Life after bankruptcy

Published on by The Inquirer

The age of privatisation is over. Politics not the market is responsible for promoting the common good. Philosopher Jürgen Habermas talks to Thomas Assheuer about the necessity of an international world order.

Die Zeit: Herr Habermas, the international financial system has collapsed and a global economic crisis is looming. What do you find most worrying about this?

Jürgen Habermas: What worries me most is the scandalous social injustice that the most vulnerable social groups will have to bear the brunt of the socialised costs for the market failure. The mass of those who, in any case, are not among the winners of globalisation now have to pick up the tab for the impacts of a predictable dysfunction

You recently lectured at Yale University. Which images of this crisis impressed you most?

A seemingly endless loop of melancholic Hopperian images of long rows of abandoned houses in Florida and elsewhere with "Foreclosure" signs on their front lawns flickered across the television screens. Then you saw buses arriving with curious prospective buyers from Europe and wealthy Latin Americans, followed by the real estate agent showing them the closets in the bedroom smashed in a fit of rage and despair. After my return I was struck by the sharp contrast between the agitated mood in the United States and the calm feeling of "business as usual" here in Germany. In the US the very real economic anxieties coincided with the hot end-spurt of one of the most momentous election campaigns in recent memory. The crisis also instilled a more acute awareness of their personal interests in broad sectors of the electorate. It forced people to make decisions that were, if not necessarily more reasonable, then at least more rational, at any rate by comparison with the last presidential election which was ideologically polarised by "9/11." America will owe its first black president – if I may hazard a prediction immediately before the election – and hence a major historical watershed in the history of its political culture, to this fortunate coincidence. Beyond this, however, the crisis could also be the harbinger of a changed political climate in Europe. of the financial system on the real economy. Unlike the shareholders, they will not pay in money values but in the hard currency of their daily existence. Viewed in global terms, this avenging fate is also afflicting the economically weakest countries. That's the political scandal. Yet pointing the finger at scapegoats strikes me as hypocritical. The speculators, too, were acting consistently within the established legal framework according to the socially recognised logic of profit maximisation. Politics turns itself into a laughing stock when it resorts to moralising instead of relying upon the enforceable law of the democratic legislator. Politics, and not capitalism, is responsible for promoting the common good.
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