When we speak of a place, we don’t mean its “real” geography, but the idea of it. In this sense we comprehend it by it being lived in, our understandings of its constructed histories, and how we relate to that space. Much of the same can be said about Europe.
For many, Europe marks an origin point – Americans and Australians used to call it the “old” continent. Much before then, the Renaissance started a reinvigoration of Classical grandeur, with many attributing the origins of ‘civilisation’ to those masters of Philosophy – Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Aristophanes, etc. And now – in amongst the leaders of innovation and education. Others see it as the origins of oppression – the place where madness came from, the place of racial cultural oppression. So structural was their influence, that its remnants have yet to leave our psyche.
In either case, Europe still holds hegemonic power. But recent actions towards Greece’s desire for a third bailout could indeed be the first signs of a weakening global power.
In the first case it is clear that since 2008 Europe and USA have faced declining economic power. As dependants on demand flows, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) have also observed slow growth while the West falters and struggles to pick up its economy. So, for most speculators, investing in BRIC nations is akin to investing here – the rate of return is far too low to benefit.
However, it is also the case that in the meanwhile the BRIC nations have been increasing their stake with the rest of the Global South. This not only circumvents the IMF’s strict agenda of structural adjustment (that every nation in the world has been trying to avoid) but also provides developing nations with stronger trade links with the BRIC nations. Of course, the interest of the BRIC nations is not altruistic. Their investment ensures that their economy’s dependency on the West lifts, and their economies can continue to grow.
If Europe is smart, it will notice that we are in the quiet before a storm.
However, current economic circumstances and the nature of consumerist capitalism has meant that Europe is not as interested in its economic longevity as it should be. Instead in the drowning economies of Europe, populist politics and short-termism has encouraged not to fear throwing out the failing nations in favour of keeping the others afloat. What they refuse to realise, however, is that in this lifeboat Greece is covering up a rather large leak.
The first signs of Greece being removed from the Euro can be evidenced from the current negotiations of the third Greece “bailout”. The IMF and the ECB have demanded large wage cuts, with complete awareness that this will cost the Greek economy dearly. Their interest is a return of their loan money, and not the overall stability of the Greek economy. This can only suggest that plans to force Greece into defaulting are certainly on the cards. The only question is how (legally) and when.
If Greece can be removed, there is evidence that Spain, Ireland and Portugal may just as easily be kicked out. The Greek default would set a dangerous precedent – a precedent that could not only bring instability to the Euro, but to the heart of European hegemony.
At this point, Europe needs to embrace a real alternative. The reigns of power can only come from the support, and not the exploitation of those less economically secure. Although my own beliefs would sway away from Europe’s continued hegemony, the need for global economic security has to come from economic superpowers working together. And this time not for their own short term gains, but towards a long-term economy for people.