Where is Europes Democratic Ideal?

This is a letter I published in the Irish Times, in response to an article by Dan O’Brien, July 30th. There is also an excellent response here

Sir, – Dan O’Brien’s useful synopsis of the political trends across Europe (Opinion, July 30th)missed one crucial point. We are not witnessing a return to far-right extremes as occurred in the 1930s but the emergence of a new political phenomenon, the rise of market technocracy.

Since the onset of the crisis, technocratic governments have been imposed in Italy and Greece. National governments in Ireland, Spain and Portugal have effectively become debt collection agencies on behalf of financial markets. Decision-making is increasingly handed over to economic technocrats, within a complex multi-level governance system, that prioritises market over social integration.

What we are witnessing across Europe is a tug of war between the democratic sovereign state and the powerful interests of financial markets. The role of the democratic state in this context has been reduced to ensuring balanced budgets through aggressive cuts in public expenditure, tightening eligibility for social protection, and imposing structural reforms in the labour market. This is not democracy. – Yours, etc,


Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies,

University of Amsterdam,

The Netherlands.

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