The Great Regression: Preface of the editor Heinrich Geiselberger

» When a world order breaks down, that is when people begin to think about it. «

Ulrich Beck, 2011 1

The idea for this book arose in late autumn 2015, after a series of terrorist attacks had shaken Paris and as the debate in Germany about the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees became increasingly fraught. The reaction to these events in politics, the media and general discourse gave the impression that the world was suddenly falling below the standards it had fought hard to achieve and had thought of as secure.

Directly associated with terrorism and migration is the fact that all around the globe the number of territories in which a state as such no longer exists is growing. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the three countries from which most people seeking asylum in Germany came in 2016, ranked near the top of the ›Fragile State Index‹ compiled by the NGO Fund for Peace in the same year.2 While the blank spaces on the maps had grown smaller and smaller over the centuries, things now appear to be going in the opposite direction. In the age of Google Maps there are a growing number of ter- ritories of which one knows very little and which ancient cartographers would have marked with the phrase »hic sunt leones«.

Furthermore, many of the political reactions to the terrorist attacks and the migrant wave fit the pattern of postdemocratic gesture politics and what sociologists call ›securitization‹. There are the calls for walls, and there has even been talk of orders to shoot at refugees trying to cross frontiers. The president of France has declared a state of emergency, saying that the country is at war. Unable to tackle the global causes of such challenges as immigration and terrorism or growing inequality at the national level, or to combat them with long-term strategies, more and more politicians rely on law and order at home, together with the promise to make their respective countries ›great again‹.3 In the Age of Austerity, it is evidently no longer possible to offer citizens much in their roles as workers, fellow sovereign citizens, school children or users of public infrastructure. In consequence, the political emphasis has shifted to the dimension of nationality, the promise of safety, and the restoration of the glory of a bygone age.

The list of the symptoms of decline could be extended almost indefinitely. We could highlight the yearning for an anarchic, unilateral de-globalization or the emergence of the Identitarian movement, as for example in France, Italy and Austria; or the growing xenophobia and Islamophobia, the wave of so-called hate crimes, and of course the rise of authoritarian demagogues such as Rodrigo Duterte, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Narendra Modi.

By the late autumn of 2015 all this was accompanied by an increased hysteria and a coarsening of public discourse, together with a certain herd mentality on the part of the established media. Evidently, people could no longer talk about flight and migration without invoking the semantic fields of ›natural catastrophes‹ and ›epidemics‹. Instead of issuing calls for calm and pragmatism or contextualizing events historically and thus helping to see them in perspective, the risks of terrorism and immigration in Germany were turned into the greatest challenge not just since Reunification but even since the Second World War. At demonstrations as well as on the internet, terms such as ›lying press‹, ›dictatorship of the chancellor‹ and ›traitors to the people‹ (»Volksverräter«) instead of ›representatives of the people‹ (»Volksvertreter«) became common currency.

Symptoms such as these are discussed in the present book under the heading of »the great regression«. Beyond the naive belief in progress that might be implicit in that term, it is intended to make clear that the ratchet effects of modernization appear to have lost their force in the most diverse spheres of activity and that we are witnessing a reversion to an earlier stage of »civilized conduct«.4 However, the term is intended also to point to a further puzzling phenomenon, namely that in the debates about the impact of globalization we have in some respects fallen back beneath the level that had already been reached almost twenty years ago. Two warnings that seem prophetic today were repeatedly recalled in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory. One was Ralf Dahrendorf’s statement that the twenty-first century might well become the »century of authoritarianism«.5 The other was Richard Rorty’s book Achieving our Country, in which the author analyses the effects of globalization (and the role of the »cultural left«) and lists a whole series of possible retrograde steps. He refers in particular to the rise of »scurrilous demagogues«, the growth of social and economic inequality, the onset of »an Orwellian world«, a rebellion of the people who have been left behind, and a return of »sadism«, resentment and disparaging remarks about women and ethnic minorities.6

The collection containing Dahrendorf’s essay appeared in 1998, thus at the high point of the first wave of reflection about globalization. If we glance at the books of those years, we come across further statements that can be read as commentaries on the events of 2016. The German sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer warned against an »authoritarian capitalism«, »repressive state politics« and »rabid right-wing populism«.7 Dani Rodrik prophesied that globalization would lead to »social disintegration« and cautioned that a »protectionist backlash« was not an unrealistic scenario.8

Many of the relevant assessments are based on something like a Polanyian mechanism of a Second Great Transformation. The Austro-Hungarian economic historian Karl Polanyi showed in his classic work The Great Transformation, which appeared in 1944, how the capitalist industrial society of the nineteenth century emerged out of smaller, feudal, agrarian conditions – politically, culturally and institutionally integrated – into something that led to a series of side effects and counter-movements until the economy was embedded once again at the level of national welfare states.9 This phenomenon of both geographical and social expansion is repeating itself today at a moment when capitalism is leaving the boundaries of the nation-state behind it, and when, once again, it is accompanied by all sorts of side effects and counter-movements.10 We need think only of the founding of Attac in 1998, the so-called »Battle of Seattle« in 1999, and the first meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2001 on the political left;11 alternatively, of the first successes of anti-globalization populists on the political right: Pat Buchanan’s surprisingly strong showing in the Republican primaries in 1996 (to which Rorty and Rodrik allude), or the success of Jörg Haider’s FPÖ, which became the second-largest parliamentary party in Austria in the 1998 elections.

