EU, Europe Unfinished brings together established and emerging media and cultural scholars to explore colliding visions of space and identity within a declining continent. Whereas Europe imagines the Balkans to be the source of its nearest trouble, the region envisions Europe as a refuge from ongoing post-socialist transition. The book adopts a variety of critical perspectives – from media and policy analysis to anthropology, art history and autobiography – to investigate where Europe is headed with the Balkans in its skein, 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
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About the Author
Nebojša Blanuša is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb, Croatia
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EU, Europe Unfinished
Mediating Europe and the Balkans in a Time of Crisis
By Zlatan Krajina, Neboj?a Blanu?a
Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd.Copyright © 2016 Zlatan Krajina and Neboj?a Blanu?a
All rights reserved.
Re-assembling and Disciplining Social Europe
Turbulent Moments and Fragile F(r)ictions
Paul Stubbs and Noémi Lendvai
WHEN ALICE MET HUMPTY DUMPTY
The Commission is not keen on the word "austerity." They prefer "fiscal consolidation."
The use of words within the European Union (EU) is about much more than mere linguistic choices. In the statement above, the preference for "fiscal consolidation" rather than "austerity" reveals, perhaps more dramatically than usual, the intimate connection between linguistic representations, policy schemas and disciplinary practices. "Austerity" is no longer a neutral term. It has become saturated, even before the election of Syriza in Greece in January 2015, with negative connotations, not merely in terms of a raft of unpopular policy prescriptions but, perhaps even more so, with massive and unnecessary human suffering. A report by the International Federation of the Red Cross paints a stark picture of millions queuing up for food in hastily arranged soup kitchens, of endemic youth unemployment in many parts of Europe and, above all, of a crisis whose long-term consequences are yet to hit us. "Fiscal consolidation" attempts to return the political genie into the technical bottle, in a vain hope that the vague neutrality of the term, its purportedly abstract, bureaucratic character, will mask, at least partially, and at least for a while, the real and symbolic violence being performed in its name.
We write as increasingly disenchanted observers of the EU, Europeanisation, the social dimension of the EU and, above all, of mainstream academic attempts to grasp them. As, respectively, Hungarian-born and UK-based (NL), and UK-born and Croatian-based (PS) scholars, we find ourselves continually attempting to understand the variegated social in the EU, currently within the context of austerity neoliberalisms. We have focused, over a long period of time, on South East Europe as a privileged positionality from which to see the shifting "social" as embedded in the complex articulation of post-socialism, conflict and post-conflict, new nation-state building and variegated capitalisms, often simplistically termed "transition" Over time, we have seen many concepts rise and fall in the pecking order of "Eurospeak." Phrases are introduced, mobilised, put to work and discarded with an alarming frequency. Policy domains are constantly being constructed and deconstructed and, in the process, reconfigured, reframed and recoupled. Who outside of a narrow policy community has any idea what is meant by "The Open Method of Co-ordination," much less the "Social OMC"? Who understands what is meant by "social inclusion" and "social cohesion," or what might be the difference between them? Is it really important that policy processes be "benchmarked," "mainstreamed," and "streamlined" to ensure that there is "feeding in and feeding out" across policy areas? Do the concepts of "investment," "entrepreneurship" and "innovation" really change their meaning if the word "social" is added in front of them? Can we find in these phrases the new "commonsense" of the neo-liberal settlement, working to inscribe "the supposed naturalness of 'the market', the primacy of the competitive individual, the superiority of the private over the public?"
Some of these words and phrases sound "unbearably foreign" even to English language speakers, within a complex mélange of "international Englishes." It may be, in fact, that because they do not mean anything they can, indeed, mean anything. We are reminded of the encounter between Humpty Dumpty and Alice in Through the Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty scornfully tells Alice: "When I use a word ... it means just what I choose it to mean – no more or no less." Alice, in thrall to a peculiar brand of relativistic postmodernism, replies: "The question is ... whether you can make words mean so many different things." Humpty Dumpty retorts in a way a critical Gramscian scholar would be proud of: "The question is ... which is to be master – that's all."
In this chapter we trace European integration not as a linear, modernist process of catch-up, convergence and mutual learning but as a set of mediated, postcolonial encounters and translations, marked by the enactment and embodiment of performative fictions and frictions, as a series of "contact zones," involving "the spatial and temporal co-presence of subjects previously separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect." A focus on performativity allows us to focus on sites of practice, on "acting, speaking, feeling and doing" implying "the presence of simultaneous dynamics of creativity and constraint, activism and incorporation, and retreat and proliferation." "Fictions," as "discursive strategies," whilst "intangible and weightless," are always embedded in material relations and often inform how policies and politics are "understood, performed, enacted, enforced, resisted, or colonised." At the same time, these relations are marked by what Tsing terms "frictions" or "the awkward, unequal, unstable, and creative qualities of interconnection across difference."
Conceiving of Europeanisation as a misplaced, catch-all term for multiple and discontinuous practices of disciplinarity, knowledge and power allows us to reexamine the realm of "the social" as it has been radically re-assembled and reconstructed across space and time, here specifically in relation to the South East European post-conflict, post-Yugoslav space-time assemblage. To do this, we take postcolonialism as a study of both culture and politics where imperialism, colonialism and agency are linked both discursively and materially. We take postcolonial theory to be applicable even beyond the study of the direct effects of colonialism. Even if parts of the post-Yugoslav space have never been subject to direct colonial social relations, although they were clearly enrolled in circuits of imperialism, it is postcolonial theory's focus on the production and reproduction of domination, with parts of the world constructed as the non-civilised "Other" even as "the epistemic territory of modernity" is expanding, which is most pertinent here. By adding post-structuralism and cultural political economy into the theoretical mix, we aim to reflect on social policy, economic development and political economy as well as cultural encounters and subversive resistances.
Highly critical of an orthodox literature on social policy, not least for its "presentist realism," tending to ignore the relevance of circuits of imperial and colonial social relations, we explore the politics of and differences between welfare and well-being, the uneven development of neo-liberalisms, and the multi-scalar restructuring of welfare assemblages in wider Europe, not limited to the member states of the EU. We argue that this has to be set in the context of the reframing of the relationships between "the economic," "the political" and "the social" and, crucially between a so-called European core and periphery, in a period of deep crisis and austerity. Post-communist Europe is not a flattened map consisting of more or less coherent welfare regimes. Rather, diverse, and often contradictory, processes of restructuring are emerging, in which variegated peripheralisations occur in different conjunctures or "moments." Four of these "moments" seem particularly relevant here: (1) the "wave" of post-communist accession in 2004; (2) the "aftershock" of the reluctant accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007; (3) the tiny splash caused by Croatia's accession in 2013; and (4) the "not yet" moment of possible future enlargement to the other countries of the so-called "Western Balkans" coinciding, for a time at least, with a Syriza-led challenge to a fundamentalist "austerity" politics.
We argue that exploring "social Europe" in this way forces us to address how different configurations of neo-liberalism, nationalism and authoritarianism, on the one hand, and movements for direct democracy, social justice and decommodification, on the other, become central to the contested dynamics of Europeanisation and its variegated impacts. Throughout, we are addressing these processes through a lens of translation, tracing movements across languages, jurisdictions, policy domains and practices, not as linear transfer, transmission or transplantation, but rather as active, contested and open processes of complex becoming, modification, distortion and transformation. We treat translation as a flexible, "catch all" concept, albeit heavily influenced by strands of postcolonial theory, understanding translation as "a powerful metaphor to evoke the complex economies of cultural exchange that take place under the sign of empire." Our method is a humble, yet fairly explicit, challenge to the "epistemic modernism" of the European project and much of its associated mainstream scholarship. We urge a shift in direction, a different way of thinking and writing about the EU, which examines "what slips out, does not fit or gets lost in translation."
TRANSLATING EUROPEANISATION: POSTCOLONIALITY, DISCIPLINARITY AND POWER
Whilst there can be no simple or unequivocal answer, then, to the question "What is the EU?", any narrative which fails to take into account "the historicity of empire" or which views the EU "through the looking glass of the West European state" is, at best, partial. It is no accident that the core EU member states are precisely those that "exercised imperial rule ... just two to three generations ago," creating both "inherited sociocultural patterns of thinking" and dependent political economies. It surely matters that "the political process of European identity construction tries to hide the corpse of colonialism while it continues ... to partake of the material inheritance of the same colonialism." For Böröcz, a postcolonial analysis asserts that the "structural conditions of dependence on a foreign authority for laws and regulations make the situation of east European applicant states somewhat similar to that of 'dependencies', 'protectorates', and a form of externally supervised government reminiscent of the history of colonial empires as 'indirect rules'".
In our view "Eastern enlargement," in terms of both the accession of post-communist member states and the prospects of membership for the EU's neighbours, is less a "sharing of the loot" and more an extension and reformulation of the neo-colonialist project within the EU itself. A neo-colonial "dependence on a foreign authority," like the dependencies and protectorates in colonial history, is now translated into trade, investment and debt dependence within and around the EU itself. In the encounter between "the coloniser" and "the colonised," the best that is being offered is "integration without inclusion." In the current conjuncture, it may be that the symbolic resonance of "rejoining a Europe to which we have always belonged" has lost its shine in an asymmetrical EU in which the supposed economic and developmental "laggards" face the prospects of prolonged second-class status and neo-colonial disciplinarity, even after having joined the club. Zielonka sees the EU as a neo-medieval empire with polycentric governance asserting economic and bureaucratic control, with the periphery gradually, if fitfully, gaining access to decision-making in the centre. Crucially, however, he argues that successive rounds of enlargements represent "imperial governance," where post-communist countries are not fully "conquered," but where enormous power asymmetries are sustained as a central feature throughout the accession process. He argues that for accession states, "compliance is the essence of imperial relations characterised by structural asymmetries," and where "the idea of an inferior Eastern Europe, counterpoised to the dominant Western Europe, is embedded in the discourse between the EU and the applicant Eastern European states." Key to this imperial governance is the modernist dream, in which the "EU Accession process looked like the most advanced example of institutional engineering or even the apogee of a modernist dream." For Zielonka:
Behind the façade of the carefully engineered project there was a great deal of chaos and vagueness. The ultra-modernist pretensions were largely utopian. ... Under careful scrutiny the accession process looks rather like an imperial exercise of asserting political and economic control over an unstable and underdeveloped [sic] neighbourhood.
Crucially, we agree with Gravier, who argues that European integration as "imperialisation" most obviously manifests through continuous enlargements, which "contribute to and reveal the slow but deep dissociation between core states and peripheral states," with the continued possibility that countries that entered some time ago, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, become reclassified as part of the periphery. If the core of the EU is, indeed, part of an "interwoven clique of actors with a set of shared geopolitical interests," it is one where the reproduction of "wealth, power, privilege and ... cultural superiority" is confined to only some member states, and only to some sub-sections of the population even in those member states. Perhaps the current conjuncture, defined by a narrow emphasis on a fundamentalist neo-liberal economic model, and framed overwhelmingly in terms of debt reduction and austerity, sees the EU no longer able to "sub-contract the dirty work" to others, and unable to avoid direct involvement in "the messy business of the social and environmental violence associated with the extraction of surpluses" as the unfolding renegotiations over Greek debt repayment illustrate as we write.
We continue to hold, however, to what has been termed "an inessential view of the EU" as "ambiguous, multiple and contradictory," located within "a contingent, ever-changing 'in-betweenness'". Although carefully crafted, dominant institutional and social scientific narratives, framing Europeanisation as modernisation, involving processes of "catch up" and "convergence" in terms of both living standards and fundamental values, are merely more or less successful attempts at a "governmentalization of Europe." What is needed, instead, is a critical analysis of "the production of a plurality of Europes within discontinuous regimes and practices of knowledge," emphasising the active, contested and contradictory construction of "subjectivities and identities, ... socio-economic trajectories and ... institutional landscapes." The "work" of combining disciplinary forms of the imperial governance of enlargement with what might be termed "utopian chaos" and "engineered vagueness" is, therefore, highly complex, variegated and messy.
Holding together "four shreds of translation: the performative, the relational, the multiple and the political" is central to our alternative mode of enquiry here. The EU has to be continually performed and enacted, within "multiple spaces of power and resistance." Understanding the EU as a "contact zone" or a "translation zone" involving both "highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination" and "the interactive, improvisational dimensions of colonial encounters" questions the omniscient force of "travelling rationalities." When policies travel they not only are "produced, assembled and populated differently" but have very different effects in and across different times and spaces. As such Europeanisation is not a homogenous process with a universal grammar, but a variegated and uneven process. Constructing the EU as a "common space" requires a tremendous amount of work to maintain a kind of "techno-managerial order," a crowded fictional space of common "indicators," "targets" and "guidelines," where experiences of "best practice" become the material of "peer review" and "mutual learning." It is a work matched, only, by mainstream "Europeanisation" scholarship which served to buttress the techno-managerial order by misconceiving policy change as "technical or expertise-led processes" in the name of "ever more efficient and effective policies," taking for granted the very concepts, schemes and narratives generated within the EU itself.
Excerpted from EU, Europe Unfinished by Zlatan Krajina, Neboj?a Blanu?a. Copyright © 2016 Zlatan Krajina and Neboj?a Blanu?a. Excerpted by permission of Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd..
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