Philosopher André Glucksmann A Dark Vision of the Future of Europe
Part 3: Europe as a Threat to Itself
SPIEGEL: The EU hasn't lost its appeal. No one is voluntarily leaving the euro zone.
Glucksmann: Socrates said that no one willingly does wrong. I interpret this as follows: Bad things happen when the will grows weak. It doesn't seem to me that finding solutions and paths in the current financial crisis is a superhuman task. After all, the EU's leaders keep finding them here and there.
SPIEGEL: And they're finding their way from one Brussels summit to the next, and at increasingly shorter intervals. But what are supposed to be solutions just don't pan out.
Glucksmann: What's missing is a global perspective. The why of the European Union, its raison d'être, has been lost. There will always be ways to improve the EU institutions and adjust them to the needs of the situation. We can rely on the resourcefulness of politicians and lawyers to do this. The challenge appears at a different level, and it's clearly a matter of survival: If the old European nations don't unite and present a unified front, they will perish.
SPIEGEL: But haven't European leaders recognized this?
Glucksmann: If they have, why are they acting with so little unity? The question of size has become an absolute necessity in globalization. Mrs. Merkel undoubtedly senses that Germany's fate will also be decided in Europe's backyard. That's why, after some hesitation, she chose solidarity, albeit in moderation. Nevertheless, she is also allowing Germany, France, Italy and Spain to become divided in the crisis. If our countries can become divided under the pressure of market forces, they will perish, both individually and jointly.
SPIEGEL: Are you saying that the idea of a European community of fate hasn't really taken hold yet?
Glucksmann: Not in practice. Globalization brings global chaos, and a global police force -- which the United States played for a long time -- no longer exists. The players may not be keen on war, but they don't exactly mean well by one another. Everyone is playing his own game. In this anarchic confusion, Europe has to assert itself and face up to threats offensively. Putin's Russia, which wants to regain parts of what it lost, is a threat. China, a bureaucratic slave state, is a threat. Militant Islamism is a threat. Europe has to learn to think in terms of hostility once again. (German philosopher) Jürgen Habermas, for example, doesn't see this when he says that well-intentioned cosmopolitanism can unite everyone in global citizenship.
SPIEGEL: For many parts of the world, Europe is a beacon of freedom and human rights.
Glucksmann: But ideals and values don't combine to form prospects. European nations can certainly have an attractive pluralism of values, but presenting them as if they were part of a catalog isn't sufficient. Instead, it's important to address the challenges together. Europe is lingering in a state of hesitation, which can sometimes turn into hypocrisy. There are two ways to avoid challenges: One is to look away and pretend they don't exist. The other is fatalism, that is, helplessly shrugging one's shoulders and pretending that nothing can be done about them, anyway. The great universal historian Arnold J. Toynbee evaluated the development of cultures on the basis of their ability to appropriately react to challenges. Is Europe willing to confront its fate? There is reason to doubt it.
SPIEGEL: Does this result from a lack of leadership?
Glucksmann: It's more than that. It's also a question of the failure of intellectuals, indifference in public opinion and isolationism. Look at the elections in Europe. What role do foreign policy and Europe's place in the world play? A few years ago, the EU gave itself a high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton, with a separate agency employing several thousand civil servants. Where is she, what is she doing and who notices her? The 21st century will be the century of big continents that will either get along with each other or not. If Europe doesn't enter this dimension, it will fall back into the 19th century. Then our political activity will only be based on distant memories: Europe, the continent of anguish and nostalgia.
SPIEGEL: How could the intellectual energy flow be revitalized? German and French thinkers were long in a state of mutual fascination. One could say that it lasted from the French Revolution to the 1968 student movement.
Glucksmann: It was a curiosity that arose through rivalry and competition. We took a careful look at each other, and we knew each other pretty well. The intellectual distance has grown considerably in recent decades. There have always been differences in ways of thinking. Hegel described the Paris of the Enlightenment as an example of the "intellectual animal kingdom" of self-expression. The French argued and cursed; they were fond of differences and polemics. Their discussions shared something in common with journalism and spectacle, but not as much with academic rigor. The Germans worked on major explanatory systems, seeking the realm of knowledge as a replacement for a lack of unity in politics and religion. Today, an intellectual depression is weighing down upon both countries. The intelligentsia as a social class no longer exists in France, and it lacks coherence on both sides (of the German-French border). It has become lost in postmodernism.
SPIEGEL: So those who wish to shirk the big challenges no longer need any important stories anymore, either?
Glucksmann: At least that's what is postulated in what Lyotard sees as the end of systems and ideologies. But the supposedly non-ideological postmodernism is itself an ideology. I see it as the embodiment of the movement of the outraged -- outrage as a moral protest that's an end in itself. The form is the content. It reminds me of Oskar Matzerath in "The Tin Drum" by Günter Grass: I see, I drum and the unbearable world breaks apart.
SPIEGEL: A child's belief?
Glucksmann: Europe is still a playground of ideas. But thinking is so fragmented, so weighed down by scruples, that it flees from the true test. In this sense, it's a mirror image of politics.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Glucksmann, thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Romain Leick
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan