I begin by recalling a short essay by Karl Polanyi, written in 1945, in which he discusses the prospects of a new, peaceful global order, based on the lessons of the war and the interwar period. In it Polanyi advocates an international regime beyond both Communist and neoliberal universalism that allows for national political-economic self-determination. Of particular importance here is Polanyi’s concept of “regional planning”, which stands for jointly regulated sectoral economic cooperation between neighboring sovereign countries that retain their monetary sovereignty. Comparing Polanyi’s vision to the world of today I find differences and similarities that both appear highly instructive. Among other things, it seems that the prospects for a democratically decentralized European state system, as opposed to the technocratic centralization promoted by the European Union, are intertwined with the emerging global relationship between China, now occupying in Polanyi’s scenario the position of the Soviet Union, and a, perhaps, increasingly isolationist United States. In this context, I point to the propagation of a new collective defense narrative – the “European army” project – as a substitute for the social welfare and prosperity narrative in support of “European integration” that has lost its credibility with the collapse of neoliberalism as a viable political formula.
Wolfgang Streeck is Professor em. of Sociology at the University of Cologne and director em. of the Max Planck Institute for Social Research in Cologne.
He has previously held positions in Frankfurt, New York, Münster, and Berlin, and he was professor of sociology and industrial relations at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Wolfgang Streeck is an Honorary Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics and a member of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences as well as the Academia Europaea.