Legacy of 1968 protests: How a leftist revolution helped capitalists win

Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek is a cultural philosopher. He’s a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London.
Legacy of 1968 protests: How a leftist revolution helped capitalists win
The May 1968 protest movement changed the western world. Now, almost 50 years later, it’s clear a supposedly leftist movement ultimately helped capitalism to dominate.

Although an immense abyss separates the social revolution of the 1960s from today’s protests, we are witnessing a similar re-appropriation of the energy of revolt by the capitalist system.

One of the well-known graffiti slogans on the Paris walls of ‘68 was: “structures do not walk on the streets,” meaning one couldn’t explain the large student and workers demonstrations of ’68 in the terms of structuralism. And this is why some historians even posit 1968 as a date that separates structuralism from post-structuralism which was, so the story goes, much more dynamic and prone to active political interventions.

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s answer was that this, precisely, is what happened in 1968: structures DID descend onto the streets – the visible explosive events were ultimately the result of a structural shift in the basic social and symbolic texture of modern Europe.

Light My Fire

The consequences of the ‘68 explosion prove him right. What effectively happened in the aftermath of the ‘68 was the rise of a new figure of the “spirit of capitalism.” Indeed, the system abandoned the Fordist centralized structure of the production process and developed a network-based form of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace.

Thus, instead of hierarchical-centralized chains of command, we now have networks with a multitude of participants, organizing work in the form of teams or projects. Which are intent on customer satisfaction, and a general mobilization of workers thanks to their leaders’ vision. This new “spirit of capitalism” triumphantly recuperated the egalitarian and anti-hierarchical rhetoric of 1968, presenting itself as a successful libertarian revolt against the oppressive social organizations of corporate capitalism AND “really-existing” socialism.

The two phases of this new “cultural capitalism” are clearly discernible in the stylistic changes within advertising. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was the direct reference to personal authenticity or the quality of experience that predominated, while later, one can note more and more the mobilization of socio-ideological motifs (such as ecology and social solidarity). In fact, the experience referred to is the experience of being part of a larger collective movement, of caring for nature and the welfare of the ill, poor and deprived, and of doing something for them.

Helping Hands?

For instance, here is a case of this “ethical capitalism” brought to the extreme: Toms Shoes, a company founded in 2006 on a premise: with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. “One for One.” Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about.

Because among the planet’s 7.6 billion people, four billion live in conditions inconceivable to many at the top of the tree. But now the sin of consumerism (buying a new pair of shoes) can be atoned for and thereby erased by the awareness that one of those who really needs shoes received another pair free of charge. Meaning the very act of participating in consumerist activities is simultaneously presented as participating in the struggle against the evils ultimately caused by capitalist consumerism.

In a similar way, many other aspects of ‘68 were successfully integrated into the hegemonic capitalist ideology and are today mobilized not only by liberals, but also by contemporary Right, in their struggle against any form of “socialism.” For example, “freedom of choice” is used as an argument for the benefits of precarious work. So, forget the anxieties of not being sure how you will survive the next few years and focus instead on the fact that you gain the freedom to “reinvent” yourself again and again, to avoid being stuck to the same monotonous work.

Utter Upheaval

The 1968 protest focused its struggle against (what were perceived as) the three pillars of capitalism: factory, school and family. As a result, each domain was submitted to post-industrial transformation. Leading to factory-work becoming more and more outsourced or, in the developed world, reorganized along the post-Fordist non-hierarchical interactive team-work. Meanwhile, permanent flexible privatized education is more and more replacing universal public education and multiple forms of flexible sexual arrangements are replacing the traditional family.

At the same time, the Left lost in its very victory: the direct enemy was defeated, but replaced by a new form of even more direct capitalist domination. In “postmodern” capitalism, the market is invading new spheres which were hitherto considered the privileged domain of the state, from education to prisons and security.

When “immaterial work” (like education) is celebrated as the labor which directly produces social relations, one should not forget what this means within a commodity-economy. That new domains, hitherto excluded from the market, are now commodified. So, when in trouble, we no longer talk to a friend but pay a psychiatrist or councilor to take care of the problem. And instead of parents, paid baby-sitters and educators take care of children.

Heavy Burden

One should, of course, not forget the real achievements of ‘68. The movement opened up a radical change in how we treat women’s rights, homosexuality and racism. After the glorious 60s, we simply cannot engage in public racism and homophobia the way we still could in the 1950s. Thus, ‘68 was not a single event but an ambiguous one in which different political tendencies were combined: this is why it also remained a thorn in the heel of many conservatives.

