Bloggingheads and the EU

by Henry Farrell on March 28, 2007

A new “bloggingheads”: between Dan Drezner and meself is up, in which, as the blurb puts it, “Dan and Henry analyze’s new business model and then defy it by failing to yell at each other.” One of the topics we discuss is the economic future of the EU, and Andy Moravcsik’s recent “article”: on it. As a slightly belated EU 50th birthday post, and an addendum to my previous “disagreement with Andy”:, I’d like to point to this “brand new paper”: (pdf) by Martin Höpner and Armin Schäfer at the Max-Planck Institut in Cologne. The take home point is that the EU’s market integration processes aren’t neutral and technical, as they are often described as being, but are instead highly political, and have adverse consequences for coordinated market economies. This feeds into the EU’s legitimation problems.

Deregulating the economy is a genuinely political decision that cannot be left to independent agents. … Whether the member states need a ‘neo-liberal’ corrective is not for the observer to choose but must be the result of public deliberation and parliamentary decisions – otherwise, the price to pay is a serious democratic deficit. However, instead of a strengthening of input-oriented legitimacy, we witness ongoing – yet increasingly unsuccessful – attempts to de-politicize EU politics. European-level actors transform essentially political matters into apparently technical ones. An extensive interpretation of the ‘four freedoms’ of the European Treaty allows Commission and Court to enforce
liberalization measures juridically. The law shields these attempts from political resistance especially in organized economies.

Which leads me to wonder, after having read Dani Rodrik’s “critique”: of the cheerleaders of globalization in the _FT_ yesterday whether the EU isn’t being badly misinterpreted by outside observers, especially in the US. The usual claim that one reads is that the EU’s problems are the problems of creaking economies refusing to modernize, rejecting sensible proposals such as the original, tougher form of the Services Directive etc. But can’t this be interpreted from the other direction? Couldn’t one reasonably argue that the near-stalling of the EU’s market integration process demonstrates how over-strident efforts to deregulate are liable to result in political stalemate and backlash from an increasingly truculent public? In short, can’t the EU’s political problems be interpreted not as a failure of the European social state, but as a demonstration of the political limits of attempts to introduce global deregulation, free trade in services _und so weiter_ without real public discussion?

Time’s Arrow

by Kieran Healy on March 28, 2007

A photograph of family members, every June 17th, since 1976.

Bookstores again

by Henry Farrell on March 28, 2007

Scott has a “new article”: over at _Inside Higher Ed_ talking about Borders, and reviewing the “Indies Under Fire”: movie that I “mentioned”: a few weeks ago. It sounds like a more complex and interesting movie than I expected from watching the trailer. Which reminds me – Jim Johnson suggested a while back that I should do a post on good bookshops, and consider linking to them in addition to/instead of Powells and Amazon when I review books. I have mixed feelings about linking to Amazon, which is a vociferously non-union operation, but get the impression that many or most CT users buy stuff there. So what good, alternative bookstores are out there? I’ll start by singing the praises of “Prairie Lights”: in Iowa City which I visited this weekend, and which was teh awesome. Fabulous selection of small press books, and a book buyer who, after a brief conversation about Rick Perlstein’s forthcoming, came over to snoop shamelessly through the pile of novels that I was buying at the cash register (the kind of customer profiling I can live with happily). Other recommendations?

The White Tyger

by Henry Farrell on March 28, 2007

I blogged a while back about Paul Park’s “A Princess of Roumania,” which was the first in a series of four fantasy novels. I recently finished the third in the series, The White Tyger (“Powells”:, “Amazon”: which is just as wonderful. The novels are profoundly character driven in a way that few genre novels are; they deliberately and specifically refuse to conform to a conventional quest narrative. No-one knows exactly what they’re supposed to do; they’re making it up as they go along. All of the main protagonists (and some of the minor ones) are in some sense or another _doubled_; their selves are split in two so that they have difficulty in explaining their motivations to themselves. The book is less a conventional fantasy story in which the story is external to the characters, determining who they are and what they do, than a working through of the ways that individuals make up their own fantasies, spinning out _ex post_ narratives to explain their actions to themselves and others. The main protagonists don’t know themselves.

This is most obvious in the character of Baroness Ceaucescu, who sees herself as the heroine of an opera, smoothing away the grubby and selfish motivations for her actions and reconfiguring them as the essential elements of a grand and inexorable tragedy, where she has no personal responsibility for what she does. She steals every scene that she’s in. The three novels are vertiginous, and a little jarring. They don’t have the feeling of safeness and stability that most fantasy novels do. All that is solid melts into air. Yet nor are they self-consciously or coyly reflexive (their contingency doesn’t seem playful to me; rather it appears like a very serious attempt to talk about how the world is). I don’t want to say more about _The White Tyger_ for fear of ruining surprises; I do want to recommend it (and I can’t wait to see what the fourth and final novel does).


by Harry on March 28, 2007

As the resident gnome watcher, I’m bound to report that the latest gnome kidnap case has gone to trial. The kidnapper faces jail.

Alloa Sheriff Court heard that the mother-of-three was arrested along with friend Ann McCallum, of Delphwood Crescent, also Tullibody, following an 11-day undercover operation involving officers from both Central Scotland CID and the force’s tactical crime unit.

I guess most of you are watching it on Court TV.