In the blog post earlier this week – The conflicting concepts of cosmopolitan within Europe – Part 1 (January 29, 2019) – I juxtaposed two concepts of ‘cosmopolitanism’ which appeared to be part of the early moves to achieve European integration. On the one hand, there was a Kantian-style desire to create, through cooperation between previously warring states, a peaceful and prosperous future for a ‘one’ Europe. This construct would be welcoming to outsiders, progressive, and celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity. It was a rights-based conception of citizenship and democracy, which closely aligned with the growing popularity of the social democratic polity. On the other hand, the early moves to overcome the resistance to creating a supranational entity that would increasingly compromise national sovereignty – the so-called “functionalist” approach of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, created a pragmatic, free market-based cosmopolitanism, which set the Member States against each other as competitors. As I demonstrated, over time, the economic cosmopolitanism channeled the burgeoning neoliberalism of the 1980s and compromised the rights-based, political cosmopolitanism, to the end that we now talk about democratic deficits as the European Commission and its unelected allies such as the IMF trample over the rights of citizens across the geographic spread of Europe. Europhile progressives hanker for the first conception of European cosmopolitanism and proffer various reform proposals, which they claim will tame the economic dimensions and restore the ‘European Project’ as a progressive force in the world. In this second part of the series I will argue that from the outset the cosmopolitanism embedded in the ‘Project’ was deeply flawed and it is no surprise that democracy is now compromised in the European Union. I argue that reform is not possible such is the extent of the failures.
If the conjecture entertained in this series of blog posts is credible then the cosmopolitanism that the Europhile Left is motivated by is not operational and was compromised from the start.
This has significant ramifications for the large national debates that are alive in Europe (Gilets) and Britain (Brexit) at present.
For example, Philip Cunliffe’s Op Ed – Phoney Cosmopolitanism versus Genuine Internationalism – considers the deeper currents that are running through the Brexit divide in Britain.
He writes that:
… the continuing friction between Leavers and Remainers show that this dispute concerns people’s personal identities – how they think of themselves and their relation to the world.
The Remainers hold dear to the first construction of cosmopolitanism that I referred to in the Introduction:
The EU is held to stand for a cooperative vision of a harmonious future between different peoples. To Europhiles, the EU is an institution that helps to create solidarity and peace across borders.
This is a “powerful cultural identity which is “deeply entrenched in numerically small but highly influential sections of the elite and the liberal professional classes”.
The supremacy of the Leave vote challenged this identity.
The question is whether this identity is rooted in any known reality.
Philip Cunliffe joins a long line of analysts (including yours truly) who argue that:
… the EU is none of the things that are projected onto it by cosmopolitans.
Think about border issues – “internal freedom of movement comes at the cost of its bloody external borders, with Brussels paying Libyan warlords to imprison migrants and bribing the Turkish government to host refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East”.
Think about movement within the EU – “It is not seen as a right of citizenship but as supporting the interests of business”
Think about the much talked about ‘solidarity’ – the EU’s most advanced conception, the Eurozone, has created massive divergence across the geographic space and “amplified regional disparities”.
Many Europhiles agree that the ‘liberal, market-oriented cosmopolitanism’ that is dominant in modern Europe has compromised its solidaristic ambitions embedded in the rights-based political cosmopolitanism.
But they still hang onto the hope that reform of the former is possible to bring it into line with the latter.
The only explanation that Philip Cunliffe can provide for this apparent conflict between the Europhiles’ ideal and the reality is that:
… their cosmopolitan ideal itself that is phoney. The cosmopolitanism of the EU is a thin form of solidarity, the “cosmopolitanism of the front of the aircraft” … It is a petty cosmopolitanism, whose grandest political and institutional vision is the bureaucratic convenience of not being stopped at the passport barrier while travelling for a holiday or an academic conference. For the cosmopolitan, travel is inconceivable without the EU, as if mass tourism and travel in Europe only started in 1992. Purporting to celebrate difference, the cosmopolitanism of the EU is in fact the embrace of sameness – the same middle classes and elites interacting seamlessly across Europe. It is the cosmopolitanism of subsidised gap years and university partnership schemes with people of similar backgrounds, the cosmopolitanism of identical hipster quarters of cities throughout Europe and holiday villas in Tuscany and Provence.
As I noted yesterday, the anti-European uprisings (Leave, Gilets) have emerged from the disadvantaged economic classes who indicate they have nothing more to lose by opposing the EU orthodoxy.
The issue for them is basic survival not whether they have border controls or not when venturing on ski holidays or the Meditteranean islands for beach and dance parties.
And it goes further than that even.
The phoney cosmopolitan doesn’t really have a strong “attachment to foreigners or other peoples” but rather harbours a “desire to differentiate oneself from the people of your own country, to flaunt one’s cultural and moral superiority”
For example, how else do we explain the apparent support for an institutional structure that inflicted untold socio-economic brutality on the Greek people?
By way of contrast, the Leave (Gilets) are the voice of those who have “been economically abandoned by neoliberal policies pursued by a cosmopolitan elite”.
And as Thomas Fazi and I argued in our latest book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017) – the struggle to reclaim national sovereignty is nothing to do with abandoning globalist ideals.
Rather it is empowering the democracy to re-enfranchise all citizens and as Philip Cunliffe surmises “offers the basis for creating a real internationalism in Europe”.
We can only build solidarity up from the foundations – in each community, in each region, in each nation state and then allow these enriched geographies, which reflect the will of the people rather than the neoliberal technocracy – to reach out and create binding relationships across borders.
First, we reinstate social contracts, then look outwards.
But to see how this fundamental conflict between the different conceptions of cosmopolitanism has emerged we have to step back in time.
James Alexander (2016) talks about the universal and the particular. He writes that (p.171):
Until the eighteenth century all cosmopolitans distinguished two cities, and considered the higher city to be the one which concerned them. The higher city was universal; the lower city was particular, that is, composed of many cities. The higher city was ideal; the lower city was actual.
So when Europhiles hold out that they are ‘citizens of the world’ they are indicating a movement towards the “higher city” that lies beyond the border of the particular to which they were born into.[Reference: Alexander, J. (2016) ‘The Fundamental Contradiction of Modern Cosmopolitanism’, The European Legacy, 21(2), 168-183. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2015.1126479]
We are born into one particular cosmopolitan assignment and some aspire to a “great and truly common” cosmopolitan membership (p.171).
The problem that James Alexander points out is that we become torn between the “universal and the particular” (p. 174). The entire history of European integration is about that contradiction.
Member States have been reluctant to cede their particularity and so the universal construct that emerged was deeply flawed and now damages the particular.
Further, paradoxically, “the universal itself may be a particular” (p.174), which means that no global cosmopolitanism emerges anyway.
This conception of cosmopolitanism, invariably leads to the universal as a particular, which is then “separate from other particulars, which it excludes, and the set of particulars, and thus includes all particulars within itself.”
An early example of this contradiction within the context of the European Union was the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
In his 1995 Foreign Affairs article, Noel Malcolm juxtaposes the grand ideal of a united Europe and the practical functionalism that Monnet and Schuman instigated to start bringing the nations together.
He writes (p.56) that:
[Reference: Malcolm, N. (1995) ‘The Case against “Europe”‘, Foreign Affairs, March/April, 52-68. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/europe/1995-03-01/case-against-europe]
The argument for “Europe” switches to and fro, from claims about practical benefits to expressions of political idealism and back again. If one disagrees with advocates of “Europe” about the practical advantages, they say, “Well, you may be right about this or that disadvantage, but surely it’s a price worth paying for such a wonderful political ideal.” And if one casts doubt on the political desirability of the ideal, they reply, “Never mind about that, just think of the economic advantages.” The truth is that both arguments for “Europe” are fundamentally flawed.
He illustrates this with respect to the early development of the CAP. I noted in Part 1 how attempts to generalise the handouts under the latest version of the CAP are being deeply resisted by Germany, the Netherlands etc.
But the contradictions within the CAP go back to its inception.
In the Treaty of Rome, Article 39 states the objectives of the CAP, include increasing “agricultural productivity”, ensuring “a fair standard of living for the agricultural population” and “increasing of the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture”, “stabilising markets”, and ensuring “reasonable prices in supplies to consumers”.
From the start, the CAP was a device advanced by the French to extract financial transfers from the Germans for their farmers, and the Germans tolerated it because they wanted to expand its industrial export market.
To achieve their goals, the Germans agreed to provide subsidies through the CAP to French farmers: a gnawing tension that remains today.
Once this arrangement was introduced, Europe locked itself in to maintaining fixed exchange rates for administrative ease given the multitude of agricultural prices that had to be supported across the Community. The CAP could not function effectively with sudden or significant fluctuations in the currency values of the Member States.
Trying to maintain fixed rates proved unworkable and provided ample warning that any move to a common currency would only shift the tensions to domestic prices and wages – the so-called ‘internal devaluation’ necessity of the Eurozone.
But the CAP violated the political cosmopolitanism that the European Project was allegedly based on from the start.
By shoring up the incomes of farmers in France and elsewhere, the CAP has had a series of “the embarrassing consequences” (Kamminga, 2017: 2), including “high external tariffs, high export subsidies, and internal price support.”
The upshot was that (p.2):
This policy of food self-sufficiency has distorted the world food market, undermined the ability of poor countries to export their own agricultural products, and seriously contributed to global poverty.
Simon Caney (2006) discusses the “punitive tariffs employed by the USA and the European Union” (p.127), which have been incredibly damaging to low-income developing countries.
His examples include (p.127-128):
… two-thirds of the revenues that developed countries raise by tariffs comes from those that they levy on goods imported from developing countries even though those countries are responsible for less than a third of their imports …
cows in the European Union are subsidized to the tune of US$2 each every day — a sum which is twice that of the average daily salary in Africa …
And so on.[Reference: Caney, S. (2006) ‘Global justice: From theory to practice’, Globalizations, 3(2), 121-137.]
See also:[Reference: Caney, S. (2005) Justice Beyond Borders A Global Political Theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford]
So the EU as a universal construct which is itself a particular, has undermined the prosperity of others (particularly poorer citizens in Africa and beyond.[Reference: Kamminga, M.R. (2017) ‘Cosmopolitan Europe? Cosmopolitan justice against EU-centredness’, Ethics and Global Politics, 10(1), 1-18. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16544951.2017.1291566]
At the same time, Noel Malcolm (1995, 58) noted that by 1967 “EEC farm prices had been driven up to 175 percent of world prices for beef, 185 percent for wheat, 400 percent for butter, and 440 percent for sugar. The annual cost of the cap is now $45 billion and rising; more than ten percent of this is believed to be paid to a myriad of scams.”
So the EU created one set of recipients within its system (the farmers, many of who were among the wealthiest citizens) at the expense of consumers, many of who whom were among the poorest citizens.
That sham cosmopolitanism runs through the EU from the start.
The subsequent reforms to the system have merely shifted the burden from the consumers of agricultural products to the general public purse.
As Noel Malcolm (1995) writes (p.58), Europhiles like to:
… wax lyrical about European achievements such as the German highway system or the French railways – things that were built by national governments. Almost the only major achievement of the EC – the only thing it has constructed and operated itself – is the CAP. It is not an encouraging precedent.
Of course, his Foreign Affairs article came out before the Eurozone monstrosity came into being. The second ‘thing’ that ‘Europe’ has constructed and a total failure.
Kamminga concluded that the “primary EU goal” is not concerned with “global distributive justice” (reducing world poverty and inequality) and is thus “incompatible with cosmopolitan justice” (p.2).
So it is hard to see what those who tout the cosmopolitan credentials of the EU as something to be revered are actually thinking about.
We see that EU integration is about creating a selective particularism by establishing the Single Market – a common set of tariffs which exclude the rest of the world.
Just think about the way the EU is dealing with one of its own which has democratically opted to leave the Union. Once it was clear that Britain would try to leave, the EU negotiations have been particularist and discriminatory. Britain is to be excluded and punished.
As Kamminga notes (p.6):
… a large-scale protectionist system has been created in order to protect the economic interests of European countries better than the prewar system did … Although the EU aims to transcend national egoisms and sovereignties, it effectively stretches the member states’ particularisms to the boundaries of ‘Europe’ … and continues to include and exclude people. Internally, borders between states have been eliminated for free movement; externally, the EU has reinforced boundaries.
The discussions concerning free movement are relevant here.
First, over the last two decades or so “the EU has strengthened its outer borders by more restrictive immigration policies towards third country nationals” (Kamminga, p.7).
The Europhiles hold out that the EU protects human rights but ignore the harsh treatment of those not included.
Kamminga again (p.7) “citizens have obligations to each other that they do not have to people outside the borders”, a violation of the basic principles of a meaningful cosmopolitanism.
Even within the EU, the rich nations resent aid to the poor nations (viz the treatment of Greece).
A “selective solidarity” (Kamminga, p.7) rules.
Remember back to the Libyan disaster. Italy told the world that the numbers of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Italy had fallen dramatically in 2017.
It was held out as a good sign. The reality was different.
As the Irish Times article (September 21, 2017) by Patrick Smyth – Lighter exodus from Libya comes at morally dubious price – reports, the EU was deploying harsh and “morally compromised” strategies to protect the EU border.
The article documents how the EU was:
… paying off Libyan warlords and militias linked to people-traffickers and turning a blind eye to the confining of refugees in detention, “concentration” camps where they have been left hungry, brutalised, raped and tortured.
Further, within the EU, free movement has a special meaning in this neoliberal world.
As Philip Cunliffe writes “freedom of movement is not a right of citizenship but the by-product of inter-state agreement to facilitate the movement of factors of production within the Eurozone. It is not seen as a right of citizenship but as supporting the interests of business …”
That is clear given that a French citizen, for example, in not allowed to vote in German national elections. If they have been living in Germany for more than three months they can vote in municipal and city council elections only.
So the concept of ‘citizenship’ and free movement is a compromised one within the EU and only advanced to help capital not to expand democracy.
The Europhile Left ignore that reality.
They hold out ‘free movement’ as some progressive ideal as part of their sham cosmopolitanism.
The early development of the cosmopolitan ideal and the form in which support for the European Union is framed by the Europhile Left can be traced back to German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
But, Kant’s cosmopolitanism took the form of a “universal hospitality”.
In Perpetual Peace (cited in Part 1), Kant outlined what he considered to be the conditions for sustainable peace.
The “third definitive article of Perpetual Peace” was that (p.137):
The rights of men, as citizens of the world, shall be limited to the conditions of universal hospitality.
What did that mean?
Kant said that (p.137):
… hospitality signifies the claim of a stranger entering foreign territory to be treated by its owner without hostility. The latter may send him away again, if this can be done without causing his death; but, so long as he conducts himself peaceably, he must not be treated as an enemy. It is not a right to be treated as a guest to which the stranger can lay claim.
So when Europhiles promote the idea of ‘free movement’ as a progressive element of the EU and suggest this was embedded in Kant’s cosmopolitanism, they are wrong.
Kant did not think cosmopolitanism extended to having open borders for all to penetrate and remain.
His concept of ‘hospitality’ makes it clear that while all people are equal members of a “moral community of humanity” and “share the qualities of freedom, equality, and independence” (Zavediuk, 2014: 170) they are not entitled to permanently move wherever they choose.[Reference: Zavediuk, N. (2014) ‘Kantian Hospitality’, Peace Review, 26(2), 170-177. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10402659.2014.906881?src=recsys&journalCode=cper20]
Kant wrote that “It is not the right to be a permanent visitor that one may demand … It is only a right of temporary sojourn, a right to associate, which all men have.”.
To be continued.
I will write Part 3 in this mini-series next week sometime.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.