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5

Borderland

0
terms
10
notes

haunting

Kouvelakis, S. (2018). Borderland. New Left Review, 110, pp. 5-34

5

[...] Greece is certainly a small country; but, in virtue of its geopolitical, cultural and economic position, it is an outpost of Europe and thus also its border. To see it in this way is to understand it as a permanent point of delimitation and contact between ‘Europe’—but also, and the distinction is significant, the European Union—and its outside: the Other against which Europe defines and constructs itself.

i love this intro paragraph ending

—p.5 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] Greece is certainly a small country; but, in virtue of its geopolitical, cultural and economic position, it is an outpost of Europe and thus also its border. To see it in this way is to understand it as a permanent point of delimitation and contact between ‘Europe’—but also, and the distinction is significant, the European Union—and its outside: the Other against which Europe defines and constructs itself.

i love this intro paragraph ending

—p.5 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
11

The metaphor of Fortress Europe thus represents a highly sophisticated construction—far more so than the fortified continent of World War Two. Its lines of fortification are mobile and teem with electronic surveillance devices, reinforcing an arsenal of repression centred round the weapons of bureaucracy and fear. Its walls are semi-permeable, designed not simply to exclude but to filter entrance in a highly restrictive way, constantly fabricating and modifying systems of hierarchical categorization, of which the distinction between ‘refugees’—acceptable, but only in limited numbers—and ‘economic migrants’, illegitimate and thus illegalized, is only one example. It operates by establishing compacts with other states or agencies, outsourcing functions of coercion, detention, surveillance and control. [...]

—p.11 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

The metaphor of Fortress Europe thus represents a highly sophisticated construction—far more so than the fortified continent of World War Two. Its lines of fortification are mobile and teem with electronic surveillance devices, reinforcing an arsenal of repression centred round the weapons of bureaucracy and fear. Its walls are semi-permeable, designed not simply to exclude but to filter entrance in a highly restrictive way, constantly fabricating and modifying systems of hierarchical categorization, of which the distinction between ‘refugees’—acceptable, but only in limited numbers—and ‘economic migrants’, illegitimate and thus illegalized, is only one example. It operates by establishing compacts with other states or agencies, outsourcing functions of coercion, detention, surveillance and control. [...]

—p.11 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
15

[...] we may ask why an influx of 1 million people trying to establish themselves in a population of 510 million should supposedly trigger such a crisis.

The reality is that there was no ‘refugee crisis’, but rather one of the repressive apparatus of Fortress Europe. It is this regime that, faced with a crisis such as that of the Greater Middle East, combined with the long-term consequences of neoliberal policies, climate change and chronic instability in large areas of Africa and Asia, produces the ‘refugee crisis’ for public opinion, creating the discourse that justifies the policy supposed to resolve it. What the term ‘refugee crisis’ transcodes, Nicholas De Genova has argued, is ‘a permanent epistemic instability within the government of transnational human migration, which itself relies upon the exercise of power over the classifying, naming and partitioning of “migrants”/“refugees”.’footnote18 Greece’s role in this new phase of Fortress Europe has been twofold. On the one hand, the country acts as the gendarme—or better, the warder—of Europe’s huge south-eastern flank whose border-post it is.

this reminds me of what sam kriss (i know, i know) wrote in response to slavoj zizek in 'Building Norway':

The idea that the primary problem is the ‘flow’ of migrants into Europe, that Europe is experiencing a migration crisis, rather than the far more accurate reversal: migrants are experiencing a European crisis, one of fences and fascists and cops.

—p.15 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] we may ask why an influx of 1 million people trying to establish themselves in a population of 510 million should supposedly trigger such a crisis.

The reality is that there was no ‘refugee crisis’, but rather one of the repressive apparatus of Fortress Europe. It is this regime that, faced with a crisis such as that of the Greater Middle East, combined with the long-term consequences of neoliberal policies, climate change and chronic instability in large areas of Africa and Asia, produces the ‘refugee crisis’ for public opinion, creating the discourse that justifies the policy supposed to resolve it. What the term ‘refugee crisis’ transcodes, Nicholas De Genova has argued, is ‘a permanent epistemic instability within the government of transnational human migration, which itself relies upon the exercise of power over the classifying, naming and partitioning of “migrants”/“refugees”.’footnote18 Greece’s role in this new phase of Fortress Europe has been twofold. On the one hand, the country acts as the gendarme—or better, the warder—of Europe’s huge south-eastern flank whose border-post it is.

this reminds me of what sam kriss (i know, i know) wrote in response to slavoj zizek in 'Building Norway':

The idea that the primary problem is the ‘flow’ of migrants into Europe, that Europe is experiencing a migration crisis, rather than the far more accurate reversal: migrants are experiencing a European crisis, one of fences and fascists and cops.

