnete man für die, wohlgemerkt, deutsche Bevölkerung in der alten Bundesrepublik schon in der zweiten Hälfte der siebziger Jahre. Diese „Projektion“ – wie wir lieber sagen – hatte durchaus Aufsehen erregt und war sogar Gegenstand einer Anhörung im damaligen Bundesinnenministerium unter Gerhart Baum.
Die Quintessenz war folgende: Wenn die niedrige Geburtenzahl, die seit 1973 deutlich unter der Zahl der Sterbefälle lag, sich verfestigen sollte, dann müßten aufgrund der eintretenden Alterung bis 2030 die Renten entweder um die Hälfte gekürzt oder die Beitragszahlungen verdoppelt werden. Eigentlich könnte Deutschland sich nur noch mit einem „Mix“ aus beidem behelfen.
Seither sind wir Zeugen eines gigantischen Verdrängungstheaters.
Wir beobachten, wie alle Register an Seelenmassage und Massenpsychologie gezogen werden, um diese damals schon recht harten Fakten wieder vom Tisch zu kriegen. Ein Parteienstaat, der sich beinahe ständig in irgendeinem Wahlkampf befindet, tut sich unendlich schwer mit unangenehmen Wahrheiten. Das Ergebnis der Verdrängung ist verheerend: Bis heute weiß ja keiner so recht, wie man aus der Tatsache, daß die Deutschen zuwenig Nachwuchs bekommen, eine politische Frage zimmern soll. Die
Selbstblockade der Politik ließ es lieber bis zum Äußersten kommen und an diesem „Äußersten“ spazieren wir seit Jahren entlang.

Sezession: Wie muß man sich diesen Vorgang vorstellen?

Schmid: Die Entvölkerungstendenz zeigt sich zuerst in den strukturschwachen Gebieten, aus denen die dort noch geborenen jungen Menschen abwandern. Vor allem die Neuen Länder sind davon betroffen. Geburtenrückgang bedeutet Rückgang von Mädchengeburten, und das wiederum bedeutet weniger potentielle Mütter in der nächsten Generation, also 25 Jahre später. Nach Ablauf einer Generation haben wir also nicht nur an sich weniger Geborene zu registrieren, sondern bereits die Nichtgeborenen der fehlenden Mütter. Wenn sich dieser Vorgang nun wiederholt, dann gerät eine Bevölkerung in eine Abwärtsspirale, treibt sie ein Jugendmangel im Generationentakt treppab. Ich sprach seit den 1980er Jahren als erster von einer programmierten „demographischen Implosion“ – für den Fall, daß sich nichts ändern würde.
Um eine Bevölkerung stabil zu halten, bräuchte es etwas mehr als 2 Geburten pro Frau durchschnittlich. 1973 sank diese Zahl auf 1,35 ab und blieb bis heute auf diesem niedrigen Niveau. Die Generation der Deutschen ersetzt sich in der jeweils folgenden nur zu zwei Dritteln – ein Vorgang, der sich über sechs Generationen hinaus kaum verlängern läßt.
Das sogenannte „Aussterben der Deutschen“ ist also keine Fiktion, kein Schreckensbild, keine Wahnvorstellung, die man beliebig belächeln und bekichern kann. Es ist das Menetekel an der Wand einer Gesellschaft oder gar eines Kontinents, der auf dem Wege ist, Aufklärung mit Nihilismus zu verwechseln.

Sezession: Wer rückt nach in solch ein leeres Land? Oder wird der Schwund nur in den Städten ersetzt?

