Overcoming the crisis of confidence in Europe and Russia

Published 26.11.2014 01:35

I recently attended a working assembly at the Russian State Duma titled, "Way of Overcoming the Crisis of Confidence in Europe," in Moscow, which made me think that the issue was more about a crisis of confidence between Europe and Russia, or between Europe and other cultures, rather than in Europe itself. I do not believe that the discourse of law and universal standard would assume function in resolving this confidence of crisis.

Let me open up my argument. For me, Russia, like Turkey, has not yet given an answer to the question of how European it is. While Europe feels that Russia belongs to the West, it is also aware that this is not the case in the eyes of Russia. Of course, Russia has contributed much to European common culture and it is true that the Russian Enlightenment led to nihilism in its relation of tension with the West. It is known that the socio-psychological atmosphere of the Middle East called "self-orientalism" also penetrated Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Russia is, geographically, partly an Asian country at the same time, and even its codes of religion and beliefs took shape in this relation of tension.

With the Industrial Revolution, the world's center of gravity shifted toward the West. The current legal, political and economic universe upon which we construct mechanisms and institutional structures is a Eurocentric one. Therefore, the languages, standards and institutions that are produced in this universe are reproducing Europe. European democracy emerged as a product of economic development whose penalty was paid by other societies for a century and a half following the Industrial Revolution. It is not possible to properly understand modern Europe and the practical functionality of the standards that it produced without considering the genocides perpetrated by the Netherlands for economic interests in Malaysia in the 19th century, the carnage that Britain conducted in West Africa and China or Spain's destruction in Latin America.

It should be acknowledged that the West sets the standards and wants other cultures to follow them, "universality" serving this purpose. "The state of law" is very important in terms of a country's internal borders and the law is something social at the same time, so it is not far from culture. The imposition of a legal standard that ignores this relationship may make an impact that would undermine other cultures and their claim to political existence. Countries that want to be engaged in this relationship might tend to get away from the idea of law and democracy as a response, which I think creates a crisis of confidence.

Apart from this, it is possible to see some problems in studies on relations with the Council of Europe and the EU. In these relations, reform moves made especially in post-communist countries go beyond local and original and turn into imitation. The countries' political will is left to the monopoly of experts with mechanisms that reflect European standards. Thus, social politics becomes ineffective and a state's practices begin to be alienated from society. This means standardizing unilateral power relations that emerged in the last few centuries and making them decisive mechanisms in relation to other countries and cultures. With respect to this, the law eliminates originality in all related countries apart from Eurocentric ones and turns into an instrument of standardization. It institutionalizes international inequality as well.

The insecurity caused by Europe regarding the manipulative effects of global standards is not limited to Ukraine alone - it is also seen in Europe's policies toward the Middle East. Overcoming a crisis of confidence entails constructing mechanisms based on global pluralism and participation in setting standards rather than insisting on a Eurocentric standard.

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