New Perspectives – First Issue Out Now!

New Perspectives:
Interdisciplinary Journal of Central & East European Politics and International Relations

I am delighted to present this first issue of New Perspectives here on our blog – our subscribers have access to the full contents of the journal, which are listed and linked to below. However, the editorial team – Tomáš Profant, Jan Daniel and myself – are also very happy to be able to offer open access to the Editorial, to Johan van der Walt’s article on the work of Giorgio Agamben and the Literary Exception and to Ulrich Kühn’s Intervention piece, which urges NATO to go back to the future and adopt a new strategy based on the Harmel plan from the 1960s.

We look forward to your engagement with this issue of our journal and to your submissions for future issues.

Benjamin Tallis

Editorial: To Provoke Constellations

Benjamin Tallis, Editor-in-Chief

Iron Curtain. Prague Spring. Berlin Wall. Gulag. Solidarnosc. Velvet Revolution. … Bloodlands. Laboratory. Proof … Backward. Success-Story … Members. Neighbours. Partners. Rivals. Allies … Imperialism. Nationalism. Liberalism. Fascism. Communism. Neo-Nationalism. Neoliberalism. Corruption. Liberal-Market-Democracy … Post-Habsburg. Post-Ottoman. Post-Communist. Post-Soviet. Post-Transition … Here. There … Occupied. Free. Independent. Integrated … Dangerous. Beautiful. Monotonous. Vibrant. Surreal … Poor But Sexy. Stag-Party Heaven … Wild East. Kidnapped West … New Europe. Non-core Europe. Mitteleuropa. Eastern Europe … Central and Eastern Europe.

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is one of the most fascinating, diverse and contested regions in the world. It is also one of the most misunderstood, oversimplified and overlooked. In transforming and re-launching our journal we seek to address this situation by providing interdisciplinary insight into the politics and international relations of CEE. We intend to provoke new constellations of scholarship across approaches and disciplines which can challenge received wisdoms on and in the the region

And so I address you, to provoke constellations.

Research articles

The Literary Exception: Reflections on Agamben’s “Liberal Democratic” Political Theology and the Religious Destabilisation of the Political in our Time

Johan van der Walt

The concern with stabilising the political and avoiding the excessive deployments of coercive force by totalitarian political imaginations is usually associated with political liberalism and liberal political theory. It is rarely associated with political theology and conceptions of sovereignty that are based on political theology. The unique contribution of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben to contemporary political theory is the opportunity it offers to contemplate the stabilisation of the political in terms of political theology and not in terms of typical rule of law arguments that one would associate with political liberalism. The aim of this article is to trace and question some of the essential thoughts on the basis of which Agamben puts forward the idea of the called existence of the Christian community. It does so in order to put forward, in response, an argument for a literary community that has much in common with Agamben’s conception of the Christian ekklesia, but ultimately also differs from it in certain important respects. The argument for a literary community that is developed ultimately has more in common with Nancy’s conception of an “inoperative community”. The article also offers a close scrutiny of Agamben’s engagement with the work of Carl Schmitt. This scrutiny of Agamben’s engagement with Schmitt is crucial for the argument that the article forwards, considering the way in which Schmitt’s work is with good reason historically linked to exactly the kind of political theology that destabilises rather than stabilises the political.

“Germany”, Asset Class Contagion, and Contagious Stability

Sascha Engel

In this paper, I examine the effects of socially constructed financial market lending patterns in the Eurozone crisis. Under the assumption that the crisis is one of sovereign debt, the term “contagion” is frequently used to describe the doubts about governmental debt repayment abilities that were spreading from Greece to Ireland and Portugal and then to Spain and Italy from 2010 to 2012. Consequently, austerity policies are indiscriminately applied to the governments of all five of these countries to ensure the countries’ sustainable growth for their debt repayment. This paper, by contrast, argues that “contagion” is the origin of peripheral repayment troubles rather than their effect. The Eurozone crisis is the result of the procyclical lending patterns of the European banking system, which turns liquidity shortages into solvency problems for governments depending upon debt roll-over operations. I then apply the related analysis to Germany’s funding situation during the crisis and argue that “stability,” i.e., the ability to maintain sustainable growth under Eurozone crisis conditions, is not the result of endogenous austere virtue. Rather, it is likewise largely a result of procyclical lending patterns: liquidity retracted from peripheral sovereign bonds is invested into core sovereign bonds. Moreover, I show that a similar effect has been in place prior to the crisis. “Stability” is as contagious as “contagion.”

