Friday, June 06, 2003

Juergen Habermas and I felt we should sign this analysis, which is also a challenge, together. We consider it necessary and urgent that, in spite of the arguments which might have separated us in the past, German and French philosophers should raise their voices together. As you will easily recognize, this text was composed by Juergen Habermas. I was unable to write a text of my own for personal reasons, although I would have liked to. At the same time I suggested to Juergen Habermas that I should sign this challenge along with him. On the whole I share its premises and perspectives: the establishment of a new European political responsibilty which goes beyond every form of eurocentrism, the appeal to a repeated confirmation and an effective transformation of international law and its institutions, especially the United Nations, a new conception and a new praxis of the division of state powers etc. which refers in spirit, if not in sense, to the Kantian tradition. Besides, at many points, Juergen Habermas's remarks overlap with the reflections I recently developed in my book "Voyou - Deux essais sur la raison". In a few days' time a book by Juergen Habermas and me will appear in the United States containing two conversations which each of us held in New York after September 11 2002. Notwithstanding all the obvious differences in our opinions and arguments our views coincide here too with regard to the future of the institutions of international law and the new tasks for Europe. JACQUES DERRIDA

There are two days we should not forget: the day on which the newspapers informed their astonished readers of the oath of loyalty to Bush, to which the Spanish Prime Minister had invited European governments willing to go to war behind the backs of their other European Union colleagues; but no less 15 February 2003, when the protesting masses in London and Rome, Madrid and Barcelona, Berlin and Paris reacted to this surprise coup. The simultaneous nature of these overwhelming demonstrations - the largest since the end of the Second World War - might be regarded with hindsight as entering the history books as marking the birth of a European public.

During the bleak months before outbreak of the Iraq war a morally obscene division of labour had been stirring up emotions. The logistically immense operation of the inexorable military build-up and the hectic activity of the humanitarian relief organizations interlocked with the precision of gear wheels. The spectacle also played itself out undisturbed before the eyes of the population, which - with each member robbed of his own inititiave -would be its victim. There is no doubt that the power of feelings brought Europe's citizens to make a stand together. But the war also brought Europeans awareness of the long foreseen failure of their common foreign policy.

As in the rest of the world the casual breech of international law kindled a controversy over the future of the international order in Europe too. But the divisive arguments affected us more deeply. The familiar fault lines were only profiled more sharply over this controversy. Controversal statements about the role of the superpower, about the future world order, the relevance of international law and the UN caused latent conflicts to break out openly. The gap between continental and Anglo-Saxon countries on the one hand, "old Europe" and the Central and Eastern European candidates for entry on the other, deepened. In Great Britain the special relationship with the United States is by no means undisputed, but it still remains right at the top of Downing Street's order of preferences. And the Central and Eastern European countries strive to join the European Union, without being ready yet to limit their only recently won sovereignty again. The Iraq crisis was only the catalyst. In Brussels too the consitutional convention shows up the contrast between nations which really want a deepening of the European Union, and those which have an understandable interest in freezing or at best cosmetically changing the existing mode of intergovernmental rule. The difference can now no longer be exaggerated.

The future constitution will give us a European Minister of Foreign Affairs. But what good is a new office as long as governments fail to agree on a common policy? Fischer with a change of office designation would remain as powerless as Solana. Meanwhile probably only the core European member states are ready to grant the European Union some national attributes. What is to be done if only these countries can agree on a definition of their "own interests"? If Europe is not to fall apart, these countries must now make use of the mechanism of "intensified collaboration" decided in Nice in order to make a start on a "Europe of different speeds" with a common foreign, security and defence policy. A suction effect will ensue, from which the other members - first those in the Eurozone - will not be able escape in the long term. In the framework of the future European constitution there ought not to be and cannot be any separatism. Advancing does not mean excluding. The avant-garde core of Europe should not consolidate itself into a miniature Europe; it must be - as so often - the locomotive. The more closely cooperating member states of the European Union will already keep the doors open out of self-interest. Those invited will step through these doors the sooner the core of Europe becomes authorized to act in external affairs and proves that in a complex global society it is not only [military] divisions which count, but the gentle power of negotiation agendas, [international] relations and economic advantages.

In this world the sharpening division of politics into the alternative, as stupid as it is costly, between war and peace does not pay. Europe must throw its weight into the balance on an international level and within the framework of the UN, in order to counterbalance the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States. At world economic summits and within the institutions of the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund it must bring its influence to bear on the design of a future world domestic policy.