—p.15 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
18

[...] The EU–Turkish accord is not a mistake, a departure from so-called ‘European values’, which have long since been swallowed up in the waters of the Mediterranean along with the tens of thousands of human beings who have perished there. It is wholly in keeping with the logic that has presided over European integration from the beginning, making the EU’s external border the dividing line between the fully human, white and European, and the sub-humans destined for a ‘precarious life’ and an anonymous death, to which the waters of Lampedusa and Lesbos bear everlasting witness.

Live or let die

The Mediterranean has become the most lethal of the EU’s external borders. Its waters are the site of interlacing sovereign powers—those of the littoral states, but also those now superimposed on them in the form of the EU and its agencies, and notably those specifically charged with border control, whose operations transform the modalities of state action on which they rely. These powers manifest themselves as those of life and death; the power to make live or let die, to quote Foucault’s famous definition of biopower. In other words, the objective pursued via control mechanisms of this kind is not to demonstrate some ideal impenetrability of the border, or to make crossings impossible, knowing perfectly well that they will happen anyway. It is to decide whether and by what margin this rather than that route will be taken, with this or that mortality rate depending on the choice; whether and on what condition one ‘saves’ (or permits saving); whether a rescue or a humane welcome is too encouraging, or not off-putting enough—like the in-draught of a fire—so that the management of the flow, including the implied decisions to let live or let drown, is judged acceptable.

ooof

—p.18 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] The EU–Turkish accord is not a mistake, a departure from so-called ‘European values’, which have long since been swallowed up in the waters of the Mediterranean along with the tens of thousands of human beings who have perished there. It is wholly in keeping with the logic that has presided over European integration from the beginning, making the EU’s external border the dividing line between the fully human, white and European, and the sub-humans destined for a ‘precarious life’ and an anonymous death, to which the waters of Lampedusa and Lesbos bear everlasting witness.

Live or let die

The Mediterranean has become the most lethal of the EU’s external borders. Its waters are the site of interlacing sovereign powers—those of the littoral states, but also those now superimposed on them in the form of the EU and its agencies, and notably those specifically charged with border control, whose operations transform the modalities of state action on which they rely. These powers manifest themselves as those of life and death; the power to make live or let die, to quote Foucault’s famous definition of biopower. In other words, the objective pursued via control mechanisms of this kind is not to demonstrate some ideal impenetrability of the border, or to make crossings impossible, knowing perfectly well that they will happen anyway. It is to decide whether and by what margin this rather than that route will be taken, with this or that mortality rate depending on the choice; whether and on what condition one ‘saves’ (or permits saving); whether a rescue or a humane welcome is too encouraging, or not off-putting enough—like the in-draught of a fire—so that the management of the flow, including the implied decisions to let live or let drown, is judged acceptable.

ooof

—p.18 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
22

The temporal distribution of deaths notably reveals that the number of victims rose after 2001, and more so from 2003, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, before the wrenching increase due to the wars in Syria and the wider Middle East, there was a ‘normal’ rate of more than a thousand deaths a year among those trying to reach Europe. There is a striking discrepancy between the lack of feeling aroused by the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings—in their majority anonymous, unrecorded by the authorities and denied the dignity of a proper burial—with that excited by, say, the 1,000 lives lost in the crossing from East to West Germany during the Cold War. There is one obvious explanation: an African, an Arab or an Afghani who drowns in the Mediterranean, in flight from war, oppression or extreme poverty, is not seen as a human being in the same way as the Germans who were trying to flee ‘communism’ and were hailed as martyrs for liberty. [...]

—p.22 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

The temporal distribution of deaths notably reveals that the number of victims rose after 2001, and more so from 2003, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, before the wrenching increase due to the wars in Syria and the wider Middle East, there was a ‘normal’ rate of more than a thousand deaths a year among those trying to reach Europe. There is a striking discrepancy between the lack of feeling aroused by the deaths of tens of thousands of human beings—in their majority anonymous, unrecorded by the authorities and denied the dignity of a proper burial—with that excited by, say, the 1,000 lives lost in the crossing from East to West Germany during the Cold War. There is one obvious explanation: an African, an Arab or an Afghani who drowns in the Mediterranean, in flight from war, oppression or extreme poverty, is not seen as a human being in the same way as the Germans who were trying to flee ‘communism’ and were hailed as martyrs for liberty. [...]

