Category Archives: symposium

A Conversation on Brexit

Rob Shields, Joost Van Loon, Justine Lloyd, David Harvey, Joerge Dyrkton, Michael Schillmeier.

RS: I regard the [Brexit] vote as one of the times in my adult life that I have been diminished.  I’m so glad I had the chance to do a year in France on an UK EU Passport.  That would have been an enormous bureaucratic challenge to organize based on Canadian citizenship without the right to reside in France.

Some interesting network analysis.  What are people saying at the universities?

Brexit is a fact now and is expected to have a significant impact on the economies of the United Kingdom and its key trade partners. One impact area relates to the European Union’s research funding in the form of its current Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, as well as ongoing projects funded as part of the previous Seventh Framework Programme. A significant number of universities, knowledge institutes and companies from the UK currently participate in these programmes. Exactly which organizations and projects are potentially impacted, and how are they connected? Network science provides an initial view.  In the immediate wake of the Brexit vote on June 27, I didn’t see much in the way of macro-level scenarios such as this except for Yanis Varoufakis.

Guardian: “Almost unnoticed amid the post-Brexit hysteria, French president François Hollande announced his intention to veto TTIP, the free-trade treaty between the EU and the US. For clarity, that means it is dead…”

JVL: Regarding Brexit,  I have come across a few bits about prognoses that Brexit is bad for academic research, because British universities are the ones that rake in the most European Council research funding.  However,  I sense that the entire “debate” about the consequences of Brexit involve unfettered amounts of economic-ideological speculation.
From a historical materialist point of view, this is really a textbook Gramsci-case: the Referendum concerned issues related to a split within the hegemonic block and the choice on offer was between neo-liberalism and English nationalism.

There are a few English nationalists who believe that Brexit will enable a more just society within the UK, however the vast majority of Brexit votes are from the disenfranchised (northern) working class and elderly people. Although Brexiteers have denied this, strong racist, xenophobic and even fascistic sentiments have been associated with the slogan “taking our country back”. It became immediately clear that Britain is a project and that the nationalism is primarily an English nostalgic natio nalism, as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar all strongly voted against Brexit and are now seeking secession from the UK if they are to leave the EU.

Social media played a massive role as a public forum before and after the referendum and the expression “the country is split” is very accurate. This entire episode made me think about the 18th Brumaire mixed with passages from the Prison Notebooks.  As a revival of (radical) nationalism sweeps across Europe, right wing populist movements will seek to cash in on this sentiment,. Which is similar to Trumpmania in the USA: The more intelligible analyses however refer to neo liberalism, austerity capitalism and the geopolitical disorder associated with the warfare state that are driving the crisis. None of the right wing populist movements will address this and prefer a repetition of (German) history: the crisis of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism of the 1920s. I have referred to this as the rise of idiocracy. Of all people I have had contact with, it are the Germans (even the most inward-looking amongst my Bavarian friends) that understand this danger the best. I was amazed to hear how well informed they were about this unfolding of what has been for a long time  primarily a crisis within the British Conservative Party into a full blown and potentially very dangerous crisis in Europe.

Should we do a kind of special blog issue on kleptocracy, idiocracy and the impeding class warfare (provisional title: the gloves are off)?  Take care  Joost Van Loon

JL: I am working on a project with colleagues here that connects with the ‘entangled’ media histories folk at Hamburg and Bournemouth, and after the weekend they are worried that looks like it would have less chance of being sustained.

apart from that Australia feels very far away and I’m sure that those who are nostalgic for the Empire are keen for us to be drawn back into the fold rather than make transnational connections.

the regional aspects are really interesting, maybe the predictions of neo-feudalism are right?!

cheers  Justine Lloyd

JD: If you have time, you might want to check out my latest blog (produced in haste) which follows the lead of the Guardian article I suggested to you last night.  After a quick read of George Orwell’s “The Lion and the Unicorn” I offer you … “London Bridge is falling down: George Orwell on Brexit

England is a family with the wrong members in control.  Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth.[5]… (George Orwell)

Cheers  Joerge Dyrkton

DH: I don’t see how an analysis of this sort can proceed without considering the problems of voting for remain.  After all the European Union has done to Greece I think it is impossible to read the EU as about mutual aid and support for a common project. And remember how the German press demonized the Greeks as inferior beings so xenophobia is everywhere and not just a strong current within the Brexit camp. Who benefited from the Euro venture? To pretend that the EU has not been a convenient vehicle for a German nationalist project and that all is well on that front is also to accept a surface reading that disguises some much more malevolent practices if not conscious designs.  Voting either way encounters the problem of keeping some pretty unsavory company whichever way one went.  On the surface it looks as if the more malevolent company is on the exit side but they do not have the power.  Are  those that have the power and who clothe themselves in a veneer of respectability (e.g. Cameron and Merkel) any less malevolent? I think not.  In this vote we were damned if we did and damned if we did not.

David Harvey

MS: interesting paper by W Davies on the Sociology of Brexit

MS: Dear David, Dear All:

As far I can see, your email is a response to Joost’s email, who tried at least to reflect the situation in the UK, and I fully agree with most of Joost arguments.

I was quite surprised – to say at least – with your kind of analysis, which I think  – to be honest – is more about a general critique of ‘capitalism’, ‘xenophobia’,  ‘EU’ and “Germany” than it does reflect the Britsih nationalism/feudalism and the reasons to vote for opting out. Clearly Brexit is about xenophobia and capitalism. No doubt. But to shift the problem to a “German nationalist project” seems to me a good example of what I have experienced in the UK throughout the In/out campaigns. It is reflects a general attitude in the UK I think, to shift the problem to others …  I am not saying that the EU cannot do better and I am saying that they need to do better (including Germany of course), and I am fully aware that the Greek situation was not all  what the European Idea is about.

Clearly, these kind of ‘democratic processes’ like the referendum and how it was instrumentalized by those you were stoking fears is in itself rather problematic. But I can’t see, if I do not follow the spinners of fear,  David, why we are damned this way or the other.

Feeling European and being a German citizen I think it is important to respect the vote, to respect everybody who doesn’t wish to be part of the EU. However, if it is very much about more capitalism as a nationalist project, if it is about ’stopping immigrants’, if it is about shameless lying as the campaigning shows so vividly, then, me, being a German immigrant in the UK, feels very bad, and indeed thinks that the UK after Brexit is not the open culture I fell in love with when I did my Phd in the late 1990s.

I was in Germany at the time just before and after the actual vote. And I have to say,  the amount of detailed (and controversial) information about the Brexit situation was exceptional, whereas in Britain nobody was feeling that they had enough information …

I also think, that the youth has been betrayed by the vote. Having said that, social media, so popular nowadays, hasn’t helped to politicise the campaign amongst the young voters. Only about 35% of the younger voters actually voted.

Best Michael Schillmeier

RS: Much of the reporting is so choked with emotion, inventing mangles like “ironicidal”, “unserious” and resorting to curses, it is difficult to make sense of British journalism.  One piece by Jonathan Freedland gives a sense of the struggle within British elites.

…A week after the vote: The Brexit crisis has driven the pound down below $1.30 to levels last seen in 1985.  Sterling hit a new 31-year low against the dollar.  Last time the pound was lower was in June 1985, but still off the record low of $1.0520 in March 1985.