…Ten months on, tens of thousands of Nubans have left their villages and towns to live in caves and crevasses in the rocky mountain massifs. (I shot pictures, above, and videos, below, on a reporting trip there this week.) Khartoum’s Sukhoi and MiG jet fighters and Antonov warplanes fly daily sorties overhead, bombing frequently. Food is becoming scarce, as these people have not been able to plant their fields; there is a risk of famine with the new rainy season that begins in May. Tens of thousands more have fled south, to dank and dry brush forests. And in the Nuba Mountains, one of the oldest spots on earth, Africa’s newest war seems already to have begun.
“Zur Verfassung Europas” (“On Europe’s Constitution”) is the name of his new book, which is basically a long essay in which he describes how the essence of our democracy has changed under the pressure of the crisis and the frenzy of the markets. Habermas says that power has slipped from the hands of the people and shifted to bodies of questionable democratic legitimacy, such as the European Council. Basically, he suggests, the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d’état.
He says that states have no rights, “only people have rights,” and then he takes the final step and brings the peoples of Europe and the citizens of Europe into position — they are the actual historical actors in his eyes, not the states, not the governments. It is the citizens who, in the current manner that politics are done, have been reduced to spectators.
His vision is as follows: “The citizens of each individual country, who until now have had to accept how responsibilities have been reassigned across sovereign borders, could as European citizens bring their democratic influence to bear on the governments that are currently acting within a constitutional gray area.”
This is Habermas’s main point and what has been missing from the vision of Europe: a formula for what is wrong with the current construction. He doesn’t see the EU as a commonwealth of states or as a federation but, rather, as something new. It is a legal construct that the peoples of Europe have agreed upon in concert with the citizens of Europe — we with ourselves, in other words — in a dual form and omitting each respective government. This naturally removes Merkel and Sarkozy’s power base, but that’s what he’s aiming for anyway.
Anthony Atkinson, an economist at Oxford University, has studied how several recent financial crises affected income distribution—and found that in their wake, the rich have usually strengthened their economic position. Atkinson examined the financial crises that swept Asia in the 1990s as well as those that afflicted several Nordic countries in the same decade. In most cases, he says, the middle class suffered depressed income for a long time after the crisis, while the top 1 percent were able to protect themselves—using their cash reserves to buy up assets very cheaply once the market crashed, and emerging from crisis with a significantly higher share of assets and income than they’d had before. “I think we’ve seen the same thing, to some extent, in the United States” since the 2008 crash, he told me. “Mr. Buffet has been investing.”
“The rich seem to be on the road to recovery,” says Emmanuel Saez, an economist at Berkeley, while those in the middle, especially those who’ve lost their jobs, “might be permanently hit.” Coming out of the deep recession of the early 1980s, Saez notes, “you saw an increase in inequality … as the rich bounced back, and unionized labor never again found jobs that paid as well as the ones they’d had. And now I fear we’re going to see the same phenomenon, but more dramatic.” Middle-paying jobs in the U.S., in which some workers have been overpaid relative to the cost of labor overseas or technological substitution, “are being wiped out. And what will be left is a hard and a pure market,” with the many paid less than before, and the few paid even better—a plutonomy strengthened in the crucible of the post-crash years.
(Source: The Atlantic)
“The globe’s richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them – nearly 11 million – than before the recession struck.”
From the guardian.co.uk
“…the population in the United States is angry, frustrated, full of fear and irrational hatreds. And the folks not far from you on Wall Street are just doing fine. They’re the ones who created the current crisis. They’re the ones who were called upon to deal with it. They’re coming out stronger and richer than ever. But everything’s fine, as long as the population is passive.”
In this short RSA Animate, radical sociologist David Harvey asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism, towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that could be responsible, just and humane.