—p.22 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
23

[...] At the heart of the Greek crisis, like that of the other countries of the European periphery, is over-indebtedness, both private and public, which means powerful tendencies towards economic polarization in the EU and particularly in the Eurozone. Thus, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and, to a lesser degree, Spain all experienced over-indebtedness while Germany went on running up surpluses. In the background of the debt crisis was a European configuration that tended to deepen the divide between the centre and the periphery—or rather peripheries, plural, because the European South had been joined by a second internal periphery, that in the East, which had from the start been allocated the status of a Mezzogiorno, a supplier of cheap labour. Over-indebted, the countries of the first periphery found it impossible to borrow on the markets, as Eurozone rules required, and had to have recourse to ‘rescue plans’, loans made available by the EU, with the participation of the IMF. Memoranda of Understanding are nothing but the accords signed by these countries, first of all Greece, in return for fresh loans granted to cover the old, a way to assure private banks that these countries would honour their interest payments. The mechanism thus involved a new round of debt, with the result that at the end of the operation the level of indebtedness would be greater still—which is what has happened in the case of Greece.

—p.23 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] At the heart of the Greek crisis, like that of the other countries of the European periphery, is over-indebtedness, both private and public, which means powerful tendencies towards economic polarization in the EU and particularly in the Eurozone. Thus, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and, to a lesser degree, Spain all experienced over-indebtedness while Germany went on running up surpluses. In the background of the debt crisis was a European configuration that tended to deepen the divide between the centre and the periphery—or rather peripheries, plural, because the European South had been joined by a second internal periphery, that in the East, which had from the start been allocated the status of a Mezzogiorno, a supplier of cheap labour. Over-indebted, the countries of the first periphery found it impossible to borrow on the markets, as Eurozone rules required, and had to have recourse to ‘rescue plans’, loans made available by the EU, with the participation of the IMF. Memoranda of Understanding are nothing but the accords signed by these countries, first of all Greece, in return for fresh loans granted to cover the old, a way to assure private banks that these countries would honour their interest payments. The mechanism thus involved a new round of debt, with the result that at the end of the operation the level of indebtedness would be greater still—which is what has happened in the case of Greece.

—p.23 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
26

The bankruptcy of current policy is measured not only by its destructive effects but also by its complete incapacity to deal with Greece’s public debt, the starting point for the so-called ‘bailout’ plans. These have benefited only the country’s creditors, Greek and European banks and the EU institutions that have taken charge. Standing at 120 per cent of GDP in 2010, when Greece completed the work of the first Memorandum, public debt has risen by half, to 180 per cent, notwithstanding a partial cleaning of the slate in 2012—to the considerable advantage of a majority of creditors. This is the heart of the contradiction: although the rationale of the ‘European consolidation state’ consists in giving debt service priority over every other political obligation, thus making the state entirely responsive to financial-market pressures and immune to citizen control and popular demands, its Troika-led Greek version ends up in an endless spiral of state indebtedness, amplifying the very problem of the ‘debt state’ it was supposed to solve. Pronounced ‘highly unsustainable’ by the IMF itself, this increased debt burden has come to symbolize the complete failure of this policy of unchecked subjugation and pillage of the last decade.

—p.26 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

The bankruptcy of current policy is measured not only by its destructive effects but also by its complete incapacity to deal with Greece’s public debt, the starting point for the so-called ‘bailout’ plans. These have benefited only the country’s creditors, Greek and European banks and the EU institutions that have taken charge. Standing at 120 per cent of GDP in 2010, when Greece completed the work of the first Memorandum, public debt has risen by half, to 180 per cent, notwithstanding a partial cleaning of the slate in 2012—to the considerable advantage of a majority of creditors. This is the heart of the contradiction: although the rationale of the ‘European consolidation state’ consists in giving debt service priority over every other political obligation, thus making the state entirely responsive to financial-market pressures and immune to citizen control and popular demands, its Troika-led Greek version ends up in an endless spiral of state indebtedness, amplifying the very problem of the ‘debt state’ it was supposed to solve. Pronounced ‘highly unsustainable’ by the IMF itself, this increased debt burden has come to symbolize the complete failure of this policy of unchecked subjugation and pillage of the last decade.