Schmid: Die besagte demographische Implosion, der sich verstärkende Bevölkerungsschwund, beginnt – nach unveränderter Lage der Dinge – zwischen 2005 und 2010. Deutschland wird es nicht mehr gelingen, die sich weitende Geburtenlücke mit Zuwanderung zu füllen. Bereits in den letzten beiden Jahren ist die Bevölkerung in Deutschland trotz Zuwanderung geschrumpft. Zusätzlich wirkt das, was wir postindustrielle Gesellschaft nennen: Manufaktur, die klassische Gastarbeiterbeschäftigung, geht zurück und Hochtechnologie und qualifizierte Dienstleistungen nehmen rasch zu. Dafür stehen aber nicht beliebig hohe Einwanderermengen zur Verfügung, von denen man einmal träumte.
Mit der Höherqualifizierung aller Arbeitsanforderungen und Arbeitsmärkte ist auch ein Konzentrationsvorgang um Oberzentren und Städte verbunden, die schönsten Landregionen werden zusätzlich entvölkert. Die Gleichwertigkeit der Lebensbedingungen von Land und Stadt war ein hohes regionalpolitisches Ziel in Deutschland und soll in angepaßter Form weiter gelten. Es geht nicht an, daß es in ländlichen Regionen unattraktiv wird, Kinder großzuziehen.

Sezession: Mit welcher demographischen Dynamik der Einwanderergruppen haben wir zu rechnen?

Schmid: Gesellschaft und Politik schwant etwas davon, daß die Einwanderer, die wir bräuchten, nicht zu bekommen sind: junge Paare, gut ausgebildet, Deutsch und Englisch fließend, mehr als zwei Kinder, mit einem Wort, solche Einwanderer, die sich die USA, Kanada und Australien ausschließlich und regelmäßig einholen. Die Nachbarstaaten der EU werden nur Arbeitnehmer und Lückenfüller am Arbeitsmarkt schicken, die aber zum Wochenende wieder nach Hause fahren. Sie befinden sich nämlich in der gleichen demographischen Lage und werden sich nicht in Deutschland ansiedeln. Das gilt für Slowenen und Kroaten in Österreich ebenso wie für Polen und Tschechen in Deutschland.
So bleibt also nur in asiatischen und nordafrikanischen Räumen ein Reservoir an möglichen Einwanderern. Mit denen aber holen wir uns eine negative soziökonomische Kulturdynamik ins Land: Zuwanderung von Männern und Frauen ohne Berufsaussicht im Aufnahmeland; die zweite Generation wächst bereits ohne Ausbildungskonzept auf, weil schon in den Elternhäusern außereuropäischer Zuwanderer so etwas wie Integration
nicht gestützt wird oder gar unbekannt ist. Der Ausweg ist Abwanderung in kriminelle Subkulturen oder in religiös-ethnische Ersatzbindungen.
Eine Identifizierung mit dem Aufnahmeland Deutschland ist unwahrscheinlich, denn die Bedeutung des Herkunftslandes wächst alleine schon aufgrund der dortigen demographischen Explosion.
Das ist der Zustand, den wir zur Zeit im Lande vorfinden: Die Dynamik liegt stets bei den Gruppen, die über ihre Kinder ein vitales Interesse an der Zukunft haben, niemals jedoch bei einem alternden Volk, ganz egal, wie die Mehrheitsverhältnisse derzeit noch sind.

Sezession: Eine Zukunft wird sich aus alledem ergeben. Zunächst: Was geht verloren?

Schmid: Wir sind in einen Zustand geraten, den man nur noch mit einer gewissen optimistischen Grundstimmung wird bewältigen können. Von den 7,3 Millionen Ausländern bereiten uns eigentlich nur die 2 Millionen EU-Bürger keine Sorgen. Mit der Identität, dem Zugehörigkeitsgefühl, der religiösen Bindung und den Integrationsbarrieren uns kulturell fernstehender Menschen befassen wir uns erst jetzt, wo ein „Kulturkampf“ nur noch mit Worten, aber nicht mehr in der Realität weggewischt werden kann. Der „interkulturelle Dialog“ bleibt eine akademische Beruhigungspille, die meist einem Karriere- und Stellenplan dient. Die Probleme Deutschlands und Europas – aufgehalst aus Weltflucht und Realitätsblindheit – kann ein solcher „Dialog“ nicht beseitigen.
Verloren also geht einiges. Wenn in einer schönen Definition „Heimat“ jenen Ort bezeichnet, an dem man sich nicht erklären muß, dann wird es zukünftig verdammt eng in ihr. Vor sechs Jahren wurde im Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz das deutsche Abstammungsrecht durch französisches und englisches Bodenrecht – das typisch und brauchbar ist für Kolonialherren - „ergänzt“. Mit diesem Bodenrecht verbindet sich aber eine strenge Nationalerziehung, das heißt der Identitätswandel der Zuwanderer
und ihrer Kinder allemal. Wo diese Nationalerziehung vor der Masse kapituliert und der Zusammenhalt verfällt, haben wir bürgerkriegsähnliche Zustände mit „Migrationshintergrund“, wie vor Wochen in Frankreich oder in England schon seit Jahren. Deutschland ist gewarnt, denn seine Jungbürgerkrieger wären nicht bloß Arbeitslose und Sprachgestörte, sondern auch noch Opfer einer Selbstfindungsneurose seit 1945. Aus antinationalem Staatsgeist heraus Ausländer national integrieren zu wollen ist wie die Quadratur des Kreises und in dieser Situation und in dieser Welt
träumerischer Gedankenluxus.

