Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



The illusionary "Leftist No"

Adopting the constitution to strengthen Europe's power to act. By Jürgen Habermas

European unification has been pushed for long enough by political elites. As long as everyone profited, the citizens were content. Until now, the project has been granted legitimacy by its results. But the Europe of 25 is in store for conflicts over distribution which will not be appeased by this kind of output legitimation. Citizens are dissatisfied with the modus of bureaucratic control, and acceptance is also dwindling among the populations of Europe-friendly member states. The France-Germany tandem has been out of step for a while, and no longer decides what direction is to be taken.

In this situation, the French government had the courage to hold a constitutional referendum. As a German who is disappointed with the faint-heartedness of his own politicians, I envy France. This French republic is still conscious of the democratic standards of a tradition it does not want to fall short of. The act of choosing a constitution is taking place among polarised opinions and dissonant voices, through the cumulative "Yes" and "No" of the French citizens. So we could be content with the many-sided discourses from the French press that reach us over the Rhine - if it weren't for one problem. Those of us looking towards France from beyond its national boundaries know that it is also our constitution which can miscarry with the French vote.

In the same way, the French are dependent on the votes of the English, the Poles, the Czechs and all the others. While in the normal case a people decides on its own constitution, the European constitution must result from the supporting votes of 25 peoples, and not from the common will of the citizens of Europe. For there is still no European public space, no transnational bundling of themes, no common discussion. Each one of these votes takes place within the bounds of the individual country's public sphere. This asymmetry is dangerous, because the primacy of national problems, for instance reservations about Chirac's government, can obstruct the view of the problems actually posed by the acceptance or rejection of the European constitution. In each of our national public spheres, the pros and cons of the other nations should also find a voice.

It is in this spirit that I understand the invitation for me to become involved in the French electoral campaign. In my view, a Left which aims to tame and civilise capitalism with a "No" to the European constitution would be deciding for the wrong side at the wrong time.

Of course there are good reasons to criticise the course that the unification of Europe has taken. Delors failed with his political vision. Instead, Europe has been integrated horizontally, through the creation of a common market and a partially common currency. Without the dynamic of economic interests, the political union would have probably never gotten off the ground. This dynamic only strengthens the worldwide tendency toward market deregulation. But the xenophobic perception of the Right that the socially undesirable consequences of this lifting of boundaries could be avoided by returning to the protectionist forces of the nation state is not only dubious for normative reasons, it is also outright unrealistic. The Left must not let itself be infected by such regressive reflexes.

The regulative capacity of the nation state has long been insufficient to buffer the ambivalent consequences of economic globalisation. What is vaunted today as the "European social model" can only be defended if European political strength grows alongside the markets. It is solely on the European level that a part of the political regulatory power that is bound to be lost on the national level can be won back. Today the EU member states are strengthening their cooperation in the areas of justice, criminal law and immigration. An active Left taking an enlightened stance toward European politics could have also pressed long ago for greater harmonisation in the areas of taxation and economic policy.

The European constitution now creates at least the conditions for this. It will maintain the European Union's power to act, even after the eastward expansion. In the Europe of 25, divergent interests must be coordinated according to the procedure decided on in Nice, because the Europe of 15 was not able to give itself a political constitution in due time. If this state continues after the rejection of the draft constitution, the EU will certainly not become ungovernable. But it will fall back to a level of immobility and indecisiveness that can only add grist to the mill of the neoliberals. They already achieved their goal with the Treaty of Maastricht.

A Left that opposes the neoliberal economic regime must also look beyond Europe. It can only follow a social-democratic - in the largest sense of the term – alternative to the ruling consensus in Washington, if the European Union acquires the power to act not only on its home turf, but also in international affairs. It must learn to speak the language of foreign policy with a single voice, if it wants to counter the hegemonic liberalism that is willing to push through free elections and the free market on its own and backed by military might, if need be.

Bush is the one who would rejoice at the failure of the European constitution, for it would allow Europe to develop a common foreign and security policy with enough soft power to bolster opposition to the neoconservative view of global order, also within the United States. It is in our common interest to develop the United Nations, and the law of nations, into a politically constituted world community without a world government. We must attain an effective juridification of international relations, before other world powers are in a position to emulate the power politics of the Bush government in violation of the law of nations.

We can only meet the challenges and risks of a world in upheaval in an offensive way by strengthening Europe, not by exploiting the understandable fears of the people in a populist manner. The involuntary coalition of the Leftist "No" with the reactionary "No" of the Right has a tragic note to it, because it rides on a Leftist illusion: that a "No" in France could prompt other member states to renew negotiations on the European constitution. This idea contains a twofold error.

From the perspective of all the other nations, the French "No" has a specific significance. After the end of the Second World War, the French nation took the generous initiative of reconciliation with Germany. In doing so, it started the ball rolling for European unification. And France has continually given new impulses to this unification. If now, at this critical junction, France departs from the route it has been following, a prolonged depression will spread across Europe.

I hold this for practically unavoidable. France is not Great Britain. If the constitutional referendum were to fail there, which I hope it will not, I think most of the member states would probably react defiantly. Their answer to a constitutional "No" in a country that had always been hesitant could well be "all the more reason!" But a "No" in France would paralyse Europe in the long term, because it would send a signal to all other European countries, and tip the precarious balance of opinion in favour of Europe's adversaries – nationalists and sovereigntists of all stripes. And it would play into the hands of the neoliberals, for whom the concept of a European constitution goes no further than the existing economic constitution.

It is a grotesque overestimation on the part of the Leftist naysayers to presume that the constitution would be reopened to negotiation because the perverse coalition of French "No" votes also includes a few friends of Europe who feel the political integration does not go far enough. And that is the second illusion: if in fact the French vote did lead to new negotiations, the winners would be those who feel the constitution compromise goes too far. The result would in no means be a further strengthening of European institutions, but a strengthening of intergovernmentalism.

I do not relinquish the hope that the French Left will remain true to itself, and that this time too, it will be swayed by arguments, and not by sentiment.


The article was originally published in French in the Nouvel Observateur on 7 May, 2005, and in German on the Perlentaucher website on 11 May, 2005.

Jürgen Habermas, born in 1929, is one of Germany's foremost intellectual figures. A philosopher and sociologist, he is professor emeritus at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and the leading representative of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. His works include "Legitimation Crisis", "Knowledge and Human Interests", "Theory of Communicative Action" and "The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity".

Translation: jab.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more