Nicholas Sarkozy admitted it when he said in his electoral campaign in 2007 that his great task was to make France finally get over ‘68. One should, of course, not miss the irony of this remark: the fact that Sarkozy, with his clownish outbursts and marriage to Carla Bruni, can be the French President is in itself one of the outcomes of the changes in customs brought about by May ‘68.

So we have the legacy of “their” May ‘68 and “our” May ‘68. In today’s predominant collective memory, “our” basic idea of the May demonstrations in Paris and the link between student protests and worker’s strikes, is forgotten. The true legacy of ‘68 resides in its rejection of the liberal-capitalist system, in a NO to the totality of it best encapsulated in the formula: Soyons realistes, demandons l’impossible!

The true utopia is the belief that the existing global system can reproduce itself indefinitely and that the only way to be truly “realist” is to endorse what, within the coordinates of this system, cannot but appear as impossible. The fidelity to May ‘68 is thus best expressed by the question: how are we to prepare for this radical change and to lay the foundations for it?


[Several sections of this article have been excerpted from previous publications by Slavoj Žižek.]


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Why the sun will soon get dimmer

By 2050, our sun is expected to be unusually cool.

It’s what scientists have termed a “grand minimum” — a particularly low point in what is otherwise a steady 11-year cycle.

Over this cycle, the sun’s tumultuous heart races and rests.

At its high point, the nuclear fusion at the sun’s core forces more magnetic loops high into its boiling atmosphere — ejecting more ultraviolet radiation and generating sunspots and flares.

When it’s quiet, the sun’s surface goes calm. It ejects less ultraviolet radiation.

Now scientists have scoured the skies and history for evidence of an even greater cycle amid these cycles.


One particularly cool period in the 17th century guided their research.

An intense cold snap between 1645 and 1715 has been dubbed the “Maunder Minimum.”

Chief astronomer and director of the Franklin Institute Planetarium Derrick Pitts explains what can be learned

In England, the Thames river froze over. The Baltic Sea was covered in ice — so much so that the Swedish army was able to march across it to invade Denmark in 1658.

But the cooling was not uniform: Distorted weather patterns warmed up Alaska and Greenland.

These records were combined with 20 years of data collected by the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite mission, as well as observations of nearby stars similar to the sun.

Now physicist Dan Lubin at the University of California San Diego has calculated an estimate of how much dimmer the sun is likely to be when the next such grand minimum takes place.

His team’s study, “Ultraviolet Flux Decrease Under a Grand Minimum from IUE Short-wavelength Observation of Solar Analogs,” has been published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

It finds the sun is likely to be 7 percent cooler than its usual minimum.

And another grand minimum is likely to be just decades away, based on the cooling spiral of recent solar cycles.


A quiet sun has a noticeable effect on its planets.

For Earth, Lubin says it first thins the stratospheric ozone layer.

Report: U.S. economy lost an estimated $694 million because people were focusing on the historic event

This impacts the insulating effect of the atmosphere, with flow-on effects including major changes to wind and weather patterns.

But it won’t stop the current trend of planetary warning, Lubin warns.

“The cooling effect of a grand minimum is only a fraction of the warming effect caused by the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” a statement from the research team reads.

“After hundreds of thousands of years of CO2 levels never exceeding 300 parts per million in air, the concentration of the greenhouse gas is now over 400 parts per million, continuing a rise that began with the Industrial Revolution.”

One simulation of a grand minimum on the Earth’s current climate anticipates a reduction of solar warming by 0.25 percent over a 50-year period between 2020 and 2070.

While the global average surface air temperature appears to cool by “several tenths of a degree Celsius” in the initial years, this reduction was rapidly overtaken by ever-increasing trends.

“A future grand solar minimum could slow down but not stop global warming,” the study finds.

“Now we have a benchmark from which we can perform better climate model simulations,” Lubin says. “We can therefore have a better idea of how changes in solar UV radiation affect climate change.”

This story originally appeared in news.com.au.

Courtesy: RT

‘World on the brink,’ warns Munich Security Report

With the US’s international role waning, Europe must define its own future, says a highly anticipated report. This assessment sets the agenda for leaders in the run-up to Germany’s pre-eminent conference on security.