Sezession: Gewinnen wir auch etwas?

Schmid: Die Frage ist, worin wir den Gewinn sehen und suchen wollen. Wir gewinnen nichts, wenn wir uns an einen Zustand beengender und bedrängender Verhältnisse schlicht gewöhnen. Eine „Demographie des Verschwindens“, wie ich sie genannt habe, läßt keine Ruhe und Gewöhnung zu. Wenn die Deutschen, selbst über ihre Volksvertreter hinweg, aus ihrer Unruhe Kapital schlügen, sich aufrichten und zu einigen positiven Mythen, die ihnen sogar von außen her angetragen werden, Zuflucht nähmen, dann wäre etwas gewonnen. So sind wir Deutschen etwa zum wirtschaftlichen
Erfolg verdammt. Ihm zu entsprechen bedeutet zugleich, die Zuwanderer vom Geltungsnutzen, Deutsche zu werden, zu überzeugen.

Sezession: Auf welches Leben haben wir Deutschen uns für das Jahr 2030 einzustellen? Was kennzeichnet ein alterndes Volk?

Schmid: Die Wohnbevölkerung in Deutschland von 82,3 Millionen Menschen altert am raschesten, weil früher Geburtenabfall, der die Altenanteile erhöht, und steigende Lebenserwartung eine Kombination eingehen. Die geburtenstarken Jahrgänge werden sich zur Gänze im Rentenalter befinden und den schwach besetzten Jahrgängen im Erwerbsalter gegenüberstehen. Auf einhundert Erwerbstätige kommen heute vierzig Menschen über sechzig Jahre; bis 2030 wird sich diese Verhältniszahl verdoppeln, denn es wird dann jeder dritte Mensch in Deutschland über sechzig sein. Gewiß steigt mit der Lebenserwartung auch die Gesundheit im Alter, doch die Sorge bleibt das Ausmaß schwindender Jugend. Sie unterliegt einer anderen Bemessung als das Rentenalter. Sie ist Humankapital, muß im Wettbewerb mit viel jüngeren Völkern bestehen. Sie kann das nur, wenn auch die derzeit tragende Generation wieder ein Verantwortungsgefühl für das mobilisiert, was außerhalb ihrer selbst liegt, und in der Zeitenfolge denkt. Wir haben die Nation zu unser aller Existenzgrundlage gemacht und sie ist nur denkbar als Gemeinschaft der Gewesenen, Gegenwärtigen und Künftigen. Daran kann weder eine Moderne, Postmoderne noch Globalisierung etwas ändern.

vrijdag, april 21, 2006

Een Liberale Democratie Is Niet Cultureel Neutraal door Francis FUKUYAMA in NRC Handelsblad, 2 maart 2006

Eerder verschenen op Novopress Nederland, doch ook hier U niet te onthouden.

Europeanen doen veel te achteloos over burgerschap. Herstel oude rituelen weer in ere, creëer een moderne nationale identiteit en dwing die af. Moslimmeisjes moeten dezelfde rechten hebben als christenmeisjes.

