Mabel Berezin


On the Two Faces of the Euro Coins

Cover Interview of January 10, 2012

Normalization of the right is the term that I develop to capture the twin phenomena of the electoral surge of the European right and the mainstreaming of nationalist ideas and practices.  The normalization of the right has evolved in tandem with the global financial crisis.

In Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times (Rorotoko interview), I argued that expanding Europeanization which included the EMU posed a security threat to the ordinary citizen that fueled the electoral salience and public visibility of right political parties.

By security, I meant the perception and, for the most part, fact that persons felt safe in their political, social, economic and cultural environment.  Security shaped the contours of everyday life in post-war Europe.  Through the end of the last century, national institutions from unions to political parties to citizenship requirements served as guarantees of practical security for ordinary Europeans.  The expanded European Union which favors market competition and supports multicultural inclusion was never popular among those who benefited most from the solidarity and identity that the national state guaranteed.

The sovereign debt crisis underscores the nationalist sentiments that have always lurked in the interstices of the European project.  Europe writ large is facing the contradictions inscribed in the two faces of the euro coins.

Europe appears to be heading towards another weak economic year with a possible recession on the way.  Citizens have taken to the streets of just about every European capital to protest austerity measures.  As of January 1, 2012, the center right Hungarian Prime Minister has pushed through a new Constitution whose preamble evokes 19th century ethno-nationalism.

A collective sense of insecurity is pervasive in Europe today.  Collective insecurity weakens the social largesse that forms the core of democratic sentiment and normalizes ideas that many Europeans previously viewed as unacceptable.  How these forces will play out politically remains to be seen.