Helicopter with a rising full moon in the background

Security experts are rarely optimists and security reports rarely optimistic. That holds true for the latest Munich Security Report published on Thursday. Titled “To the Brink — and Back?” it forecasts a new era of uncertainty on the horizon.

“In the last year, the world has gotten closer — much too close — to the brink of a significant conflict,” wrote Munich Security Conference (MSC) Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, who has served as Germany’s former ambassador to the US and UK.

Ischinger pointed to ever-louder saber rattling between the US and North Korea, the growing rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and ongoing tensions between Russia and NATO in Europe.

Read more: Germany’s Angela Merkel needs a Donald Trump strategy

American ‘sabotage’

The latest MSC report followed up on last year’s forecast that the United States under President Donald Trump could forfeit its established role as the guarantor of international security by acting unilaterally and furthering an American-centric vision at the cost of its traditional allies.

Under Trump, the US has given up on policies based on shared values, showing little interest in developing regional or global institutions that shape international relations, and instead favoring bilateral ties that serves its own interests, according to the report’s assessment.

That attitude goes hand-in-hand with the White House’s lack of interest in advancing diplomacy. The budget at the US State Department has been mercilessly slashed since Trump came into office while defense spending has increased significantly.

“The world’s most powerful state has begun to sabotage the order it created,” the report said, quoting John Ikenberry, a US foreign policy expert at Princeton University.

A new era for Europe

For Europeans, the US’s policy shift means doing more to provide for their own security, including rethinking defense spending, streamlining capabilities and defining a defense union.

If EU member states and Norway would abide by NATO’s so-called “2-percent rule” and invest 2 percent of their GDP in defense, it would translate into a spending increase of nearly 50 percent, taking total expenditures up to roughly $386 billion (€314 billion).

But if the EU’s militaries are to become more efficient, they will need to become better connected. The report’s authors pointed to what they describe as the “interconnectedness and digitization gap” in Europe. However, to close this gap, EU countries would need to commit even more funds. Meanwhile, a consolidation of Europe’s scattered defense industry would be crucial to securing the continent’s own capabilities.

Read more: What would Europe’s ‘fate’ be without the US?

Even with such challenges, the report managed to identify a few positives on the horizon. One is that European states are growing closer to one another in some respects. For instance, 25 states have decided to coordinate their defense and security policy on an EU-wide basis in what is known as the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO.

Meanwhile, France and Germany have declared their desire to design and build a new generation of fighter aircraft. Moreover, the idea of a joint European army has found a major supporter in French President Emmanuel Macron.

The report quotes German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a reminder of Europe’s newfound predicament: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over … We Europeans will have to take our fate into our own hands.”

Climate change, conflict, migration

While the report detailed traditional and non-traditional threats to liberal order and international relations, it noted that climate change should continue to be a major factor when states consider security risks. The report pointed out that 2017, which was one of the hottest years ever recorded was marked by catastrophic storms, droughts and floods.

Moreover, the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and its decision to remove climate change as a security threat from its latest National Security Strategy (NSS) is a step in the wrong direction, according to the report.

Climate change’s impact on international relations will also go beyond natural disasters. “While climate change will affect economic, security and political systems all over the world, it will mainly act as a ‘threat multiplier’ in those states with limited capacities to deal with it,” the report said.

Read more: The world at 3 degrees: What it means for five cities

Notably, low-income countries will be hit hardest. Climate disasters, especially droughts, will continue to have a knock-on effect, especially in parts of Asia and Africa, where it has the potential to fuel conflict and, consequently, displacement.

For Europe, which has witnessed hundreds of thousands of migrants make the dangerous journey from Africa to its shores each year since 2015, that means taking decisive action on how to re-position its development strategy south of the Mediterranean.

Understanding the interconnected nature of today’s threats and how to stop them from snowballing will continue to be a core challenge for the international community, especially in the years to come.


Saudi Oil Minister tired of shale hype

Saudi Oil Minister tired of shale hype
“Leave us alone and leave all these issues. We had enough of shale oil and talks of shale. Please talk about anything else,” Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said in Davos, snapping at reporters.

Al-Falih has clearly become annoyed at all the pestering from reporters and market analysts about the prospect of US shale spoiling OPEC’s plans this year. He put on a brave face and dismissed questions about OPEC losing market share as US drillers continue to ramp up. “The market is in an excellent condition, the demand and supply are good, the inventories are good,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I told you I was relaxed, and I’m still relaxed about the meeting.”