De geschiedenis van een idee: Het gat in de theorie

De vaak verwarrende discussie over immigratie in Europa bewijst dat we preciezer en beter moeten definiëren wat het betekent in een liberale en pluralistische maatschappij te leven, wat het betekent tolerant te zijn. We hebben dat heel lang op een verkeerde manier uitgelegd. Het uitgangspunt zou het individu moeten zijn, en niet de groep. Maar een van de grootste problemen in het moderne denken over democratie is hoe je om moet gaan met groepsrechten, in welke mate je daaraan tegemoet moet komen.

Dat is eigenlijk het gevolg van een foutje van de geschiedenis. De theorie van de moderne democratie is gebaseerd op de Verlichting en is geformuleerd in Frankrijk, Groot-Brittannië en de Verenigde Staten. Dat waren alledrie etnisch en religieus gezien homogene samenlevingen op het moment dat ze democratieën werden – al laat ik hier de zwarte slaven even buiten beschouwing. Daarom ontbreekt bij de filosofen die de basis hebben gelegd, mensen als Thomas Hobbes, John Locke en Jean-Jacques Rousseau, maar ook de Founding Fathers van de Amerikaanse staat, een discussie over rechten van groepen. Als zij spraken over vrijheid, ging het over individuen. Hun rechten moesten beschermd worden tegenover de macht van de staat. In dat beeld was geen plaats voor aparte groepen die binnen de samenleving eigen regels kennen voor het gedrag van individuen. De vraag of vrijheid bedoeld is voor individuen, of ook voor culturele groepen met eigen regels, was niet aan de orde.

Dat is een gat in de moderne politieke theorie. Je kan niet volstaan met: ik erken de mens als individu. Mensen ontlenen hun gevoel van waardigheid aan een bijzondere identiteit. Vooral bij sociale groepen die lang gediscrimineerd zijn, wordt erkenning van hun culturele identiteit een belangrijke politieke eis. Kijk naar vrouwen, of homoseksuelen.

Vraag is hoe je daarmee moet omgaan. In de oude versie van tolerantie was dat zoiets als 'laat duizend bloemen bloeien'. Maar dat betekent niet dat duizend verschillende mensen hun eigen waarden mogen opleggen aan leden van die gemeenschappen. Een liberale democratie is niet cultureel neutraal. Zij is tolerant, pluralistisch, kent het vermogen tot compromis en dialoog, maar moet ook deze culturele waarden durven opleggen.

Sommigen zeggen dan: dat is cultureel imperialisme. Maar dit is simpelweg de morele basis voor onze samenleving. Die kan niet accepteren dat daarmee strijdige regels worden opgelegd op een lager niveau. Daarom kan je bijvoorbeeld geen genitale verminking toestaan, zoals die binnen sommige Afrikaanse culturen bestaat. Je moet mensen beschouwen als een volwaardig lid van de samenleving, en dan is er geen enkel excuus om een moslimmeisje andere rechten te geven dan een christelijk meisje. Dat is een verkeerd soort respect voor bepaalde culturele waarden van de islam. En het idee dat we onze waarden niet zouden kunnen opleggen aan anderen, is gebaseerd op een verkeerd soort politieke correctheid.

Staat moet meer vrágen:

Versterk nationale identiteit

De liberale samenleving kan dus niet volledig tolerant zijn. Er moet een aantal dominante waarden zijn die de mensen die naar die samenleving komen, moeten begrijpen en delen. En dat betekent dat de staat meer moet vragen van de mensen die hier komen. Het betekent ook dat samenlevingen zich bewuster, met meer energie, moeten inspannen om een reeks gedeelde culturele waarden te krijgen.

Je moet op zoek naar een moderne nationale identiteit, die aansluit bij en voortbouwt op de bestaande. Onderwijs is hierbij essentieel. Dat heeft een grote invloed op de vraag welke verhalen je elkaar vertelt. Het is ook een zaak van woorden en symbolen die de staat moet uitdragen, en die ook niet-politieke leiders voortdurend tegenover elkaar moeten bevestigen. Een van de grote problemen is natuurlijk dat een liberale democratie bijna per definitie een zwakke identiteit heeft. Je zegt niet tegen mensen wat hun waarden moeten zijn.

Toch zie je dat, binnen dat kader, de VS in vergelijking met Europa veel meer succes hebben met het scheppen van een nationale identiteit. Die is allereerst politiek, niet cultureel. Je zweert trouw aan de Grondwet, aan de principes van de rechtsstaat. De Amerikaanse identiteit is niet gebonden aan godsdienst of aan een andere eigenschap die niet zelfstandig kan worden gekozen door een immigrant. Dat laatste is essentieel, en daarom kan iedereen Amerikaan worden.

Europa is daar slordig in, zoals met vrijwel alle symbolen en rituelen. Er is een sterke verzorgingsstaat, maar wat me opvalt is het gebrek aan respect voor instituties. Mensen vinden het niet meer de moeite om te trouwen, doen cynisch over georganiseerde godsdienst en gaan niet meer naar de kerk. Sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog is ook het respect sterk gedaald voor ceremonies van burgerschap waarbij Grondwet en vlag een rol spelen. Het burgerschap wordt bijna achteloos verleend. Hoe moeten mensen het dan belangrijk gaan vinden dat ze lid zijn van een samenleving? Hoe schep je dan een gevoel van betrokkenheid? In de VS is er altijd wel een hoge politicus bij, het staat in de krant, mensen groeten de vlag. Als iemand in de politieke gemeenschap wordt opgenomen, moet dat een officieel moment zijn, een ritueel, anders betekent dat helemaal niets.

Europa lijdt onder de geesten van het verleden. Dat maakt alles verwarrender en onduidelijker. Daarom zal een Duitser soms tegen zijn kinderen zeggen dat ze bij internationale wedstrijden niet te hard moeten roepen voor het Duitse team.

Als Amerikaan kan ik niet zeggen wat de oplossing is. Iedere natie moet kijken naar haar eigen tradities en daar een gedeelde ervaring uit halen. Frankrijk is op de goede weg met het idee van de laicité. Voortbouwend op de traditie van de republikeinse verlichting leert iedereen op school Frans, lezen ze Racine en Voltaire, kennen ze de Franse geschiedenis. Ook iemand uit Martinique krijgt zo het gevoel Fransman te zijn; ook een niet-blanke niet-Europeaan kon op die manier een Fransman worden.

In Duitsland ligt het gecompliceerder. Tot 2000 was er nog een raciaal element om Duitser te zijn: je moest op z'n minst een Duitse moeder hebben. En dat terwijl 10 procent van de inwoners immigrant was. Dat was natuurlijk verkeerd. Je hebt daar de afgelopen jaren een voorzichtige poging gezien, geleid door de christen-democraten, om te praten over het idee Leitkultur. Wat zijn de universele waarden die de Duitsers binden? De christen-democraten werden weggehoond door mensen van links, die zeiden dat dit allemaal racisme en oud Duits nationalisme was. Maar dat hoeft helemaal niet, en daarom hebben de christen-democraten de draad weer opgepakt en praten ze nu over demokratische Leitkultur. We moeten toch definiëren wat de moderne, liberale identiteit moet zijn.

Daarbij moet je oppassen niet weer te vervallen in de politieke correctheid, dat je bepaalde zaken niet kunt zeggen. De aarzeling van de meeste Europese elites om te praten over de problemen rond immigratie heeft extreem-rechts in de kaart gespeeld. En als we nu niet met elkaar gaan praten over de culturele problemen, over het verband tussen immigratie en misdaad bijvoorbeeld, wordt extreem-rechts de grote overwinnaar.

