A future european Kratos – can there be one in the absence of a Demos?

This post explores the logical end goal for the political project currently known as the EU, because it is suffering a crisis of legitimacy at the same time it grows its post-sovereign ambition.

To cut a very long and tortured story short; the EU was invented by France to ensure that Germany never invaded again, Germany being somewhat embarrassed by recent history was all too happy to comply, and their neighbours who tended to host the wars in question were doubtless delighted too. However, what is of concern here is the future.

The crucial feature of indirect democracy is the perception of representation, the collective trust in shared aims and expectations that allows the people to put their destiny in the hands of another, safe in the knowledge that even if ‘their’ man doesn’t get the job then the other guy will still be looking after their best interests.

The manner in which this trust is built is the knowledge that you and ‘he’ have a history of cooperation, and that your respective families likewise have a shared social and cultural history of cooperation, all of which allows you to trust that when adversity strikes ‘he’ will act in a predictable and acceptable way.

There are many varieties of trust networks including religion and ideology, but we neither live in an authoritarian theocracy or a communist dictatorship, and thus the most relevant network of trust in western europe is the sovereign nation state, as it can make the most binding claim to a common identity that gives birth to a trustful Demos.

There is obvious truth in this, witness the passionate defence of laïcité by the French, or the determined neutrality espoused by the Irish, the rejection of abortion by the Polish, the dogged euro-scepticism of the British, or the accommodation of Moscow by the Finnish, to name but a few examples. These strongly shared convictions result directly from that shared cultural and social history, and breed distrust of anyone who would hold authority over the group but not share those same aims and expectations . If the government is not considered to be representative, then it will struggle to claim legitimacy, and will only maintain its control by becoming increasingly authoritarian and remote from the people it claims to serve.

Of course the transnational progressives would have it otherwise given their ideological distrust of the sovereign nation state, its call of loyalty is an interference in what they consider to be far more important group identities, and they do have a point because, remember, the EU was born of fear.

Throughout centuries of brutal warfare, from the Thirty Years War, the Napolenic War, the Franco-Prussian War, the First World War, the Second World War, and many more, europe has suffered political instability repression and revolution. How many EU countries have not been facist, communist, revolutionary, dictatorships, or repeatedly invaded in the last three hundred and fifty years? Only one. Have many have suffered at least one of the above within living memory? The rest. The EU represents stability to the continent, a framework for peaceful cooperation for the past half century.

The fascination with using proportionalism in defence of ‘victim’ groups, the institutionalisation of multitudinous identities, and the end of majority rule in favour of power sharing, all of these serve to break the network of trust that binds the citizen to their state, to be replaced with endless waltz of realignments as you ceaselessly redefine your identity, and a serf-like deference to a supra-national authority. You are too busy to care about the previous loyalty, and anyway, wasn’t it replaced by something ‘higher’?

All of this must be at least somewhat appealing to peoples who have never been properly protected by their state, whose shifting borders have left pockets of ‘others’ cheek-by-jowl with people whom they share no common history, and people who retain a nascent wariness of whatever catastrophe  will next be inflicted upon them by their neighbours. Wouldn’t it be so much better if there were a less contentious way to live…………

It is no coincidence that many european states have a political system based on proportional representation, why would you not when repeated trauma and dislocation prevent the electorate from trusting the politician not to become a tyrant, and the politician from trusting the electorate not to install a demagogue. Democracy is the fusion between the Demos and the Kratos and in europe there are evident fractures between the two.

However, it is the view of this blogger that in the end the perception of representation will trump all, and that for all the apparent flaws of the sovereign nation state it is still the most important network of trust as the recent financial crisis in europe is making clear:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defied France and the IMF, refusing to modify Germany’s strategy of export reliance or boost growth to help alleviate the deep crisis sweeping Southern Europe. “Where we are strong, we will not give up our strengths just because our exports are perhaps preferred to those of other countries,” she told the German Bundestag.

Indeed, why should the industrious Germans retard their economy to prop up the relaxed lifestyle of their neighbours?”

French finance minister Christine Lagarde; “Clearly Germany has done an awfully good job in the last 10 years or so improving competitiveness. When you look at unit labour costs, they have done a tremendous job in that respect. I’m not sure it is a sustainable model for the long term and for the whole of the group. Clearly we need better convergence.

Why doesn’t the French Gov’t admit that it would be unable to impose such labour reform on its own electorate?”

When adversity strikes, those aims and expectations forged from that shared history really stand out, and make an utter mockery of the idea of a trans-european representative governance for all. People have different needs, and right now the sovereign nation state is best placed to meet that need. Transnational progressivism remains an ideology not a reality, and like all ideologies it will struggle for credibility, then it will struggle for relevance, and finally it will struggle to be remembered.

