It seems we’re not the only ones who are beginning to see governance model incongruencies behind some of the German economic ills (see two of my last posts (1, 2), and, especially the comments to the last one).
Over at Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell (who knows Germany well, having beeen a research fellow at the The Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods) gets a bit angry at the Economist for their usually biased coverage of Continental European social and economic models, before declaring his support for Franz M?ntefering.
“M?ntefering is quite right to identify international venture capital firms as Modell Deutschland?s enemies. If you?re trying to rebuild a model based on consensus-driven labour relations, on patient capital, and on political control over the marketplace, they are the enemy. The old model had a lot going for it. Perhaps M?ntefering should have used more temperate language, but probably not. He?s gotten a debate going, and it?s a debate that needs to take place. The advocates of free market reform in Continental Europe have been able to coat their project with an entirely spurious patina of inevitability. The way they?ve painted it, these economies have no choice but to deregulate. This simply isn?t true; the citizens of these countries do have choices, and should be allowed to make them. Far from being ?immensely damaging? to Germany and Europe, it?s the first real sign in several years of a proper political debate about the choices that are available, and the benefits and drawbacks attached to them.
I think he’s giving M?ntefering far too much credit. This doesn’t appear to be too planned. “M?nte” did not intend to stir an honest debate about governance modes, he just needed to vent. Besides, there is no real debate – and there probably won’t be, simply because these issues are too complex to be publicly debated without the help of terms like “locusts” and institutionalised myths of rationality – that’s – I think – what Henry refers with “patina of inevitabilty.”
But Henry is right to remind us (in a reply to a comment) that –
“I wouldn?t have used the term ?swarm of locusts? myself. But then, I wouldn?t have gotten much debate going by using more polite language. Academics like Wolfgang Streeck (or, in the broader European context, Colin Hay) have been making not dissimilar arguments for a long time, and not getting much political traction (although Streeck seems to be getting rather disillusioned). We?re now having the debate ? I don?t think that this would be happening if M?ntefering had been more indirect. And it?s the debate that?s the important thing (as the Economist recognizes ? it?s less worried with his intemperate language, than that he?s opened up Pandora?s box). There?s been a sense that the German government is sleepwalking into a watered down version of neo-liberalism for lack of any better ideas ? now there?s some real public discussion going.
Well, as I said, I don’t see *that* discussion yet. I see a lot of “Hysteria in Kindergarten“. But I wish Henry was right, and I wish more people would start to understand that there’s an obvious, and increasing, lack of compatibility between the German production mode and it’s governance. And for all interested in a real debate, I’d like to once again point to a recent paper by Wolfgang Streek, that Edward already linked to in the above mentioned comment thread : “Economic Reform and the Political Economy of the German Welfare State”.