However the policy of further development of the European Union is today reaching the limits of the means of administrative control. So far the functional imperatives of the creation of a common economic and currency area have driven reforms forward. These driving powers are exhausted. A shaping policy, which demands not only the removal of obstacles to competition, but a common will from the member states, is dependent on the motivations and the convictions of the citizens themselves. Majority resolutions about momentous changes in foreign policy position may count on being accepted only if the subject minorities are in solidarity. That, however, presupposes a feeling of belonging together politically. The populations must "supplement their national identities and expand them by adding a European dimension" to a certain degree. Also today the already rather abstract civic solidarity, which is limited to members of their own nation, must in future extend to European citizens of other nations.

That brings the question of "European identity" into play. Only the awareness of a common political destiny and the convincing perspective of a common future can prevent outvoted minorities from obstructing the will of the majority. In principle the citizens of a nation must regard the citizen of another nation as "one of us". This desideratum leads to the question so many sceptics ask about the project: are there historical experiences, traditions and achievements, which provide us with the awareness of a shared political destiny which can be arranged together for European citizens? An attractive, infectious "vision" for the future of Europe will not fall from the sky. Today it can be born only from a disturbing feeling of embarrassment. But it can follow from the distress of the situation in which we Europeans are thrown back on ourselves. And it must be articulated within the wild cacophony of a polyphonic public. If the topic has not even made it onto the agenda so far, we intellectuals have failed.

On noncommittal subjects we can easily agree. Before us all floats the picture of a peaceful, cooperative Europe open to other cultures and capable of dialogue. We welcome the Europe which found exemplary solutions to two problems in the second half of the twentieth century. Today the European Union already offers itself as a form of "government beyond the nation state", which could become the accepted thing in the post-national constellation. European welfare regimes were for a long time exemplary too. On the level of the nation state they are today on the defensive. But a future policy of taming capitalism ought not to fall back into the limited space behind the yardsticks of social justice which they established. Why should Europe, if it managed to deal with two problems of this order of magnitude, not pose itself the further challenge of defending and furthering a cosmopolitan order on the basis of international law against competitive designs [?Entwuerfe] too?

A discourse instigated on a Europe-wide scale would certainly have to fit in with existing arrangements, which to a certain degree await a stimulating process of self-understanding. Two facts seem to contradict this bold assumption: haven't the most important historical achievements of Europe lost their identity-creating power exactly because of their worldwide success? And what is to hold together a region characterised like no other by continuing rivalry between self-confident nations?

Because Christianity and capitalism, natural science and technology, Roman law and the Code Napoléon, the bourgeois-urban way of life, democracy and human rights, which spread the secularization of state and society over other continents, no longer form its unique possessions. The Western spirit, rooted in the Judaeo-Christian inheritance certainly has its own characteristic features. In addition, European nations share with those of the United States, Canada and Australia this mental habitus, which is characterised by individualism, rationalism and activism. The "West" as a mental outline covers more than just Europe.

Besides this, Europe consists of nation states, which polemically define themselves against one another. National consciousness based on national languages, national literatures and national histories for long operated as an explosive device. Certainly countermodels have arisen in reaction to the destructive power of nationalism, which give today's Europe in its incomparable, extensive cultural variety a face in the eyes of non-Europeans. A culture which was for many centuries torn more than other cultures by conflicts between city and country, between church and secular powers, by competition between faith and knowledge, the fight between political elites and antagonistic classes, had to learn painfully how differences could be communicated, oppositions institutionalized and tensions stabilized. The acknowledgment of differences - the mutual acknowledgment of the Other in its Otherness - can become the characteristic of a common identity too.

The social-national pacification of class conflicts and the self-limitation of national sovereignty within the framework of the European Union are only the most recent examples of this. In the third quarter of the twentieth century Europe this side of the iron curtain experienced its "golden age" in the words of Eric Hobsbawm. Since then the characteristics of a common political mentality have become recognizable, so that others often notice the European in us more than Germans or Frenchmen - and not only in Hong Kong, but even in Tel Aviv.

It is true: in European societies secularization has progressed relatively far. Here citizens regard trespasses beyond the border between politics and religion rather suspiciously. Europeans have a relatively great confidence in the organizational abilities and directive capabilities of the State, while they are sceptical with regard to the efficiency of the market. They possess a pronounced sense of the "dialectic of the Enlightenment", and hold no unbroken optimistic expectations with regard to technical progress. They have a preference for the security guarantees of the welfare state and for collective regulations. Their tolerance threshold regarding the use of force against persons is comparatively low. Their desire for a multilateral and legally regulated international order is connected with their hope for an effective world domestic policy in the context of a reformed United Nations.