There can be no legitimate european Kratos because there does not yet exist a pan-european Demos with which to grant it legitimacy, and given the remoteness of the institution to the people it patently cannot represent, it certainly isn’t going to happen any time soon either. This is not to say that with enough time and effort a european Demos could not be forged, but this blogger sincerely doubts it would include all twenty seven nations, or that it would be a pain-free experience along the way. Most of all, this blog questions the need for a federal europe given that it is a poor solution to a non-problem.

None of this is to say that the EU should not grow and expand, merely that it should get broader rather than deeper. Certainly Turkey has an earned a place within the EU should that be its wish, totally aside from its obvious merit as strategic partner, it spent fifty years on the front line of NATO defending europe.

As for Britain, remember that although the EU was born of fear we joined for economic reasons, and that we have not in recent history suffered; unstable borders, traumatised populace, displaced people, revolutions, fascism, communism, or dictatorship. Britain is an island nation, as a result of which we have no compelling motive to dilute our aims and expectations with groups whom we do not share a common history, that fear does not exist. The first-past-the-post electoral system is more than anything a declaration of trust in the cohesiveness of ones society, and by the same token a rejection of the victim politics commonly used to justify proportional representation.

There is without doubt a new era of friendly european cooperation, to which some credit must be given the EU, the only question that remains is for how long that remnant fear of the past will cause some individuals to keep pushing for “ever-deeper-union” when the utopia has already been achieved………. that of a tranquil europe.

3 responses to “A future european Kratos – can there be one in the absence of a Demos?

  1. If I only had more time on my hands then I could reply properly to this post but truly, I have to simply state that I respectfully disagree with the vast majority of it, factual statements (such as the implication that the EU was primarily solely a French project) as well as arguments, and think you should reconsider some of your views expressed here. In particular I find the following aspects of your post worrying:

    1) Resorting to the straw-man of a Federal Europe.
    2) The tarring of everyone of a nation with the same brush with comments like “strongly shared convictions”. I know plenty of British Europhiles and Poles who support abortion – I’m sure I could find many Russophobe Finns or warhawk Irishmen too.
    3) The use of the vague term “shared history” as if each nation lives in a bubble.
    4) The basis for your rejecting PR. Indirect democracy is representative democracy – the elected officials represent the people and if in any system of representative democracy the full spectrum of views of the people is not represented then the system goes against its own justification for existence. It is nothing to do with “victim politics” (I find it concerning that you even use that phrase), nothing to do with history and definitely nothing to do with trust.
    5) Your basis for Turkey’s EU membership – I’m for their joining as well but I think that justifying it with gratitude for their duties in NATO is just silliness.
    6) Your implication that British society is cohesive. Put bluntly, it definitely is not.

    The final thing I find worrying is the faith you place in the nation state and I believe this warrants a longer response:

    Firstly, you keep on referring to Britain and the British and yet you state that the nation state is the natural “trust network” for a modern democracy. The UK is not a nation state – it is a manufactured state comprised of multiple nations, as a hypothetical United States of Europe would be. I have no objection but no great enthusiasm either for the UK or for a hypothetical USE but I find it an illogical position to oppose one and support the other. Also, nations (but not states) can and do overlap which can make combining the two into a nation state tricky.

    Secondly, I see it that ultimately intolerance and war are born of tribalism and that encouraging such tribalism is a dangerous thing. Ultimately nationalism is just a particular form of tribalism and so I think emphasising the nation state and advocating that citizens trust it is distinctly a bad idea. In addition to this with globalisation and the realities of international diplomacy and politics it is inaccurate to call any state truly sovereign.

    • Thank you taking the time to respond, it is appreciated, and my views are not fixed so all input is welcome.

      I’ll address your comments point by point if i may.

      1) “Resorting to the straw-man of a Federal Europe.”

      Here I will respond by quoting Gladstone:

      “The finance of the country is intimately associated with the liberties of the country. It is a powerful leverage by which English Liberty has been gradually acquired … It lies at the root of English Liberty, and if the House of Commons can by any possibility lose the power of the control of the grants of public money, depend upon it, your very liberty will be worth very little in comparison …That power can never be wrenched out of your hands… That powerful leverage has been what is commonly known as the power of the purse – the control of the House of Commons over public expenditure – your main guarantee for purity – the root of English liberty. No violence, no tyranny, whether of experiments or of such methods as are likely to be made in this country, could ever for a moment have a chance of prevailing against the energies of that great assembly. No, if these powers of the House of Commons come to be encroached upon, it will be by tacit and insidious methods, and therefore I say that public attention should be called to this.”