His testy response won’t kill rumors about discord growing from within OPEC. In fact, the WSJ reported that a delegate from an unnamed OPEC country said that falling shipments to the US are a concern. The delegate said that OPEC’s leadership “needs to make some progress on addressing shale.”

But al-Falih didn’t want to hear any of it, and he blamed reporters for stirring up controversy where he says there wasn’t any to begin with. “Why are you all excited all of a sudden on shale? You know why, because you like to chit chat … you are an agent of disturbance,” he said, pointing to a reporter.

At a panel event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, al-Falih said that the IEA is overhyping the impact of US shale. “I was not disputing the amazing revolution of shale … [but] in the overall global supply demand picture it’s not going to wreck the train,” al-Falih said, claiming that the IEA is overstating the role of shale in a global market. “We should not be scared,” he added. “That’s the core job of the IEA, not to take it out of context.”

The comments come a week after the IEA published its January Oil Market Report, in which it said that “explosive” shale growth, combined with production gains in Canada and Brazil, would “far outweigh” any declines from Venezuela and Mexico. The conclusion was the basis for the IEA predicting non-OPEC supply growth of 1.7 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2018, a figure that exceeds demand growth of 1.3 mb/d. In other words, the IEA says the oil market will once again be oversupplied, largely because of US shale.

But in Davos, al-Falih was exasperated with those claims. He argued that natural depletion, plus strong demand growth meant that there was plenty of room for new supply, and that shale drillers wouldn’t crash the market. He criticized the IEA for an “oversized focus” on US shale.

With some unfortunate timing for him, the EIA published production figures for the week ending on January 19, which showed a massive jump in output to 9.878, an increase of 128,000 bpd from a week earlier. That puts US production at another record high, although it should be noted that these weekly estimates are subject to revision. Nevertheless, the EIA sees US oil production passing 10 mb/d in February, scaling up to 11 mb/d by the end of 2019.

Still, al-Falih expressed resolve, stating that it would be “very unlikely” that the OPEC/non-OPEC coalition would abandon their production cuts at their upcoming meeting in June. Earlier in the week, al-Falih said that Saudi-Russian cooperation in the oil market would last for “decades and generations,” and that he wanted to work out a more permanent framework for OPEC coordination beyond 2018.

Delighted to participate in this stimulating discussion about the future of energy markets. @IEA analysis has been consistent for many years about the shale oil and gas revolution in the United States and its impact on global markets. https://twitter.com/secretaryperry/status/956533809264111616 

The comments from al-Falih were quickly met with pushback from the IEA’s top officials. IEA executive director tweeted on Thursday a not-so-subtle dig at al-Falih: “Delighted to participate in this stimulating discussion about the future of energy markets. @IEA analysis has been consistent for many years about the shale oil and gas revolution in the United States and its impact on global markets.”

The IEA’s head of oil division, Neil Atkinson, also rejected al-Falih’s characterization that the IEA has overhyped shale. “US shale in the past decade is one of the biggest game changers in oil production history and it’s leading 1.7 mb/d of non-OPEC growth in 2018. Other countries e.g. Brazil and Canada are growing fast too,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.

Courtesy: RT

Oxfam: Richest one percent banked 82 percent of wealth created in 2017

Oxfam’s latest report on wealth inequality describes how a wealthy elite accumulates vast fortunes while the poorest go without. But the charity has been criticized as offering a too simplistic view of the imbalances.

Vietnam factory (Oxfam/S. Tarling)

Oxfam on Monday detailed how the richest one percent grew its wealth by $762 billion (€620 billion) in 2017, which it says was enough to end poverty seven times over.

In its annual report on wealth inequality, the UK-based poverty and disaster relief charity said a booming global economy had allowed a small elite group of rich families to grab 82 percent of the new wealth created last year, while the poorest 50 percent saw no increase in their prosperity.

The “Reward Work, Not Wealth” report revealed that 2017 saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, at 2,043, and challenged the narrative that billionaires are created through talent, hard work and innovation, something that is claimed benefits humanity as a whole.

Watch video06:14

China tackles poverty

The profits of privilege

Instead, Oxfam said there is growing evidence that the richest often grow much of their wealth by way of inheritance, monopoly or crony connections to government.

“The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

“The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

The charity called on governments to commit to reorganizing the economic system to work for humanity as a whole rather than a tiny elite, describing how 42 people now own the same wealth as the bottom 3.7 billion people.

Read more: Rich vs. poor: How fair and equal is Germany?

