Habermas on the European crisis

Thesis Eleven 133 (1):3-18 (2016)
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Abstract

Based on a critical reading of Jürgen Habermas’s journalistic writings on the European Union, the article argues that Europe’s current crisis is also a crisis of its narratives, and hence a crisis of meaning. The German philosopher has revised his political vision of a united Europe but has done so without abandoning his neo-Kantian ‘soft revolutionism’. The EU of the future is not only envisaged as an alternative to the allegedly defunct European nation-state, but also as the antithesis to US-style federalism and to what is called ‘post-democratic executive federalism’. What is more, Habermas no longer fully trusts in the power of the better argument, as championed in his critical social theory. Instead, his hope of normative progress towards a socially and politically more integrated Europe is founded on a belief in the power of the crisis itself – aided by a convincing pro-European narrative – to drive us in the same direction as that indicated by reason. The conclusion contrasts Habermas’s utopian Europeanism, which has failed to find favour with the wider European public, with a less utopian alternative inspired by the highly specific, non-universal situation of the Old Continent.

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