      And then direct you to this article on the recent EU financial agreement:

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,717087,00.html

      The EU is assuming the responsibilities of federal government, even if it is choosing not to flaunt the trappings.

      2) “The tarring of everyone of a nation with the same brush”

      I absolutely agree that no nation is a homogeneous entity, and that within a nation-state particularly there are wildly differing opinions, but I cleave to the principle that that shared history allows for a greater tolerance and understanding of the differences of their neighbours.

      3) “The use of the vague term “shared history” as if each nation lives in a bubble.”

      No nation lives in a bubble, but again; that shared history allows for a greater tolerance and understanding of the differences of their neighbours, and while you could attempt to create a broad understanding of each ‘people’ among all the other ‘peoples’ of europe as the EU is attempting to do, there is little wider interest in absorbing that depth of information that allows the British for example to understand Finnish distrust of NATO, which in many cases (not specific to this example) will lead to an intolerance for the view expressed. Of course we should continue to foster greater knowledge and sympathetic understanding, but we should be realistic of its limits.

      4) “The basis for your rejecting PR.”

      I did state victim “groups”, but yes that would be an extension of the idea that proportionalism is justified to those who ‘suffer’ from being marginalised from politics. I realise that there are many principled reasons for supporting PR, but I personally don’t believe that portions of the electorate ‘suffer’ from marginalisation on any ‘significant’ scale, as British politics has always been good at representing the broader electorate sufficiently to prevent insurrection from within the people. There are edge cases of course, but in my view they remain just that.

      5) “Your basis for Turkey’s EU membership”

      I believe that western europe owes a debt of gratitude to Turkey for playing its role on the frontier of NATO during the cold war, and if we are going to let in even poorer nations like hungary and bulgaria then using economic divergance as a reason for delaying Turkey’s accession look very shabby. There are those who believe that Turkey does not fit culturally into the EUropean project, and they tend to be federalists, which only increases ones suspicion that federalism is the goal if cultural convergence is deemed important.

      6) “Your implication that British society is cohesive.”

      I beg to differ, I believe Britain has an exemplary record of internal stability, achieved without gross repression, that few other nations can claim. This is not to say there are not problems.

      “Firstly, you keep on referring to Britain and the British”

      Your are arguing a particularly narrow view of the nation-state, based on ethnicity or language to the exclusion of all other factors, and while i recognise that Britain’s status as either a nation-state or a mutlinational-state is disputed by academics, i also am less concerned by those two criteria and so lean to the nation-state definition given all the additional characteristics of a nation state Britain does demonstrate.

      “Secondly, I see it that ultimately intolerance and war”

      I will address this point with particular care because you have at various points expressed “concern” with my views, or the root beliefs that underpin them. My enthusiasm for the nation-state is not because it in itself is superior, nor too does it matter whether the nation formed the state or vice versa, what matters is that the nations of europe already have a political settlement that has resulted in recent time in the satisfaction of their constituent peoples. We had in the form of the EEC/EC a free-trade environment that boosts the prosperity of all, and we have in NATO a collective security agreement that will prevent the outbreak of conflict between european nations and their neighbours. My ‘concern’ is that every move in the direction of ever-deeper-union aids the creation of a form of governance that is less responsive and less representative and will result in less social harmony within the constituent political units, and greater intolerance to those without. This occurs principally because the peoples therein have no shared social and cultural history that encourages accommodation and understanding of why political compromises are need to be made. The eurobarometer statistics show this trend across the EU: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm But what is really frustrating to me, is that this reduction in social harmony, which ought to be a serious concern for Gov’ts, is brought about for no decent end, we already have peace, prosperity, security and tranquillity.

      The EEC/EC/EU has brought many benefits and advantages, many of which i support, but i am concerned that ever-deeper-union has become the “end” in itself rather than a “means” of achieving a happier europe, and that the inevitable result will be a less happy europe.

  2. “…There can be no legitimate european Kratos because there does not yet exist a pan-european Demos…”

    And that, my friend, is why the EU is busy breaking down national cohesion by importing millions of rapidly breeding muslims and other immingrants. When all European nations no longer have an indigenous majority the EU overlords will have their demos. I agree with you that it will not be a painless experience – as more people are waking up to what the EU is really about many European peoples are fighting back.

    The EU dream is monstrous – on par with Stalin’s, Mao’s and Hitler’s. How you can justify the lying, underhand, thieving implementation of it’s master plan is beyond my comprehension. And as for the people of England never suffering from trauma or disposession – it’s happening right now as we are disposesed of our land and our homes to make way for the immigrant hordes. It’s happening right now as we realise who are real masters are and yet we have no chance – short of armed resistance – of voting them out.

    As for your support for Turkey joining – words fail me.

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