The report also cited the increased rewards for shareholders and corporate executives at the expense of workers and criticized how the wealthy are able to exercise excessive influence over government policy-making.

It estimated that $2.4 trillion will be inherited by the heirs of billionaires over the next 20 years, an amount larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people.

At the other end of the scale, billions of people are forced to work long hours, often in dangerous conditions and without rights, but are still unable to afford their basic needs, including food and medicine, the report said.

Globally, women are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work, and consistently earn less than men.

Read more: Gender gap report: Equal pay now 217 years away

Oversimplified analysis?

As in previous years, Oxfam’s study was rounded upon as offering too simplistic an analysis of wealth inequality, focusing on net wealth rather than gross wealth, which excludes debt.

Vietnam housewife Oxfam wealth inequality (Oxfam/S. Tarling)Oxfam’s report described how women in Vietnamese garment factories work far from home for poverty pay and don’t get to see their children for months at a time

Critics said while the charity’s claims make for attention-grabbing headlines, they ignored how global poverty levels have fallen from 75 percent in 1929 to 10 percent in 2015.

“Oxfam’s mistake is to see wealth as a fixed pie,” said Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the London-based neoliberal think tank, the Adam Smith Institute.

“More wealth for Zuckerberg and Bezos does not mean less wealth for you or me. In fact it’s the opposite; in a free market individuals can only amass wealth by fulfilling the wants and needs of others. Work and trade does pay out for everyone involved.”

Read more: Facebook’s Zuckerberg cements place in elite philanthropic class

Dumitrui said it was more important to reduce poverty than inequality, and singled out Venezuela as rejecting free markets in recent years under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, a move which has forced more than 80 percent of the population into poverty, despite the South American nation having the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Watch video01:25

Venezuela’s economic crisis

Capitalism’s shortcomings

But economist Gabriel Zucman, who sits on the executive committee of the World Inequality Report, a separate study published last month by the Paris School of Economics, insisted that the future of poverty depends on what happens to “within-country inequality.”

“If all countries follow the inequality trajectory that the US has followed since 1980, then we will have a hard time further alleviating global poverty. To reduce poverty, growth needs to be equitably distributed,” Zucman told DW.

The World Inequality Report revealed that the bottom 50 percent of US income earners have seen zero wealth growth over the past 37 years, the bottom 90 percent have seen very limited growth, while the earnings of the top 1 percent has tripled to $1.3 million per annum.

Oxfam’s latest report was released to coincide with the annual meeting of the business and political elite at the World Economic Forum, which begins on Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland.

The charity recommended that governments set specific and measurable targets to reduce wealth inequality, and called for world leaders to commit to ending extreme wealth, by imposing higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires and limiting executive pay and bonuses.

Read more: World Inequality Report: Fight wealth inequality with taxes

As well as clamping down on tax havens, the charity called for new legislation that forces companies to adopt fairer business models, where they ensure even their outside suppliers pay workers acceptable living wages.

Some 70,000 people in 10 countries were interviewed for Oxfam’s report, three-quarters of whom agreed strongly that the gap between the richest and poorest was too wide. Nearly two-thirds think the issue should be addressed urgently.


Davos: New momentum for Europe?

What’s the role of Europe in a world torn between free trade and protectionsm? A panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos took a closer look at what the European Union might have to offer. DW’s Andreas Becker reports.

Friedensnobelpreisträger, die EU (Getty Images/J.Guerrero)

US President Donald Trump wants to put America first. And China is not exactly a champion of democracy and human rights. That’s why some Europeans think it’s time for them to step up to the plate and play a more important role on the world stage. In their speeches in Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron both spoke out for free trade, international rules and universal humanist values.

The only problem is that the EU itself is deeply divided. The financial crisis has left deep scars, unemployment is high in many countries, the migration crisis has strained relations between member states and nationalism is on the rise.

Nonetheless, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström believes that Europe has a lot to offer to the rest of the world. She sees the current lack of leadership by the US as an opportunity for the EU “to show we can do good trade agreements which are sustainable and mutually beneficial. We can promote European values through that, and we can create alliances and friendship with countries across the globe,” Malmström said in a Davos panel called “A new momentum for Europe.”

Much left to do

Mark Rutte (Reuters/R. Sprich)Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, agreed in principle but added that even the European common market was still far from complete.

“We could add €1.5 trillion [$1.86 trilion] to the European economy — that’s the size of the Spanish economy — by implementing the single market for digital, services, capital and energy.”