De toekomst is aan de natiestaat:

De Europese droom bestaat niet

De natiestaat zoals die overal in de 19de eeuw vorm heeft gekregen, is voor de meeste mensen nog steeds de belangrijkste bron van emotionele verbondenheid. De natie moet daarom ook het ijkpunt zijn voor een moderne identiteit. Natuurlijk zijn er regio's als Schotland of Baskenland waarmee de inwoners zich sterk identificeren, maar dat zijn uitzonderingen, politieke problemen voor die landen. De Europese landen hebben na de Tweede Wereldoorlog geprobeerd afstand te nemen van nationalistische gevoelens. Maar een Europese droom bestaat niet. Europa heeft geen emotionele lading. De nee-stemmen tegen de Europese Grondwet in Nederland en Frankrijk waren een waarschuwingsschot van het volk dat de natie de belangrijkste focus voor identiteit is. De Duitse filosoof Jürgen Habermas heeft gesuggereerd dat er een postnationale openbare ruimte zou moeten zijn. Aardig idee, maar te abstract. Dat is niet een gedachte waarvoor mensen loyaliteit zullen voelen. Niemand zal zichzelf ooit zien als een Europeaan, maar altijd eerst als een Nederlander of een Amerikaan. Je bent lid van een samenleving waar je trots op bent en die je iets waardevols geeft. Die positieve kant van een nationale identiteit is veel te ver weggestopt in Europa.

De globalisering van de islam:

het probleem is onze achtertuin

Het opnieuw vestigen van een nationale identiteit wordt extra belangrijk als je je realiseert dat het probleem van de radicale islam vooral bestaat in de moderne landen. De opkomst van het islamisme duidt niet op een opleving van traditionele moslimreligiositeit. Het is een modern verschijnsel dat wordt gedreven door de zoektocht van de immigrant naar een identiteit. De Franse islamist Olivier Roy heeft hier al eerder op gewezen. In een traditioneel moslimland is iedere sociale instelling en een groot deel van de politiek verweven met godsdienst en die weer met de specifieke traditie van dat land. Wat je moet doen als moslim is geen zaak van keuze. Maar wanneer moslims naar een samenleving gaan die niet overwegend moslim is, krijgen zij een identiteitsprobleem. Voortdurend moeten zij zich de vraag stellen: wie ben ik, wat moet ik doen? Kijk op islamistische websites. Die staan vol met zulke vragen: wat is toegestaan, wat is halal? Al die vragen heb je niet in een traditioneel islamitische samenleving. Moet je de hand schudden van een christelijke vrouw op mijn school? Die vraag komt eenvoudig niet op, want je maakt het nooit mee.

Het jihadisme en de radicale ideologie van Osama bin Laden is een antwoord op dat zoeken naar identiteit. Bin Laden houdt mensen voor dat ze lid zijn van de universele umma, een grote godsdienstige gemeenschap die landsgrenzen overstijgt. Die ideologie is gezuiverd van lokale elementen, niet langer verbonden aan de tradities van de samenlevingen waar de immigranten oorspronkelijk vandaan komen. Religiositeit is dan geen zaak meer van sociaal conformisme, maar van eigen keuzes, van een innerlijk geloof. Olivier Roy heeft dit de protestantisering van de islam genoemd. Je bepaalt zelf hoe en wat je gelooft. Ik denk dat deze ontwikkeling paradoxaal genoeg wel eens het begin zou kunnen zijn van de secularisatie van de islam. Er wordt vaak gezegd dat er geen equivalent bestaat van Luther binnen de islam. Maar het gebeurt onder onze ogen. Mensen individualiseren hun geloof. Helaas duurde de clash van de reformatie drie- tot vierhonderd honderd jaar in West-Europa en ging die met veel geweld gepaard. We kunnen alleen maar hopen dat een vergelijkbare evolutie binnen de islam binnen een kortere tijdspanne gebeurt, en met minder geweld.

Wat betekent dit? Dat de kern van het probleem van het islamisme en het mogelijke geweld dat daaruit voortkomt niet in het Midden-Oosten ligt, maar in West-Europa. Daar treedt de vervreemding op. Mohamed B., de mannen achter de aanslagen in Londen, Mohammed Atta, de leider van 11 september, ze zijn allemaal geradicaliseerd in West-Europa. Het probleem is niet dat de moderne tijd zijn intrede doet in landen in het Midden-Oosten. Het probleem is dat voor moslims die naar West-Europa gaan, hun identiteit niet langer vanzelfsprekend is. Om te voorkomen dat er waarden de democratische westerse beschaving binnensluipen die daar haaks op staan, moeten de essentiële westerse waarden met meer nadruk worden uitgedragen.

