Europe and homogenising of culture
Sir, – Richard Pine (Opinion & Analysis, July 30th) writes of his extreme disillusionment with the European Union and, in particular, at what he sees as the remorseless homogenising logic of the austerity policies championed by the European Council.
He is, of course, entirely right to highlight the immense social trauma occasioned by the welter of fiscal measures introduced to deal with the protracted euro zone crisis. The suffering of the Greek people has been well documented, not least by Mr Pine himself in his insightful contributions to The Irish Times.
It is perhaps understandable that as a resident of the member state to be hardest hit by the crisis he has come to entirely re-evaluate his sense of the meaning and worth of the European integration process.
But his analysis is seriously flawed. In the first place the crisis has been experienced very differently across the member states and regions of the EU. Extrapolating from the worst-hit economy to make an argument applicable to all 28 member states is just not good science. He is also entirely wrong to suggest that the panoply of economic policies implemented to deal with the crisis has led to a culturally homogeneous EU. The European integration process has always been culturally neutral, and no amount of shadow fiscal engineering in Brussels is going to turn Bulgarians into Bavarians, or indeed Flemish into Walloons.
Mr Pine’s argument is one that often accompanies specious interpretation of economic globalisation, the idea that transnational economic forces are moving the world in a singular direction, that as individuals and societies we are all turning into clones of each other at an alleged “End of History”. Just as Francis Fukuyama was wrong about economic globalisation 20 years ago Mr Pine is wrong about the European Union of today.
More worryingly, he exhibits an attachment to existential cultural nationalism in his comments on Albania (and Turkey), making clear his dislike for “their cultures” without making any attempt to define those cultures or how the cultural and historical experiences of Albania and Turkey might differ from those of existing member states.
Is his argument that because those countries consist predominantly of citizens who profess Islam that they should be excluded from the European Union?
This is a hackneyed viewpoint, evolved entirely from prejudicial cultural bits and bobs and one which has no relevance to the EU accession process, the criteria for which are well-established and revolve around the capacity of acceding member states to implement the acquis communautaire.
The irony of Mr Pine’s contribution is that he uses culture as an instrument to deny Albania and Turkey the opportunity to accede to the European Union, a development which, in itself (by his own criteria) would make the EU more diverse. At the same time he rails against the alleged cultural homogenisation wrought by “unity in diversity”.
A retreat to the familiar and welcoming folds of “the national” is understandable at times of economic turbulence. But it is also entirely misleading to claim that the opposite of that nationalism is a European Union of Angela Merkel’s dwarfish clones. Yours, etc,
DR JOHN O’ BRENNAN,
Department of Sociology,
Sir, – Richard Pine, in his Greece Letter of July 29th, highlighted the similarities between the bankrupting of this country and what happened in Greece. He described a situation in Greece which applied in both countries: one political grouping had been in power for too long. During that period they condoned “deliberate obfuscation and mis-statements on the country’s economic situation”.
In his article on the following day, however, he seemed to contradict himself. Instead of deploring “a common enemy” of all democracies, which is to say lying about the true state of affairs he labelled “the fiscal rectitude and social compliance” which is basic to living with our fellow citizens as laid down by our democratic institutions and laws, as “vulgar and meaningless”.
Recognising a “plurality of cultures” and a “room for difference” within the EU should not be confused with seeming to approve an irresponsibility and a recklessness which ends in bankruptcy. – Yours, etc,