Tag Archives: Colonialismo

Germany Has Created An Accidental Empire (Social Europe)

25/03/2013 BY ULRICH BECK

ulrich_beckAre we now living in a German Europe? In an interview with EUROPP editors Stuart A Brown and Chris Gilson, Ulrich Beck discusses German dominance of the European Union, the divisive effects of austerity policies, and the relevance of his concept of the ‘risk society’ to the current problems being experienced in the Eurozone.

How has Germany come to dominate the European Union?

Well it happened somehow by accident. Germany has actually created an ‘accidental empire’. There is no master plan; no intention to occupy Europe. It doesn’t have a military basis, so all the talk about a ‘Fourth Reich’ is misplaced. Rather it has an economic basis – it’s about economic power – and it’s interesting to see how in the anticipation of a European catastrophe, with fears that the Eurozone and maybe even the European Union might break down, the landscape of power in Europe has changed fundamentally.

First of all there’s a split between the Eurozone countries and the non-Eurozone countries. Suddenly for example the UK, which is only a member of the EU and not a member of the Eurozone, is losing its veto power. It’s a tragic comedy how the British Prime Minister is trying to tell us that he is still the one who is in charge of changing the European situation. The second split is that among the Eurozone countries there is an important division of power between the lender countries and the debtor countries. As a result Germany, the strongest economic country, has become the most powerful EU state.

Are austerity policies dividing Europe?

Indeed they are, in many ways. First of all we have a new line of division between northern European and southern European countries. Of course this is very evident, but the background from a sociological point of view is that we are experiencing the redistribution of risk from the banks, through the states, to the poor, the unemployed and the elderly. This is an amazing new inequality, but we are still thinking in national terms and trying to locate this redistribution of risk in terms of national categories.

At the same time there are two leading ideologies in relation to austerity policies. The first is pretty much based on what I call the ‘Merkiavelli’ model – by this I mean a combination of Niccolò Machiavelli and Angela Merkel. On a personal level, Merkel takes a long time to make decisions: she’s always waiting until some kind of consensus appears. But this kind of waiting makes the countries depending on Germany’s decision realise that actually Germany holds the power. This deliberate hesitation is quite an interesting strategy in terms of the way that Germany has taken over economically.

The second element is that Germany’s austerity policies are not based simply on pragmatism, but also underlying values. The German objection to countries spending more money than they have is a moral issue which, from a sociological point of view, ties in with the ‘Protestant Ethic’. It’s a perspective which has Martin Luther and Max Weber in the background. But this is not seen as a moral issue in Germany, instead it’s viewed as economic rationality. They don’t see it as a German way of resolving the crisis; they see it as if they are the teachers instructing southern European countries on how to manage their economies.

This creates another ideological split because the strategy doesn’t seem to be working so far and we see many forms of protest, of which Cyprus is the latest example. But on the other hand there is still a very important and powerful neo-liberal faction in Europe which continues to believe that austerity policies are the answer to the crisis.

Is the Eurozone crisis proof that we live in a risk society?

Yes, this is the way I see it. My idea of the risk society could easily be misunderstood because the term ‘risk’ actually signifies that we are in a situation to cope with uncertainty, but to me the risk society is a situation in which we are not able to cope with the uncertainty and consequences that we produce in society.

I make a distinction between ‘first modernity’ and our current situation. First modernity, which lasted from around the 18th century until perhaps the 1960s or 1970s, was a period where there was a great deal of space for experimentation and we had a lot of answers for the uncertainties that we produced: probability models, insurance mechanisms, and so on. But then because of the success of modernity we are now producing consequences for which we don’t have any answers, such as climate change and the financial crisis. The financial crisis is an example of the victory of a specific interpretation of modernity: neo-liberal modernity after the breakdown of the Communist system, which dictates that the market is the solution and that the more we increase the role of the market, the better. But now we see that this model is failing and we don’t have any answers.

We have to make a distinction between a risk society and a catastrophe society. A catastrophe society would be one in which the motto is ‘too late’: where we give in to the panic of desperation. A risk society in contrast is about the anticipation of future catastrophes in order to prevent them from happening. But because these potential catastrophes are not supposed to happen – the financial system could collapse, or nuclear technology could be a threat to the whole world – we don’t have the basis for experimentation. The rationality of calculating risk doesn’t work anymore. We are trying to anticipate something that is not supposed to happen, which is an entirely new situation.

Take Germany as an example. If we look at Angela Merkel, a few years ago she didn’t believe that Greece posed a major problem, or that she needed to engage with it as an issue. Yet now we are in a completely different situation because she has learned that if you look into the eyes of a potential catastrophe, suddenly new things become possible. Suddenly you think about new institutions, or about the fiscal compact, or about a banking union, because you anticipate a catastrophe which is not supposed to happen. This is a huge mobilising force, but it’s highly ambivalent because it can be used in different ways. It could be used to develop a new vision for Europe, or it could be used to justify leaving the European Union.

How should Europe solve its problems?

I would say that the first thing we have to think about is what the purpose of the European Union actually is. Is there any purpose? Why Europe and not the whole world? Why not do it alone in Germany, or the UK, or France?

I think there are four answers in this respect. First, the European Union is about enemies becoming neighbours. In the context of European history this actually constitutes something of a miracle. The second purpose of the European Union is that it can prevent countries from being lost in world politics. A post-European Britain, or a post-European Germany, is a lost Britain, and a lost Germany. Europe is part of what makes these countries important from a global perspective.

The third point is that we should not only think about a new Europe, we also have to think about how the European nations have to change. They are part of the process and I would say that Europe is about redefining the national interest in a European way. Europe is not an obstacle to national sovereignty; it is the necessary means to improve national sovereignty. Nationalism is now the enemy of the nation because only through the European Union can these countries have genuine sovereignty.

The fourth point is that European modernity, which has been distributed all over the world, is a suicidal project. It’s producing all kinds of basic problems, such as climate change and the financial crisis. It’s a bit like if a car company created a car without any brakes and it started to cause accidents: the company would take these cars back to redesign them and that’s exactly what Europe should do with modernity. Reinventing modernity could be a specific purpose for Europe.

Taken together these four points form what you could say is a grand narrative of Europe, but one basic issue is missing in the whole design. So far we’ve thought about things like institutions, law, and economics, but we haven’t asked what the European Union means for individuals. What do individuals gain from the European project? First of all I would say that, particularly in terms of the younger generation, more Europe is producing more freedom. It’s not only about the free movement of people across Europe; it’s also about opening up your own perspective and living in a space which is essentially grounded on law.

Second, European workers, but also students as well, are now confronted with the kind of existential uncertainty which needs an answer. Half of the best educated generation in Spanish and Greek history lack any future prospects. So what we need is a vision for a social Europe in the sense that the individual can see that there is not necessarily social security, but that there is less uncertainty. Finally we need to redefine democracy from the bottom up. We need to ask how an individual can become engaged with the European project. In that respect I have made a manifesto, along with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, called “We Are Europe”, arguing that we need a free year for everyone to do a project in another country with other Europeans in order to start a European civil society.

A more detailed discussion of the topics covered in this article is available in Ulrich Beck’s latest book, German Europe (Polity 2013). This interview was first published on EUROPP@LSE

Argentine Invasion (Radiolab)

Monday, July 30, 2012 – 10:00 PM

From a suburban sidewalk in southern California, Jad and Robert witness the carnage of a gruesome turf war. Though the tiny warriors doing battle clock in at just a fraction of an inch, they have evolved a surprising, successful, and rather unsettling strategy of ironclad loyalty, absolute intolerance, and brutal violence.

Drawing of an Argentinte Ant

(Adam Cole/WNYC)

David Holway, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist from UC San Diego, takes us to a driveway in Escondido, California where a grisly battle rages. In this quiet suburban spot, two groups of ants are putting on a chilling display of dismemberment and death. According to David, this battle line marks the edge of an enormous super-colony of Argentine ants. Think of that anthill in your backyard, and stretch it out across five continents.

Argentine ants are not good neighbors. When they meet ants from another colony, any other colony, they fight to the death, and tear the other ants to pieces. While other kinds of ants sometimes take slaves or even have sex with ants from different colonies, the Argentine ants don’t fool around. If you’re not part of the colony, you’re dead.

According to evolutionary biologist Neil Tsutsui and ecologist Mark Moffett, the flood plains of northern Argentina offer a clue as to how these ants came to dominate the planet. Because of the frequent flooding, the homeland of Linepithema humile is basically a bootcamp for badass ants. One day, a couple ants from one of these families of Argentine ants made their way onto a boat and landed in New Orleans in the late 1800s. Over the last century, these Argentine ants wreaked havoc across the southern U.S. and a significant chunk of coastal California.

In fact, Melissa Thomas, an Australian entomologist, reveals that these Argentine ants are even more well-heeled than we expected – they’ve made to every continent except Antarctica. No matter how many thousands of miles separate individual ants, when researchers place two of them together – whether they’re plucked from Australia, Japan, Hawaii … even Easter Island – they recognize each other as belonging to the same super-colony.

But the really mind-blowing thing about these little guys is the surprising success of their us-versus-them death-dealing. Jad and Robert wrestle with what to make of this ant regime, whether it will last, and what, if anything, it might mean for other warlike organisms with global ambitions.

Otávio Velho defende questionamento do eurocentrismo que marca o pensamento brasileiro (Jornal da Ciência)

Clarissa Vasconcellos – JC e-mail 4550, de 30 de Julho de 2012

Ele cita ideias de Tim Ingold, Aníbal Quijano e Ashis Nandy e aborda novas tendências vistas a partir da antropologia,em conferência realizada no último dia da 64ª Reunião Anual da SBPC.

Uma palestra com cara de aula magna, proferida pelo antropólogo Otávio Velho, foi um dos destaques do último dia da 64ª Reunião Anual da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), que terminou na sexta-feira (27) em São Luís. Palestrante que se poderia chamar de ‘hors concours’ (se houvesse alguma classificação entre o time de conferencistas), Velho apresentou a mesa ‘Contradição ou complementariedade: novas tendências do pensamento vistas a partir da antropologia’.

