Developing a non-Eurocentric progressive agenda

Blogi – Blogg,Kirjoituksia – Texter,Yleinen

Contribution to discusson at the Alter EU -conference: Beyond the Social Dimension of EMU Helsinki, Finland, 28th March 2014

Organisers: European Left, Attac and others



 On his first trip abroad as president of Brazil Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known as Lula, addressed the Indian Parliament. His message: This is our century, the century of the rising South.


Lula is right: The postcolonial constellation has changed. The problem the world has woth Europe is no longer Europe’s disproportionate power economically and politically. The remaining problem is Europe’s power in the realms of cultural power or, if you prefer this terminology, in the realm of discursive power.


There are three issues that mark Europe’s remaining global significance. They are:


1. The power-alliance with the United States of America.


2. The power of modernity as a cultural fantasy.


3. The power of Europe’s institutional design. I will comment on them in this order.



Ther is an idea that the combined ecnomomic might of the EU and the USA together with the military supremacy of the USA can guarantee in the 21st century the continued global dominance of the modern West, militarily, politically and economically thus preserving, in essence, the colonial constellation of the past 500 years, especially its economic distributive injustice. I think this idea is vulnerable to criticism. I will mention but not develop two relevant points.


One challenge comes from changes in military technology. The advent of the ubiquitous postmodern world war makes it uncertain whether capacity for territorial control by army intervention, destruction by aerial bombing and other such modern forms of coercive power can preserve their roles as effective tools for backing up the unjust distributive mechanisms of the past.


Another challenge comes from the dynamics of global capitalism. As global governance becomes relatively more important it is not clear that large corporations will maintain a functional dependence on the governance capacity of the EU (and the USA) in the future.




The modern West seems more hegemonic globally as a cultural fantasy than ever before. The industrial growth society with its vision of consumerist liberty for the masses and technological progress is, as I would maintain, the core of a cultural vision that is largely the product of European and Wester cultural innovations. I call this the vision of modernity.


The vision has broken many of its special ties to Europe and it has become a vision shared globally by people belonging to the consuming class.


The dominating cultural vision of modernity is probably suicidal as it seems to lead to ecological collapse at a planetary level.


The key challenge of the 21st century is therefore to create cultural visions that can inspire people to shape post-industrial futures. 


This work is to be undertaken everywhere. Work in Europe can be of particular relevance for psycho-historical reasons. If Europeans, we who have ”made it” to modernity before others can recreate our vision of a desirable future, a future that is local, sustainable, post-industrial and post-consumerist, this recreation can be an attractive point of reference for the cultural imgaination everywhere.


I do not want to overemphasise this point as I think the cultural imganination of the global South is likely to be more decisive for the planet than anything that happens in Europe in this century. But I wanted to mention that cultural politics also in Europe can be globally important.



The most distinct power of Europe today is that the European Union serves as a model for post-national design of governance globally. The EU mode of post-national political and economic integration serves, espcially, as a model for some other important efforts to institutionalise regional governance, as in the African Union, in Mercosur in Latin America and in regions of Asia.


This is also where Europe is most dangerous to the world. The heart of the EU mode of integration is the market fundamentalism (or ”ordo-liberalism”) of the Rome Treaty. According to it the market freedoms of capital, goods, services and labour and the ”independence” of the Central Bank are placed above human rights and social and environmental concerns in the political and juridical overall system of governance. The consequence is a so called democracy deficit which has proven very difficult to rectify, as we hve seen in EU’s failed attempts at re-creating itself on the basis of a constitutional treaty.


The key ingredient for developing a non-Eurocentric progressive agenda is therefore to overcome the European model for post-national design of governance.


In creating better models that will realise cosmopolitan values the central positive factors are: loclaisation, self-reliance, the cutting of dependence on large corporations and states, and liberation from complex technologies and distribution of labour that are not compatible with real democracy.


Thomas Wallgren

Philosopher, activist