—p.26 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
29

In sum: Greece has been turned into a neo-colony: its national government, whatever its political colouration, is no different in function from a colonially appointed administrator, and the simulated negotiations to which the parties lend themselves at the interminable series of Eurogroup meetings or EU summits barely serve to disguise the fact.This neo-colonialism must be grasped in its specificity, nonetheless. It not only differs from classic colonialism, which was based on military conquest and territorial occupation. It is equally distinct from the post-colonial model, which sustains multiform relations of dependence between the former colonial power and the newly independent nations, although there are shared features, notably the predatory appropriation of resources. Greece’s subjugation is part of the long history of debt as a ‘weapon of dispossession’ against the popular classes and dominated nations, predating the advent of capitalism. The country is not a German colony, even if Germany is hegemonic in Europe and the undisputed leader in the political management of the Greek crisis. It is difficult, besides, to speak of a ‘European imperialism’ in the sense of a unified entity of which the EU would be the political expression, although, as already suggested, the Union’s structure makes for polarization and an increasing fragmentation of the economic and political space over which its authority extends. The neo-colonial regime is better understood as a form of ‘internal colonialism’, an advanced case of a regime of subordination born out of the basic contradictions of EU integration, an enterprise of which the Greek bourgeoisie is fully a part. Facing a major crisis which, beginning in the economy, became generalized to the political system, that class preferred, once again, to accept the partial destruction of its economic base and the vassalization of its national state in order to counter the destabilizing potential of a popular revolt.

—p.29 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

In sum: Greece has been turned into a neo-colony: its national government, whatever its political colouration, is no different in function from a colonially appointed administrator, and the simulated negotiations to which the parties lend themselves at the interminable series of Eurogroup meetings or EU summits barely serve to disguise the fact.This neo-colonialism must be grasped in its specificity, nonetheless. It not only differs from classic colonialism, which was based on military conquest and territorial occupation. It is equally distinct from the post-colonial model, which sustains multiform relations of dependence between the former colonial power and the newly independent nations, although there are shared features, notably the predatory appropriation of resources. Greece’s subjugation is part of the long history of debt as a ‘weapon of dispossession’ against the popular classes and dominated nations, predating the advent of capitalism. The country is not a German colony, even if Germany is hegemonic in Europe and the undisputed leader in the political management of the Greek crisis. It is difficult, besides, to speak of a ‘European imperialism’ in the sense of a unified entity of which the EU would be the political expression, although, as already suggested, the Union’s structure makes for polarization and an increasing fragmentation of the economic and political space over which its authority extends. The neo-colonial regime is better understood as a form of ‘internal colonialism’, an advanced case of a regime of subordination born out of the basic contradictions of EU integration, an enterprise of which the Greek bourgeoisie is fully a part. Facing a major crisis which, beginning in the economy, became generalized to the political system, that class preferred, once again, to accept the partial destruction of its economic base and the vassalization of its national state in order to counter the destabilizing potential of a popular revolt.

—p.29 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
30

The scheme resembles that of the subaltern integration of the Italian South in the national state created by the Risorgimento, whose structural bases Gramsci elucidated: the fruit of a compromise between the landed elites of the South and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in the North. It was this compromise, reached at the expense of the peasantry and the agrarian reform that would have allowed its emancipation, which explained why the Mezzogiorno was condemned to ‘underdevelopment’, to the subaltern position that became its own in the new national state. In spite of its limits—for the EU is precisely not a unitary entity on the pattern of a national state, the expression of a ‘European people’ in the sense of a demos, a sovereign subject—this parallel with internal colonialism in the Italian South helps us to understand the resurgence of racist imagery at the time of the Greek crisis. Orientalist, or rather ‘Balkanist’, stereotypes made a remarkable come-back, stigmatizing the lazy, corrupt Southern ‘crickets’ who hoped to exploit the generosity of the virtuous North to keep them in their accustomed lifestyle. But while this racist outbreak reactivated a pre-existing repertoire of pejorative representations, it was neither a survival nor a regression towards a past that had supposedly been surmounted; rather, it was the product of the new contradictions arising from European integration. The very structures of the key EU institutions—typically taking the form of opaque, if not entirely secretive, and highly asymmetrical inter-governmental negotiations—operate to ‘redefine class conflicts as international conflicts’. It is because that process is founded on a permanent disavowal of the polarizing divisions it fosters—and because it refuses, no less vigorously, a critical examination of the tropes that underpin the dominant version of ‘Europeanness’, products of a long history of colonial and imperialist domination—that it feeds the flames of racism today. This racism targets the Europeans of the second internal periphery—the ‘lazy Greek’ now joined by ‘the industrious (and cheap) Pole who has come to steal your job’, in a sort of unity of opposites—as much as it attacks, with far greater violence, the non-European, non-white, ‘Muslim’ Other.

—p.30 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

The scheme resembles that of the subaltern integration of the Italian South in the national state created by the Risorgimento, whose structural bases Gramsci elucidated: the fruit of a compromise between the landed elites of the South and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in the North. It was this compromise, reached at the expense of the peasantry and the agrarian reform that would have allowed its emancipation, which explained why the Mezzogiorno was condemned to ‘underdevelopment’, to the subaltern position that became its own in the new national state. In spite of its limits—for the EU is precisely not a unitary entity on the pattern of a national state, the expression of a ‘European people’ in the sense of a demos, a sovereign subject—this parallel with internal colonialism in the Italian South helps us to understand the resurgence of racist imagery at the time of the Greek crisis. Orientalist, or rather ‘Balkanist’, stereotypes made a remarkable come-back, stigmatizing the lazy, corrupt Southern ‘crickets’ who hoped to exploit the generosity of the virtuous North to keep them in their accustomed lifestyle. But while this racist outbreak reactivated a pre-existing repertoire of pejorative representations, it was neither a survival nor a regression towards a past that had supposedly been surmounted; rather, it was the product of the new contradictions arising from European integration. The very structures of the key EU institutions—typically taking the form of opaque, if not entirely secretive, and highly asymmetrical inter-governmental negotiations—operate to ‘redefine class conflicts as international conflicts’. It is because that process is founded on a permanent disavowal of the polarizing divisions it fosters—and because it refuses, no less vigorously, a critical examination of the tropes that underpin the dominant version of ‘Europeanness’, products of a long history of colonial and imperialist domination—that it feeds the flames of racism today. This racism targets the Europeans of the second internal periphery—the ‘lazy Greek’ now joined by ‘the industrious (and cheap) Pole who has come to steal your job’, in a sort of unity of opposites—as much as it attacks, with far greater violence, the non-European, non-white, ‘Muslim’ Other.

—p.30 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago
31

The Greek case shows that the exceptional regime installed at the time of the debt crisis has created a new line of fracture. The finality with which that internal border asserted itself at a time of crisis—it had been there all along, but concealed by economic growth—has to do with a phenomenon that is more than simply economic. Internal and external borders have come together in a neo-colonial regime charged with administering neoliberal shock therapy to a wayward country, as well as controlling an inflow of migrants that tests the EU’s border regime. The Greek perspective allows us to see with utmost clarity the reality of the ‘security state’ that is emerging inside the EU, insofar as that body is giving neoliberal policies constitutional status by means of a mechanism released from any form of democratic control. The proliferation at every level of bodies exempt from democratic oversight, to which a growing number of state functions are transferred, the mutual interpenetration of the higher bureaucracies of the EU, the national states and the major industrial and financial groups, and the growing reliance on repressive methods: these are prominent features of the ‘authoritarian statism’ whose rise Nicos Poulantzas diagnosed at the end of the 1970s.

The Southerners of Europe’s internal periphery are not only called upon to consent to a regime of dispossession, but also to play the role of fortress gate-keeper, so as to spare the countries of the centre the disagreeable spectacle of needy, persecuted hordes run aground on the shores of Lampedusa or Lesbos. [...]

—p.31 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago

The Greek case shows that the exceptional regime installed at the time of the debt crisis has created a new line of fracture. The finality with which that internal border asserted itself at a time of crisis—it had been there all along, but concealed by economic growth—has to do with a phenomenon that is more than simply economic. Internal and external borders have come together in a neo-colonial regime charged with administering neoliberal shock therapy to a wayward country, as well as controlling an inflow of migrants that tests the EU’s border regime. The Greek perspective allows us to see with utmost clarity the reality of the ‘security state’ that is emerging inside the EU, insofar as that body is giving neoliberal policies constitutional status by means of a mechanism released from any form of democratic control. The proliferation at every level of bodies exempt from democratic oversight, to which a growing number of state functions are transferred, the mutual interpenetration of the higher bureaucracies of the EU, the national states and the major industrial and financial groups, and the growing reliance on repressive methods: these are prominent features of the ‘authoritarian statism’ whose rise Nicos Poulantzas diagnosed at the end of the 1970s.

The Southerners of Europe’s internal periphery are not only called upon to consent to a regime of dispossession, but also to play the role of fortress gate-keeper, so as to spare the countries of the centre the disagreeable spectacle of needy, persecuted hordes run aground on the shores of Lampedusa or Lesbos. [...]

—p.31 by Stathis Kouvelakis 1 year, 6 months ago