If we summarize the solutions put forward at the time, what was called for – echoing the movement described by Polanyi – was the re-embedding at the global level of an economy that had been let off the leash: by building transnational institutions, politics must be enabled to seek global solutions to global problems. Parallel to that, a corresponding mental attitude should emerge, a feeling of a cosmopolitan collective identity or »we-feeling«.12

The bitter irony of this is that in the following years all the risks of globalization that were discerned at the time actu- ally became reality – international terrorism, climate change, financial and currency crises, and lastly, great movements of migrants – while politically no one was prepared for them. Subjectively, there is evidently an utter failure to establish a robust sense of a cosmopolitan collective identity. On the contrary, we are at present witnessing a resurgence of ethnic, national and religious us/them distinctions. The logic of a »clash of civilizations« has replaced the friend/foe pattern of the Cold War with astonishing speed, despite the supposed »end of history«.

Against this background, after the expanding regression in late autumn 2015, the events that followed gradually com- bined to form a bleak panorama. These events included the con ict in Syria, the result of the Brexit referendum, the terrorist attack in Nice, the successes of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, the attempted coup in Turkey and the political reactions to it, and, finally, Trump’s victory.

Whereas others had previously spoken of the risks of globalization in general, many of the writers in this volume stress that we are faced with a neoliberal version of globalization, so that we might with equal justice speak of the risks of neoliberalism. In this sense, the contributions collected here can be read as attempts to explore the question of the many different ways in which neoliberal democracies live on the basis of preconditions that they cannot themselves guarantee – to vary a phrase of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde’s.13 These preconditions include media that provide a certain plurality of opinions; intermediate bodies such as trade unions, parties or associations in which people can achieve something like agency; genuine left-wing parties that succeed in articulating the interests of different milieus; and an education system that is not reduced to the production of »human capital« and
learning PISA tasks by heart.

The Great Regression that we are witnessing currently may be the product of a collaboration between the risks of globalization and neoliberalism. The problems that have arisen from the failure of politicians to exercise some control over global interdependence are impinging on societies that are institutionally and culturally unprepared for them.

This book sets out to pick up the threads of the globalization debate of the 1990s and to take it forward. In it, scholars and public intellectuals respond to urgent questions: How have we ended up in this situation? Where will we be in five, ten or twenty years’ time? How can we stop the global regression and achieve a turnaround? In the face of an international league of nationalists the book attempts to create something like a transnational public sphere. The term »transnational« here operates at three levels: first, that of the contributors; second, that of the phenomena under discussion; and third, that of distribution – the volume will appear simultaneously in several countries.

1 Ulrich Beck, »Kooperieren oder scheitern. Die Existenzkrise der Europäischen Union«, in: Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 2 (2011), S. 41-53.

2 J. J.Messner, Fragile State Index 2016,Washington: The Fund for Peace 2016, S. 7.

3 Zygmunt Bauman, Strangers at Our Door, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016

4 On this point and on the concept of »regressive modernization«, see Oliver Nachtwey, Die Abstiegsgesellschaft. Über das Aufbegehren in der regresssiven Moderne, Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2016 (English translation forthcoming).

5 Ralf Dahrendorf, »Anmerkungen zur Globalisierung«, in Ulrich Beck (ed.), Perspektiven der Weltgesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998, pp. 41–54, here 52f.

6 Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998, especially Chapter 4, »A Cultural Left«, pp. 73–111, here 83–7.

7 Wilhelm Heitmeyer, »Autoritärer Kapitalismus, Demokratisierung und Rechtspopulismus. Eine Analyse von Entwicklungstendenzen«, in Dietmar Loch and Wilhelm Heitmeyer (eds), Schattenseiten der Globalisierung. Rechtsradikalismus, Rechtspopulismus und separatistischer Regionalismus in westlichen Demokratien, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1998, pp. 497– 534, here 500.

8 Dani Rodrik, Has Globalization Gone Too Far?, Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1997, p. 86. In this context we could also mention Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld, New York: Crown, 1995; Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People, New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999; Viviane Forrester, The Economic Horror, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999; Robert B. Reich, The Work of Nations, New York: Vintage Books, 1992; Harald Schumann and Hans-Peter Martin, The Global Trap, London: Pluto Press, 1997; Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents, London: Allen Lane, 2002.

9 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1944.

10 On this point see – with explicit reference to Polanyi – Philip G. Cerny, »Globalisierung und die neue Logik kollektiven Handelns«, in Ulrich Beck (ed.), Politik der Globalisierung, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998, pp. 263–96.

11 Accompanied at the time by further influential journalistic and theoretical diagnoses; we need think only of Naomi Klein, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, Toronto: Knopf Canada, 1999, or Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2001.

12 See, among others, Ulrich Beck, The Cosmopolitan Vision, translated by Ciaran Cronin, Cambridge: Polity, 2006.

13 Böckenförde writes, albeit in a different context, »The libertar- ian, secularised state lives on assumptions that it is unable to guarantee itself«, in Staat, Gesellschaft, Freiheit. Studien zur Staatstheorie und zum Verfassungsrecht, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1977 [1967], pp. 42–64, here 6