Verzuiling is geen oplossing:

spreek dezelfde taal

Een gemeenschappelijke taal is het begin van een gemeenschappelijk cultuur. In de VS worden er nog steeds sterk voor gepleit om Spaans als tweede taal in te voeren op school. Dat zou een grote vergissing zijn. Mijn grootvader kwam in 1905 vanuit Japan naar de VS. Mijn vader groeide op in Los Angeles en ging naar openbare scholen waar alleen Engels werd gesproken. Later haalde hij een Ph.D aan de universiteit van Chicago en werd hij hoogleaar. Hij heeft steeds gezegd: als ik niet was gedwongen Engels te spreken, was dit allemaal niet gebeurd.

Turks op school in Nederland? Daar ben ik fel tegen. Kijk naar het referendum over tweetalig onderwijs in Californië, zo'n zeven jaar geleden. Van de ene dag op de andere is toen tweetalig onderwijs verboden, en het was een groot succes. Het aantal Hispanic kinderen dat het Engels beheerst, is enorm gestegen. Het is een verkeerd soort respect voor andere culturen om die andere talen in leven te houden.

Ook het denken in zuilen is een vergissing. Het zou onzinnig zijn een islamitische zuil te herstellen als net alle andere zuilen zijn afgebrokkeld. Een zuil werkt niet als een veilige vluchthaven waarin je je langzaam kan ontwikkelen. Het is een getto waarin je gevangen blijft zitten. Je integreert niet in de samenleving. Het is ook een broedplaats voor radicale ideeën. De Britten dachten dat ze met radicale islamisten konden omgaan door hen simpelweg hun ideeën te laten verkondigen vanuit hun moskeeën – 7 juli heeft dat allemaal veranderd.

Stimuleer integratie:

vergroot kans op werk

De problemen met de verzorgingsstaat hebben veel te maken met de problemen rond immigratie. Europeanen zeggen vaak dat ze een beter sociaal model hebben. Maar ze missen de vrije arbeidsmarkt zoals in de VS, die ervoor zorgt dat we geen werkloosheid kennen. Bijna iedere immigrant die wil werken kan een baan vinden, en ze werken heel erg hard. Een van de redenen voor het Europese onvermogen tot echte integratie is dat de verzorgingsstaat zo genereus is, dat veel immigranten die binnenkomen onmiddellijk worden gesteund door de staat. Zo krijgen ze niet de waardigheid die hoort bij werken en het waardevol lid van de samenleving zijn. Kinderen zien dat hun ouders niet werken, dat ze niet echt geïntegreerd zijn en daarom minder worden gewaardeerd in samenleving.

Vertaalt Europa waardigheid op een andere manier, door te zeggen dat je mensen niet tegen een erg laag loon moet laten werken? Dan wil ik een empirische test uitvoeren om te zien wat het beste werkt. Wie van de eerste generatie immigranten voelt zich beter aanvaard in de samenleving? De moslim die hier een uitkering krijgt, of de Hispanic in de VS die voor een laag loon werkt. Ik vermoed de tweede. Die heeft eerder het gevoel dat hij zelf iets waardevols bijdraagt en zo een plaats vindt in de samenleving.

Deze tekst is samengesteld door Marc Leijendekker, op basis van de Nexus-lezing en een interview hierover met Fukuyama. De volledige lezing zal worden gepubliceerd in een komend nummer van het tijdschrift Nexus.

Francis Fukuyama

Filosoof, politicoloog en econoom. Beroemd geworden met zijn boek 'Het einde van de geschiedenis en de laatste mens' (1992). Publiceerde verder 'Trust' (1995) en 'Het bouwen van een staat: de wereldorde in de 21ste eeuw' (2004). Hij gaf afgelopen zondag de Nexus-lezing 'The Future of Democracy. Culture and Immigration'.