It’s the time of year for forecasting. What do you expect. or hope, will happen in 2012? The European Council for Foreign Relations puts forward Ten Trends for 2012. Most are reasonably predictable and safe political points (the standard positioning of the ECFR) but it leads with a very challenging point for those interested in culture in Europe: “the European Clash of Civilisations”.
Although the real cause of the crisis is the structural flaw of designing a single currency without a common treasury, Northern Europeans have tended to explain the euro’s problems as a clash between a fiscally-responsible north and an irresponsible south. Southern countries, on the other hand, feel betrayed by what they see as the limited and conditional solidarity of the north – which they see as part of the problem. They feel they have contributed to Germany’s success during the last decade by buying German exports such as cars. France, meanwhile, is caught in the middle – the equivalent of what Huntington called a ‘torn country’ (like Turkey in the conflict between the West and Islam). It wants to be part of the north – which is where power is shifting – but finds itself in danger of becoming part of the south.
The facts do not always support this cultural reading of the crisis – for example it was the rule-worshipping Germans that broke the Stability and Growth Pact, while the Spanish abided by its provisions – however, like Huntington’s original thesis, it risks becoming self-fulfilling, leading to solutions which may not make sense in economic terms – such as simultaneous austerity by all, which Keynesians argue leads to stagnation.
In the last decade there are have more conferences, papers and seminars on “what is European identity; what is European culture.”. How effective have they been? Did any of them come to terms with the deep culture of European citizens? Now is the time for some serious re-thinking and actions with the whole European project under threat.
So an invitation to those interested and active in European culture: what do you see in 2012? Has the cultural sector any role in averting a cultural divide in Europe? Does it remain on the sidelines and content within its own audience and production? Are there any ideas for the Year of European Citizens. Or will 2013 be too late?