Czech Public Opinion on Turkey’s Accession to the EU: An Analysis through the Lenses of Sociological and Discursive Institutionalism

Pelin Ayan Musil

While Turkey lacks significant levels of public support from the Czech Republic in its EU bid, the existing studies of European public opinion on the question of Turkey do not bring any reasonable explanation as to why this can be so. To shed light on this problem, this article offers an analytical framework derived from sociological and discursive institutionalism. First, it shows that the historical/cultural context in the Czech Republic has created an informal institution built around the norms of “othering” Muslim societies like Turkey (sociological institutionalism). Second, based on the media coverage of selected political issues from Turkey between 2005 and 2010, it argues that this institution both enables and constrains the “discursive ability” of the media in communicating these issues to its audience (discursive institutionalism). Since the media—as a political actor—mostly acts to maintain this institution and does not critically debate it, the public opinion of Turkey as the “cultural other” remains as a dominant perception. The official support of the political elite for Turkey’s accession to the EU does not countervail the media influence, as this support is often not conveyed to the Czech public agenda.

Party Politics Triumph over Substantive Scrutiny and Principled Policy: Examining Czech MPs’ Voting Behaviour in Regard to EU Affairs

Martin Kuta

The paper deals with the European dimension of the competition and contention between Czech political parties and argues that domestic party interests undermine the formal oversight of EU politics by the Czech national parliament. Within the current institutional arrangements, national political parties assume stances – which are expressed through voting – towards the European Union (and European integration as such) as they act in the arena of national parliaments that are supposed to make the EU more accountable in its activities. Based on an analysis of roll-calls, the paper focuses on the ways the political parties assume their stances towards the EU and how the parties check this act by voting on EU affairs. The paper examines factors that should shape parties’ behaviour (programmes, positions in the party system, and public importance of EU/European integration issues). It also focuses on party expertise in EU/European issues and asserts that EU/European integration issues are of greater importance in extra-parliamentary party competition than inside the parliament, suggesting a democratic disconnect between voters and parliamentary behaviour. The study’s empirical analysis of voting behaviour of Czech MPs also shows that the parliamentary scrutiny introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is undermined by party interests within the system.



Deter and Engage: Making the Case for Harmel 2.0 as NATO’s New Strategy

Ulrich Kühn

This intervention argues that NATO needs a new strategy towards Russia. The current strategy is imbalanced because it over-emphasizes power and risks negatively affecting the European security order. A new strategy should recall the 1967 Harmel Report, which successfully combined the security elements of power, order, and liberal values. Today, such a balanced strategy is again needed. A new Harmel strategy (Harmel 2.0) should, like its predecessor, rely on a combination of deterrence and engagement. This intervention thus argues that in the realm of power, NATO needs to respond to Russia’s hybrid warfare threats with conventional reassurance and societal soft power measures and that securing the Allies’ economic vulnerabilities while leaving NATO’s current nuclear posture untouched will also be crucial. In the realm of order, NATO needs to re-engage on cooperative security and the instruments of arms control, and it is argued that a pause to further NATO enlargement would be helpful. Finally, in the realm of liberal values, the Allies should lower their expectations as a gesture of recognition that they cannot change the domestic situation in Russia in the short term, but they should address the attitudes of certain member states in that realm. In order to succeed with such a multi-pronged strategy, the Allies need to better coordinate their policies in the OSCE and amongst EU countries.


Responses to ‘Russia and the World, 2015 – IMEMO Forecast

Editors Note, Benjamin Tallis

In the final issue of our predecessor journal (Perspectives: Review of International Affairs – 02/2014),1 we published an abridged version of the Russian think tank IMEMO’s annual ‘Russia and the World’ forecast. This was the first time that any version of this report had appeared in English. The aim was to allow the work of Russian academics to be more widely available to and understood in the English speaking world, to provoke responses from scholars working elsewhere and to encourage dialogue between them. The forum that we present here is one of the results of this ongoing process, which also included the presentation of the report – with lively subsequent discussion – at the Institute of International Relations in Prague. The forum comprises responses to the IMEMO Forecast from leading scholars on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. We are delighted to present these responses – from Derek Averre, Vladimir Handl, Egbert Jahn and Iver B. Neumann – which offer a variety of perspectives on the forecast itself as well as on the issues it raises. On some issues there is consensus between IMEMO and the respondents, while other issues draw critique and still more have provoked mixed responses. We are sure that readers will find plenty to agree and disagree with in this composition of different perspectives and that they will prompt further discussion and engagement – which is greatly needed given the current state of relations within and between Russia and the world – in subsequent issues, on our blog and in other formats.