Regarding the Euro

The biggest story of the last two decades has not been the opening up of China, rather it's been the creation of the Eurozone.

wiki media map of eurozone

First off, take the size of the combined economy of the Eurozone. In terms of GDP, it is larger than China, second only to that of the US (the European Union, which also includes the United Kingdom and much of Eastern Europe would be the world's largest economy, except that it quite doesn't function as one economy). 

Since I write about architecture, networks, and economy, the reason I am interested in the Eurozone is that it was an unprecedented construction of a single smooth space—to use Deleuzean terms—on a planetary scale. With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, it seemed to confirm Deleuze's suggestion that the old regime of enclosures was giving way to a new world of modulations. Seemingly overnight, national currencies and border controls, the most familiar artifacts of modern nationhood, disappeared to get out of the way of the rapid circulation of capital and increased worker mobility. For Eastern Europe the delight in national independence at last swiftly faded, giving way to the rush to be subsumed into a larger union again, albeit voluntarily this time, without the Soviet Union's tanks and guns. 

What struck me during this period was the incredible openness of Europeans, both to each other and to those of us whose primary residence was abroad. As borders opened, so did minds. The development of the Internet went hand in hand with this opening up, allowing Europeans to go beyond the traditional boundaries of their national languages and literatures to share their ideas and learn from others at remarkable speeds. This is not to say that this wasn't going on everywhere, but it was particularly in evidence in Europe where the growth curve was very fast, a stark contrast to what was going on in the United States where thought often seemed stuck in the dark ages. For a time, Europe seemed to regain its status as the world's center of culture—as much as such a thing could exist—from the United States. Who would have thought, in 1991, that two of my books would be published by a press in Barcelona, that I would publish as much in European periodicals as in the United States, or that I would be teaching in Ireland part time? 

But as the August crisis—and the last three years teach us—that growth curve got ahead of itself and Europe now faces a grave economic crisis. The economies of European countries were at different places when they joined the Eurozone and there's no way that in a few years everyone could be at the same place as Germany. Where it seemed to happen, as in the last half of the Celtic Tiger, this was largely done on debt, a condition that has now been demonstrated as impossible to sustain. 

Now that the collapse of the Euro is being talked about as a real possibility, what sort of impact will this have on network culture? Is the Eurozone like the League of Nations, a great idea whose time has not yet come but will arrive, bigger and better soon? Or is it a historical anomaly? Even if globalization is a dominant economic force today, will a decade of economic stagnation couple with a collapsed eurozone lead to renewed calls for nationalism? Is the dialectic of smooth and striated space (remember, for Deleuze it was always a dialectic) about to shift again? 

These are some of the biggest questions for all of us this fall. 


looks pretty close-minded to me

european schengen visa paperwork and border control in europe are the most humiliating, racist experiences i've gone through in my life, and i speak as a south american woman that travels in and out of the united states often. europe might be open, but only as long as you're white.

i understand this is an unfair argument, based on personal experiences--but it has happened to me every time i've gone. i'm traveling to europe twice this fall (if i get the stupid visas) and i'm already cringing at the thought of what i may have to go through.


i don't mean to accuse a whole continent of racism, of course--only referring to the way states manage their borders.

Being a US citizen, I knew we

Being a US citizen, I knew we were second class in Europe, but assumed that for non-US, non-EU citizens getting into the Schengen zone was roughly on par with getting into the US (which is to say, no doubt horrific… but on par).

Still, your experience points to a down side to the Eurozone and the EU—as I knew all too well from my teaching in Ireland—for non-EU members, it could be a most difficult place indeed. That sort of protectionism is likely now only going to get worse. 

It seems all too likely that this experiment of globalization, even with all its faults, is at a close. 

Comparing US and EU

Comparatively, how do we begin to understand the seeming internalization and fragmentation we see in U.S. today (e.g. partisan politics, ideological break between left and right, etc)? Is this one possible scenario of the "shift" Mr. Varnelis is speaking of that E.U. is about to confront in the near future? the same time, rumbling voices of media (though a mere generality at best at this point) seem to suggest a further economic "smoothing" of sorts:

The partisanship in the US is

The partisanship in the US is indeed a problem.

To a large extent, however, it is geographical. In one of the "Discussions on Networked Publics" videos at the Netlab site, I made the prediction that within a decade talk about splitting up the US would be taken seriously. The Right is eager to talk about such matters while moderates and the few remaining liberals, are less eager to do so. Still, I think that once another Republican is in office, we will see more and more signs of disillusionment, such as this movement in Vermont. 

One of my regrets in this post is that I also didn't pay enough thought to secession movements that have made strides under the EU, for example, Basque, Catalonian, Scottish, and Welsh demands for devolution (moreover, as a good friend said… no matter how horrible he is, Berlusconi is the only thing holding Italy together at the moment). With that genie out of the bottle, the new nation states of Europe are likely to look very different indeed.

a matter of appearance?

yes--sadly, getting into the eurozone was actually tougher (both in paperwork process and in the actual experience) than getting into the us under george bush (ugh). the more some countries or zones claim to be open, (i'm thinking of canada here), the worse their real border requirements and behavior. this, along with your comment on internal separatist movements, makes me question whether this smooth striated space ever existed--or was it more a matter of its appearance?

Re: a matter of appearance?

Ana Maria, perhaps this "smooth, striated space" is similar to the notion of modernism as seen at the beginning of 20th Century. That is, the idea of a smooth space of political or economic nature where people, information and goods flow effortlessly exists more as society's collective ideal--not quite Utopian per se, but a desired (conceptual) goal society would like to ultimately achieve, to be continually followed. So in that sense, perhaps this smoothness does exist but not in the idealized way societies and theorists may have conceptualized it.

Speaking of unmitigated borders and smoothness, check this article from NY Times this weekend: