Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Habermas and the global metropolitan lattice

Today, Jürgen Habermas again rightly stresses need for greater German solidarity with the EU Project. Obviously, “the increasing functional interdependence of a more and more integrated world society” causes need for new ways to understand cooperation, coordination, and collaboration.

But he steers away from appeals for more bilateral relations that, in his view, “will drive the European countries even farther apart.” But perhaps arrays of bilateral relations can be coordinated more constructively within the Europe2020 Project than more-centralized coordinations.

Does greater intra-regional and inter-regional pluralism have advantages over centralization? Though I’m a “No Brexit” person, I recognize that part of the appeal of Brexit is gaining better chances for more flexible bilateral relations. Evidently, “Brussels”’s difficulty accomodating that reached a breaking point for the British economy. (The immigration problem reflects a sense of limited “carrying capacity” of the British economy that would, perhaps, increase with more advantageous global economic relations that the EU order inhibits. Valid or not, that’s a British sentiment that is echoed by evolving trade relations globally.)

“The institutionalization of closer cooperation” can have various geometries: centric (centripetal and centrifugal) or lattice-like, i.e., networking in partnership coordinated ways. Some political voices think that the character of globalization makes innovation in “lateral” networks promising in ways that centralized, “vertical” coordination is inhibiting. The degree to which this is true requires prospecting the idea on the ground, i.e., in actual bilateral and multi-lateral partnerships, which is partly what Brexit is about.

Such prospecting belongs to all economic regions: South America as much as to Europe; southeast Asia as much as to North America. The European dilemma of continental prosperity is part of ongoing global experimentation that every region has a stake in, as to what's working, what's not working. This involves facilitations by the IMF that can’t be EU-centric; supervisions by the World Trade Organization of arrangements in which intra-EU regions play outside of the euro area; and so on.

The “problems that can be addressed only in France itself” and the problems that can only be addressed in each other European region that are resisting greater centralization involve intra-regional networks with international investments (e.g., community-based economic recovery through inter-regional cooperations) that may, to some degree, annul EU-centralizing parameters.

Economic options need facilitations more than re-distributions (or: distributions should be well-defined relative to local and regional initiatives). This kind of thinking has been part of IMF requirements for funding and German requirements of regional austerity: The localities need to innovate by their own initiative, developed locally, inter-locally, and so on. National problems live in global networks whose hubs are metropolitan regions, not national boundaries. There is need for more flexible ways of managing metropolitan-regional relations relative to the global environment.

Where’s the vision of flexible network development that so many regions sorely need? It's a global question.

The “mutual dependence on each other” that Habermas rightly emphasizes happens, to a greater and greater degree, in lattices of metropolitan relationships, not “wheels” of governmental centralization, i.e., Brussels-based coordinations. Indeed, Brussels itself takes an aptly de-centralizing view toward EU development.

That’s one great reason why Habermas’s communicative theory of society is so important! It’s essentially grounding politics in ostensible relationships. It doesn’t, of itself, imply greater centralization of communications, leadership, and social evolution! (Habermas’s work academically complements real EU development very well! The problem seems to be that Habermas wants a more statist EU model than his conceptual work can be read to suggest.)

Prospects of the “attractive and credible perspective for shaping Europe” belong to the global network of inter-metropolitan relations that don’t operate relative to national borders, being at once intra-national, cross-national, and international.

Educational political leadership must become more imaginative at local and regional levels about inter-local, inter-regional partnerships. cooperations, and collaborations in their metro-regional contexts. The Vision of Europe must emerge from innovative economic practices, which become institutionalized in accord with fair norms, not engineering economic growth defined by given institutional arrangements. The Vision of Europe must emerge from the ground, which calls for local leadership, across the board, to get creative with how inter-regional initiatives, engagements, facilitations, and commitments can contribute to continental prosperity.

That, by the way, is how the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement emerged.

complementary discussions:
These discussions will become part of a re-written (vastly revised) project on “Habermas and the EU” later this year.