The constellation which allowed fortunate Western Europeans to develop such a mentality under the shadow of the Cold War has disintegrated since 1989/90. However 15 February shows that the mentality survived the context in which it developed. It also explains why "old Europe" sees itself provoked by the vigorous hegemonic policies of its superpower ally. And why so many in Europe, who welcomed Saddam's fall as a liberation, reject the anti-international law character of the unilateral, pre-emptive invasion which was as confused as it was insufficiently justified. Yet how stable is this mentality? Does it have roots in more deep-reaching historical experiences and traditions?

Today we know that many political traditions, which claim authority in the light of their natural growth, were "invented". In contrast, a European identity, born in public view, would have something "constructed" from the outset. But only something arbitarily constructed would bear the stigma of arbitrariness. The political-ethical will, which validates itself in the hermeneutics of the processes of self-understanding, is not arbitrariness. The distinction between the inheritance, with which we begin, and the things we want to reject, requires just as much circumspection as the decision over which version we adopt. Historical experiences stand as candidates for conscious adoption only, without which they do not attain identity-forming power.

To conclude, a few references to such "candidates", in whose light a post-war European mentality could attain a sharper profile. The relationship between State and Church in modern Europe developed differently this side of the Pyrenees and the other, north and south of the Alps, west and east of the Rhine. The neutrality of government authority with regard to worldviews in each case attained a different legal shape in different European countries. But within civil society religion everywhere takes a similarly unpolitical position. Even if one may regret this social privatisation of faith in other spheres, it has desirable consequences for political culture. In our region a president who begins his daily business with public prayer and associates his momentous political decisions with a divine mission is hard to imagine.

The emancipation of bourgeois society from the guardianship of an absolutist regime was not connected everywhere in Europe with the coming to power and democratic formation of the modern administrative state. But the idealistic transmission of the French Revolution throughout the whole of Europe explains among other things, why the policy is positively established in both forms - both as a the means of guaranteeing freedom and as a power of organization. On the other hand the achievements of capitalism are connected with sharp class conflicts. Memory of this prevents an equally impartial estimate of the market. The differing evaluation of politics and the market may encourage Europeans in their confidence in the civilizing organizational power of a State, from which they also expect the correction of "market failures".

The party system which emerged from the French revolution was often copied. But only in Europe has it also served as a form of ideological competition, which submits the social-pathological consequences of capitalistic modernization to continued political evaluation. This promotes its citizens' sensitivity to the paradoxes of progress. The controversy between conservative, liberal and socialist interpretations is over the consideration of two aspects: Do the losses, which occur with the disintegration of protective traditional ways of life, outweigh the profits of a chimerical progress? Or do the profits, which set processes of creative destruction today against hopes for tomorrow, outweigh the pain of modernization's losers?

In Europe class differences with their long-term effects were experienced by those concerned as a destiny which could be averted only through collective action. Thus in the context of workers' movements and Christian socialist traditions an ethos of solidarity in the struggle for "more social justice" aiming at equal concern for all became generally accepted against the individualistic ethos of the justice of achievement [? meritocracy], which accepts glaring social inequalities.

Today's Europe is marked by the experiences of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century and by the Holocaust - the persecution and destruction of the European Jews, in which the NS [National Socialist] regime also involved the societies of the countries it had conquered. The self-critical arguments over this past have called our attention towards the moral bases of politics. An increased sensitivity to injuries to personal and physical integrity is reflected among other things in the fact that Council of Europe and European Union have elevated the abolition of the death penalty into a condition of entry.

A belligerent past once dragged all European nations into bloody conflicts. From their experiences of military and intellectual mobilization against one another, after the Second World War they drew the conclusion of developing new supranational forms of co-operation. The success story of the European Union encouraged Europeans in the conviction that taming of the exercise of national power also demands a mutual restriction of the space for sovereign action on a global level.

Each of the large European nations has experienced the glory days of imperial power, and, more importantly in our context, has had to cope with the experience of the loss of empire. This experience of decline is in many cases connected with the loss of colonial empires. With the increasing distance from imperial rule and their colonial history European powers have also been granted the chance to gain a reflective distance from themselves. So they could learn to recognize themselves from the losers' perspective in the dubious role of the victors who are called to account for the violence of an imposed and uprooting modernization. This might have promoted the rejection of eurocentrism and inspired the Kantian hope for a world domestic policy.JUERGEN HABERMAS