[OPE-L] Wallerstein, "Europe, 2057"

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Apr 18 2007 - 09:51:42 EDT

What will Europe be like 50 years hence?  In the following, Wallerstein is
very sketchy about the kind of economic changes he expects over that time
period and likely environmental changes and consequences.
In solidarity, Jerry

Commentary No. 207, April 15, 2007

"Europe, 2057"

The European Union (UE) has just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary,
dating it from the signing of the Treaties of Rome on March 25, 1957.
Only one person who was at those signings, Maurice Faure of France,
is still alive, and he sounded a bit dismayed at the state of Europe.
The headline on this occasion in Le Monde spoke of "gloom" in Europe
about Europe and the headline in the International Herald-Tribune
spoke of "disquiet." The immediate cause of this less than festive
fiftieth anniversary was the referendum rejections in 2005 by France
and the Netherlands of the proposed new European constitution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is the current president of
the EU, sought to put a positive face on things, convened the member
states to Berlin for the anniversary, and inveigled all of them into
adopting a somewhat ambiguous proposal for renewing negotiations on
further political steps forward. The question now is what Europe
could look like, may look like, in another fifty years - in 2057.

Amidst the doom and gloom of the media and the politicians, Harris
Interactive announced the results of a public opinion poll about the
Europe of 2057 that was taken in five West European nations (France,
Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain) and the United States. The
poll offered some surprises. Almost everyone was sure that the EU
would still be functioning in 2057, and that the euro would have
become the standard currency. Only a third thought Europe's relations
with the United States would have improved.

But the most startling results came when the respondents were
questioned about expansion. A third to a half (depending on the
country) thought that Russia would be part of the European Union
(something almost no one is advocating at the moment), and even more
expected Turkey to be a member (something that is very controversial
today). Given all the loud political cackling these days about what a
bad idea either would be, it seems that Europeans, in their role of
predictors of the future, do not agree, or at least expect other

What this contradiction in position-taking reveals is the difference
between politics and geopolitics. Politics is fundamentally the
immediate interaction of multiple actors in the political arena,
reflecting their short-term concerns. In this perspective, Europe
could be said to be in a shaky state. But geopolitics is about the
middle-run trends that constrain the short-run actors, and which
reflect longer-term interests. Very few people, and certainly very
few politicians, have geopolitical
understandings/preferences/opinions. The geopolitical trends carry
most people along without their being too aware of it.

The group that met in Rome in March of 1957 were exceptional in that
they did have a particular geopolitical vision, and thus far they
have been largely vindicated by the reality of historical trends.
Chancellor Merkel has been trying to persuade her fellow heads of
government to look at Europe in a geopolitical framework, one that is
closer to the expectations of the west Europeans as reflected in the
poll results.

What kind of Europe are we likely to see in 2057? There are three
major elements in any response to this question. First of all, given
the precipitate geopolitical decline of the United States, we are
living amidst the creation of a truly multipolar world-system. The
question for Europe is whether it can compete - economically,
politically, culturally - not with the United States but with East
Asia. This depends in part on whether or not East Asia (China, Japan,
and Korea) will come together in a meaningful way. But it also
depends on whether Europe is able to create a more politically
cohesive structure and, on top of that, will be one that includes
both Russia and Turkey.

The second consideration is whether or not Europe is able to
transform itself from a Christian continent to a multireligious
continent. Pope Benedict XV has made as the number one priority of
the Catholic Church the "rechristianization" of Europe. He attributes
Europe's "dangerous individualism" to its historic "secularization."
Europe, he says, is "sliding into apostasy" and "losing faith in its
own future," and he defines this as a veritable "cultural collapse."

The geopolitical trends don't seem to reflect the Pope's desires. The
percentage of Muslims grows daily, and the number of Christian
churchgoers diminishes daily. So, is the Pope right - that this
implies the "cultural collapse" of Europe? Or can Europe evolve a
new, forceful culture that actually thrives on its demographic
recomposition? The answer remains open.

And finally, will Europe be in 2057 an island of relative internal
stability, or a zone of acute internal conflict? This is the social
question - the degree to which Europe is able to counter the
increased internal polarization caused by neoliberal pressures. Up to
now, Europe has been relatively resistant to the cry to dismantle its
welfare state policies. But the pressures are growing, not lessening.
A neoliberal Europe is unlikely to be a tranquil Europe. In a
world-system in structural crisis, can Europe play rather the role of
a positive force for transformation? That question too remains open.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For
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These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be
reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the
perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Becky Dunlop, Secretary
Fernand Braudel Center

Becky Dunlop, Secretary
Fernand Braudel Center

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