Eurocentrismo, descolonização, abertura. Essas foram algumas das palavras chave usadas pelo antropólogo para questionar o pensamento social vigente no País, que ainda vira as costas para o que está acontecendo no campo social e científico de nações do hemisfério Sul.

Velho começou afirmando que a antropologia realizada no Brasil peca por uma “escolarização excessiva, uma tendência repetitiva e talvez uma falta de atenção à pesquisa de campo”. “É preciso tentar abrir horizontes, a pesquisa tem que ser o cerne da atividade”, opina.

Duas tendências – Contudo, a palestra foi estruturada em torno de duas tendências de linhas diferentes da antropologia. A primeira vem sendo redescoberta na figura de Gregory Bateson, antropólogo que atuou entre os anos 1930 e 1960 e apontou em direção à interdisciplinaridade, flertando até com a biologia. Velho se centrou em um dos prolongamentos de sua linha, estabelecido por Tim Ingold.

Ele detalha que, para Bateson, o foco era o agente social, basicamente os indivíduos em comunicação e interação. Ingold desloca esse foco para o campo como um todo, “o agente da vida” e não os individuais. “Isso deixa implícita uma crítica à ideologia individualista que permeia nosso inconsciente teórico; o foco é o sistema como um todo. Passa a ser importante a ideia de movimento e nele a grande unidade da vida entendida em sentido mais holístico e global”, detalha.

A segunda tendência é a crítica ao eurocentrismo, que se pode dar em diversos planos. “Estamos mais apegados a essas referências do que os próprios pesquisadores do primeiro mundo. Esse deslocamento do eurocentrismo funciona de modo quase análogo a uma mudança de paradigma”, afirma, propondo a releitura e contextualização dos pensadores e a abertura a outros. “Referimo-nos a autores europeus e americanos e não conhecemos a produção latino-americana”, pontua, citando o sociólogo peruano Aníbal Quijano.

Diferenças – Ele atenta para o abuso da utilização da ideia de diferença e diversidade, ênfases empregadas comumente na antropologia. E lembra que a disciplina “tem origem no colonialismo europeu” e a que a diferença, entre outras coisas, era usada para “mostrar que outros povos eram incapazes de fazer avanços tecnológicos”.

“Como a América Latina se tornou independente há algum tempo, antes de países da África e Ásia, o colonialismo nos parece algo distante, que nossos quadros de diferenças não contemplam”, sublinha, ressaltando que mesmo no marxismo é possível encontrar um eurocentrismo forte. “Ele quase sugere que o colonizador é uma agente de progresso”, exemplifica.

Velho insiste em retomar a questão como algo que não pertence ao passado, já que tem prolongamentos, e cita outra vez Quijano, que fala do conceito de ‘colonialidade’ para se referir a algo que vai além do fenômeno histórico e se prolonga. “Como acontece nesse certo mimetismo nosso, o eurocentrismo dos intelectuais”, completa. Outro exemplo é a ideia eurocêntrica de dividir o mundo entre povos “com ou sem história”. Ele lamenta que no Brasil ainda seja muito incipiente o estudo do território antes de 1500.

No entanto, relembra que alguns movimentos importantes estão sendo feitos no âmbito da antropologia da América Latina, como as reuniões regionais do Mercosul. Porém, ainda falta intensificar o intercâmbio Sul-Sul. “Estamos mandando bolsistas do Ciências sem Fronteiras para a Índia?”, indaga, apontando a influência eurocêntrica também no desenvolvimento científico técnico.

Novos eixos – Velho pontua que a Índia é um dos lugares onde a discussão sobre as críticas ao eurocentrismo tem avançado mais, destacando o nome de Ashis Nandy. E vai mais longe, afirmando que tampouco é salutar distinguir do contexto mundial as chamadas “populações tradicionais”, termo frequente quando se quer marcar as diferenças regionais.

“A diferença é muito importante, mas a ênfase não deveria estar no conflito, que pode ser paralisante para o movimento”, opina. E ressalta a necessidade de não “hegemonizar”. “Os indianos falam de dominação sem hegemonia, para marcar a força dessas tradições que não são necessariamente hegemonizadas pelo colonizador”, exemplifica.

Ele atenta para a ideia de “acentuar novos eixos e novas articulações”, que “não signifiquem um relativismo cultural exacerbado”. E propõe construir universos a partir de novas perspectivas, que “tampouco se pretendem absolutas ou dominantes”, sem excluir outras possibilidades. “Existe outro Ocidente. Temos que estar abertos a encontros inesperados”, exemplifica.

Velho acredita que o protagonismo econômico de países como os do Bric, impulsionado pela crise na Europa, não levará imediatamente a um protagonismo “do pensamento” também. Ele chama a atenção para o risco de “mimetização” das ideias e que os países emergentes não podem cair na tentação de se transformar em “novos etnocêntricos”. E cita Nandy, que afirma que o antropologismo “não é a cura para o etnocentrismo”, mas sim ajuda a “pluralizar”.