The European Strategist (EurStrat) is an internet publication and a research circle that seeks answers for European society in postmodern times. Our goal, even if that is a very high ambition, is to think things to their essence, to disclose the fundamental thrust of our present age. With such disclosure, we hope, we might be able to quietly and slowly awaken new possibilities for the future.
First of all, we live in a world of global, financial capitalism. In postmodernity, market is trying to conquer last remaining domains that have so far escaped its profit-seeking logic, such as family, friendships, health or education. At the same time, capital and with it economic and political power shift from industries to financial power brokers without a nationality or allegiance: hedge funds, private equity firms, pension and mutual funds, insurance asset managers. Increasingly greater consumption is driven by a shorter lifecycle of products and a culture of hedonistic individualism supported by ever-present advertising.
Buying, shopping and enjoyment of a variety of products becomes an essential aspect of European culture and this shopping fetishism is to the same extent mirrored by commodity fetishism described by Marx. Social relations are becoming more primitive and people mostly perceive each other in terms of money and goods they exchange. Market society is essentially a society consumed by market and market relationships. While once societies didn’t have one but multiple markets, under liberal economic dogmas these have been gradually replaced by a single global market with unrestricted circulation of goods and capital. Gradually, everything is being turned into “goods and capital”. Entire areas of life that previously stood completely apart from market exchange now become monetised and are provided only for payment.
While capitalism and market society are the chief visible characteristics of our society, they have deeper roots in the nature of modernity and postmodernity. This was powerfully conceptualised by German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who spoke of deconstructed Western metaphysics as metaphysics of presence or subjectivity. Such worldview has meant that we have viewed the world and being in terms of human subject posited against other objects or beings that it encounters. Similarly, history of Western thought shows that we have understood beings in terms of their presence, in terms of a manner they show themselves only in one definite point of time, which is the present, be it the present moment or eternal presence.
The worldview resulting from the history of our Western metaphysics was observed by Friedrich Nietzsche: the rule of will to power. The rule of constant more is clearly visible in amassing more wealth, consuming more goods, reaching more and more scientific discoveries, having greater and higher GDP. While there is nothing bad in the effort to gain some wealth or make new scientific discoveries about our universe, what we see is the maddening rush to quantity. But human beings are not subjects that have or can ever have a full mastery over things, beings or the “universe”. Again, this was perceived by Heidegger, who called humans Dasein, “being there”. Humans may have a special role among other beings, as we understand being and the world around us, but we cannot ever control them. When we speak of being we think of how we are: we are humans who are born into a certain age, family, language, and a world that are given to us, that we can’t change and that we also, ultimately, leave. Since we are “thrown in the world”, to use a Heidegger’s expression, it is not possible to speak of us as separate subjects, existing in separation from the world around us. Rivers, mountains, animals, art, family, love, history, music, skies, or gods have a being and nature of their own beyond their exploitation and manipulation for our ends.
For that reason, at The European Strategist we believe that we can actively think a different postmodernity, with a different worldview than that of metaphysics, which translates into the global rule of financial capitalism and market society. An alternative to boundless consumerism and egoistic individualism embodied in the liberal ideology is in communitarianism and upholding the principles of solidarity together with a struggle for personal excellence. There are alternatives to capitalism that do not entail abolishing private property and enterprise – but rather giving them their right place in a society not dominated by a global market and profit-seeking logic. Instead of a market society, there can be a society with different local and international markets, one which does not encapsulate all areas of society and where economy functions to secure reasonable means and wealth for us to live better life as persons and communities.
On that basis, we identify and pursue some key objectives that are outlined below.
Sovereign Europe in a Multipolar World
While European integration has proceeded in strident steps, the strengthening of powers in Brussels was mostly economic and ignored political and cultural fundamentals. Against a Europe that operates as one gigantic “market society”, we oppose Europe as a global power, which protects its citizens and acts as a confident player in international affairs. This is the meaning of a sovereign Europe: a continent that does not try to dominate, but one which uses its strength to act together with others to solve challenges that face the globe such as climate change, global economic inequality, or terrorism.
The above entails that Europeans must have a clear understanding of its geopolitical situation and right institutional mechanisms to lead an assertive foreign policy. A common defence and foreign policy at the federal level is a necessity. Only if we are strong and can first help ourselves can we aspire to help others. That means answering one fundamental political question: do Europeans want to be free and self-ruling in the 21st century, or will they be dominated by more assertive global powers?
Defending Culture and Art
German psychologist Eric Fromm wrote that “the transformation of an atomistic into a communitarian society depends on creating again the opportunity for people to sing together, walk together, dance together, admire together.” At The European Strategist, we believe that art and culture hold unique capacity of ultimate connection. Such is their power to communicate which allows to bridge nations, transcend borders and share thoughts, dreams and dialogues amongst human beings. Without culture, there would indeed be no society to speak of.
Our context and main target audience is the European society and its cultural heritage. Not because we would think it more important, but because the members of our editorial team come from Europe, and have better understanding of its complexities and historical development. European identity has its roots in antiquity and its founding myths from that time are preserved in our consciousness until this day. Throughout centuries, Europe took on other cultural influences, together with technologies and inventions, but it still remained tied to its origins. Individually and collectively, in one way or another, we all relate to our roots. This historical trail constitutes part of our identity and understanding of what it means to be and to exist as human beings.
We share the European heritage and we want to actively fight for its preservation. However, preservation doesn’t always mean conservation. History is not a simple past, above all it is a realm of possibilities inherently tied to those aspects of time that we regard as the future and present, yet that come from and within the historical possibilities that were given to us. Sometimes the most active preservation of our historical possibilities can mean a revolution with our established way of doing and regarding things.
Now more than ever the art world undertakes changes so rapid and various that they have become impossible to follow. The indefinite pluralist character of art in the postmodern world faces problems of its own identity and purpose in a society of constant flux. Art cannot distance itself from the economic, political and social situation anymore: they are inseparably, if painfully, intertwined. In the world of infinite possibilities art cannot define itself in all completeness as simply bringing beauty, or defining a nation. Its character has become much more diffused, and less tangible and its existence took on fragile shape of a dialogue between all spheres of society.
One of the vital roles of cultural workers is to bring art and culture to the people and make it accessible without lowering its quality threshold. The importance of local heritage, community work, and cultural education: that is knowledge that needs to be passed on and empowered. Europe has a special constellation for cultural exchange, containing dozens of unique cultures, all sharing what is ultimately a very small part of our planet, and existing in the very proximity of each other. We wish to be part of the world as strong yet diverse European society of shared beauty, folk heritage, songs and stories, music, literature, art, knowledge, interaction, communication, and so much more.
Cause of the People and Direct Democracy
Standing up for the “cause of the people” is not a simple populism as this term is often understood today. Populism is very often only taken as a synonym for demagogy: a name for those political leaders who refer to the people to gain their legitimacy, but shy away from giving citizens any real power over their destiny.
Fighting for the “cause of the people” is populistic in the sense of empowering people both on the political level as well as on the personal level. People should not only have a control over their collective destiny, but they should also live in such a social environment that will allow them to cultivate their civic and personal virtues.
On the political level, direct and participatory democracy is the greatest instrument in giving people power over their lives. Referenda, revocable mandates, a clear connection between a politician and people that he or she represents, necessarily have to complement traditional parliamentary assemblies.
Challenges that Europeans face in the context of postmodernity and 21st century are so great that they cannot face them without a strong cooperation. That does not mean we are cheerleading for the European Union. In fact, while the European Union once gave a great hope of returning power back to the people when it started waning away from nation states, such expectations remained unfulfilled. Where people might have expected a strong voice in foreign affairs, a protection against global financial markets, and renewing sovereignty and democracy where it was taken away by capital and technical regulation, the European Union has so far served as a catalyst of neoliberal transformation rather than as a katechon preventing it. But that makes the case for a European federation even stronger.
Above all, a true federation has to be build bottom-up, with direct participation of the people. It requires an understandable constitution, not international treaties several hundred pages long and written in a legal jargon. The instrument of a referendum and a constitutional assembly seem ideal tools to get the European institutions closer to people and make it their expression of a common will to live together and not an instrument of elites for their own ends. Such a European federation will require a democratic European parliament and a strong federal government fully accountable to the electorate, so that important legislation such as transnational free trade agreements cannot be passed behind closed doors and without scrutiny. A clear division of powers between European, national and regional levels needs to be in place to ensure that citizens know what politicians are accountable for which decisions. Foreign and defence policy naturally belong to the European level of decision-making. The same can be said about aspects of economic and monetary policies, energy and climate policies, and a support for the shared elements of culture and civic rights and duties.
Our Editorial Line
In our comments and publications, we do not aspire for impartiality. Hermeneutical tradition in philosophy very well showed that greatest objectivity is achieved when presuppositions and starting positions are admitted and laid down.
Following the hermeneutical tradition, we believe that greatest objectivity in journalism and research can be achieved if one openly lays out cards and admits their starting positions.