Systemic “Alternatives”: On Ordoliberal Rule in Europe and the Corruption of the Left


This essay is an attempt at assembling readers in an ambitious and perhaps even problematic undertaking, namely that of critiquing systemic, pro-capitalist alternatives, without proposing in detail any alternative, whether systemic or anti-systemic/anti-capitalist. It starts by defining the concept of “alternative” via a debate within the Italian Left; then, it moves on to examine Keynesianism and ordoliberalism – a peculiar form of neo-liberalism – as two systemic alternatives, the first applying mostly to Anglo-American contexts and the latter to German-Austrian ones. The focus is on how Germany, by having the strongest economy in Europe, managed to transplant its own ordoliberal model of capitalism in the EC/EU via the Treaties, binding all EU members to an ordoliberal economic/normative constitution – the so-called acquis communautaire. By combining historical and theoretical narratives, we also explain how the social democratic, pro-Keynesian European Left has been corrupted by ordoliberalism adopting all of its major policy tenets, the result being loss of legitimacy in times of crisis and the rise of the xenophobic, extreme Right. We conclude by arguing that a genuine anti-systemic alternative must start from home, by way of regaining, among others, what Antonio Gramsci used to call “popular-national”.

Systemic “Alternatives”: On Ordoliberal Rule in Europe and the Corruption of the Left

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