Fainting in Coyles
An occasional letter from the Heart of Euroville

Tuesday, September 02, 2003  

Rousseau not Kant is the father of the EU

In an article in Le Monde (9 July) Lord Dahrendorf and Timothy Garton Ash talk about their dreams for Europe. To do so they look both at the famous Kagan ‘Power and Weakness’ article and the riposte from Habbermas and Derrida published in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung .

As they point out these two differing testimonies would have Emmanuel Kant as the true father of Europe. The H&D “They think, says Derrida at the start, "in a framework, if not in a manner that dates back to the Kantian tradition." Habermas concludes by writing of a "Kantian hope in a global politics."” Meanwhile Kagan’s initial thesis sought to crown Emmanuel Kant as the philosopher-king of the European Union.

But they beg to differ. Though agreeing that Kant should be the ideological father of the EU they think that infact the thinker that the current political set up relies upon is Rousseau. Most importantly they deride Derrida and Habermas for their concentration on anti-Americanism.

“Europe needs renewal. But this cannot be accomplished by attempting the self-determination of Europe as the un-America, even the anti- America. Every attempt at defining Europe as against America will not unite Europe but divide it”.

However they themselves condemn many of the Eastern Europeans who were so memorably told to shut up by Jacques Chirac. Havel and others are described as famously ‘obsequious’ – not if you were a Communist dictator they weren’t. However the authors do suggest that it was the actions of France and Germany trying to speak for everybody that caused the splits in Europe, rather than the actions of the others who were merely responding to the act of Franco/German antagonistic arrogance.

They call for a concentration on the more pure Kantian ideas of the Enlightenment, which are shared on both sides of the Atlantic, ideas that have been undermined ever since Rousseau rejected negative freedoms and replaced them with licence. They see that the Kantian notion of ‘world government’ can be seen in the growth of the EU and international fora. They point to the Copenhagen criteria as evidence of this. The demands made by the EU to the countries of the former Communist bloc (and others such as Turkey). These demands include stable democratic institutions, the rule of law, respect of human rights and protection of minorities. Importantly they also require market economies, with independent central banks.

It is in these criteria that Darendorf and Garton Ash see the similarities between the European countries and the US. The US and the old British Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand share much the same attitudes and desires. Their welfare states are far closer than to each other than those of the enlargement countries are to any of them, and in their foreign policy the primary purpose has been and is the export of these enlightenment ideas and ideals. Neither the US or Europe is perfect in its systems and its approach but the end view is similar.
They do sound at least one note of caution derived from Kant. That is a heartfelt rejection of homogeneity Kant “even thanked nature for "incompatibility, for the vanity that competes jealously, for the insatiable desire to possess and even to dominate." Only the "unsociable sociability" of men, or their multiplicity, faction and "antagonism," could make them emerge from the idyllic Arcadia where, "in mutual love, perfect frugality and
harmony, all talent would forever wither in the bud."”

posted by Eliab | 12:00 pm
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