Adding these elements would create 4 million new jobs in Europe. “At the moment, we are not doing that. The European internal market is only there for goods, only 30 percent of the European economy is part of the internal market,” said Rutte.

Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa tried to look on the bright side of life. After the Brexit decision in the UK, “we have new energy for change in Europe,” he said. “It’s a Brexit paradox: the remaining 27 countries have made an effort to advance Europe.”

Costa pointed to a closer cooperation on defense, an example that was also singled out by Merkel and Macron on the previous day.

A panel at the World economic Forum in DavosSome of the panelists: Ireland’s PM Varadkar (right), Portugal’s PM da Costa (center), and moderator Peter Limbourg, DW’s director general

Fears and divisions

But a Germany and a France presenting themselves as Europe’s engine also have smaller countries worried, says Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. “We don’t want to see meetings in Paris and Berlin where only countries with more than 40 million people are invited to attend — and the smaller countries being told afterwards what is good for Europe.”

The current migration crisis has brought to light how deep the divisions in Europe are. Countries like Hungary and Poland are refusing to take in migrants, while Italy and Greece see new boats with Africans arrive at their shores every day.

“This is a European problem,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during another panel discussion in Davos. “So we need a common European immigration and asylum policy.”

‘Rules are rules’

Alexis TsiprasGreek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras taking the floor in Davos

Hungary and Poland should not be allowed to cherry-pick EU benefits while refusing to pull their weight, Tsipras added. “We have rules. During the financial crisis, [German finance minister] Mr. Schäuble told everybody that rules are rules. This is something that my very close friend, [Hungarian prime minister] Victor Orban has to understand as well: rules are rules.”

Instead, nationalism is on the rise, in Hungary, Poland, Germany and elsewhere. But in Europe, “there is no nation state to go back to,” argued Timothy Snyder, a historian at Yale University. Because historically, Europe was ruled by empires, not nation states. “Europeans should understand that [with the EU,] they have created a political novelty, something entirely new. And this has made European states possible.”

So how can Europeans play a global role, if they are so caught up in their internal struggles? “Because nobody else is out there to project universal values,” replied Snyder, an American citizen. “This is Europe’s chance, this is something that nobody else can do at the moment.”

Watch video01:16

Davos: Mr. ‘America first’ vs. the world


World Economic Forum in Davos out to heal ‘a fractured world’

The current global disunity looks set to dominate discussions at this year’s gathering of politicians and executives in Davos, Switzerland. US President Donald Trump is still scheduled to top the list of speakers there.

WEF Davos 2015 Logo (WEF)

The topic of this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos is “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.” The motto is in direct contrast to US President Donald Trump’s “America first” policy which also involves large-scale protectionism and isolationist security policies.

“There is today a real danger of a collapse of our global systems,” said WEF founder Klaus Schwab. “But change is not just happening — it’s in our hands to improve the state of the world and that is what the World Economic Forum stands for.”

“What we know is that what we lack is cooperation,” the forum’s president, Borge Brende, told reporters, adding that the gathering of 70 heads of state and government as well as key figures from the world of business may make a vital contribution toward overcoming current obstacles in global trade and elsewhere.

Watch video02:13

Cyberattacks, drought, natural disasters among biggest global risks

“We will practically have a European summit in Davos; we will have 40 heads of state and government coming from Europe and Eurasia,” Brende said, noting that “all the Bretton Woods heads and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres” would also attend the meeting starting Monday night.

Controversial debates expected

Donald Trump is still scheduled to address the Davos audience on Friday, the last day of the gathering, although White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the trip was up in the air because of the federal government shutdown in the United States. Since taking office a year ago, Trump has done little to support the globalization and regulatory integration philosophy so popular among the usual Davos crowd.

Two days earlier and hence not crossing paths with the US president, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to give a speech on European affairs in Davos.

“Germany is, politically and economically, an important member of the European Union and very engaged in the political debate about Europe’s future development,” said German Government Spokesman Steffen Seibert. “That is why Angela Merkel has chosen to express her views on Europe at Davos.”

Women underepresented at WEF

Merkel will speak the same day as French President Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed a raft of ambitious EU reforms.

In a new development, world leaders at Davos will be meeting under an all-female co-chair team, made up of IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty.

The altogether seven female co-chairs had been announced in the face of criticism that the conference had in the past lacked female representation.

hg/jd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)


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