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Thursday, 23 November 2017 10:38

The European Sovereign Debt Crisis and the Danger of Ideational Monocultures

J. Hien, in New Perspectives: interdisciplinary journal of Central & East European politics and international relations, vol. 25, no.2, 2017, pp. 115-124


Johan Van derWalt’s article “When One Religious Extremism Unmasks Another” is
thought provoking and unique. He argues that Northern creditor countries operate
according to the logic of Protestant predestination theory when they engage with
Southern European debtor countries. This Protestant logic is embodied in ordoliberalism,
a German socio-economic theory, which van derWalt identifies as themajor
German political instruction sheet to the sovereign debt crisis. Ordoliberalism leads
to austerity, and austerity provides a fertile ground for a de-hermeneuticized form
of Islam that sprawls in the suburbs of France and Belgium.
In the following essay, I would like to make three points in response to van der
Walt’s argument. The first one considers the connection between Protestantism and
ordoliberalism that is central to van derWalt’s argument.While van derWalt is right in his conclusion, he does not illuminate the conceptual mechanisms that make the
connection between Protestantism and ordoliberalism so powerful. I will describe
these mechanisms. The second point is more critical: it scrutinizes the connection
between ordoliberalism, austerity and Islamic extremism that van der Walt draws,
and raises the question of how Protestant ordoliberalism could dwell in Catholic
countries. I also provide a tentative explanation of the ascendance of ordoliberalism
in Catholic environments. The third point elaborates on a consequence of van der
Walt’s argument that the author overlooks: the crisis and the ordoliberal rhetoric of
the German government in response to it have not only led to a de-hermeneuticization
of ordoliberalism and Islam but also left an imprint on other European cultural
spheres. In southern Europe, the crisis has reinforced a Southern cultural
superiority discourse amongst public intellectuals as a reply to the Northern European
moralizing discourse.

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