A Success Story, or How the East Jumped Over Its Economic Shadow

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Dana Domsodi, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy

    It has become common knowledge the fact that the material conditions of existence shape the cultural representations of this existence, even if only as mystifying misrepresentations. In turn, cultural forms are also there to reframe economic and social realities even if, again, simply to abscond the same realities. Thus, it is more than fair to repose the question of the West/East dichotomy under the transforming light cast by the current economic crisis that still damages the macro-national economies of the European countries, also casting its ruinous shadow over the feeble monetary union itself. Two structural antagonisms are in play on the European map. The antagonism of the hard-working and economic weary North (we have in mind here the core countries of the European Union) and a lazy and economically idle South (the infamous PIIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain). The other antagonism, which predates the creation of the Union is the old one of the modern civilized West versus the economically backward and with a “shameful” communist past – East. Of course, these two apparently opposed axes of division contaminate each other are reshape the boundaries of the European geopolitical map even as we speak.
    Until not long ago, the East was designated as an eternal pupil in the school of the Western neoliberal democracy. Of course, the children of the revolution (as Buden insightfully calls this Eastern form of subjects) have been remitted to a subaltern position in relation to its Western educators. Complying with the democratic and economic Western standards was for all parties involved still a far away goal even in the middle of the 2000 decade. However, in the year 2008 The European Union found itself about to face the most serious economic crisis it has ever encountered. Suddenly, another dichotomy came to the fore of the political arena, one that overshadowed the old one between the West and the East, namely the one between the North and the South, between core countries and periphery countries (we have here in mind the famous PIIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), the latter displaying anomic political and economical behaviour in front of the crisis. Hell broke loose in Greece, Ireland, Spain and in some cases also Portugal and Italy, when these countries were face with the austerity measures agreed upon by the core-states of the EU. On the other side of the map, switching axes, things apparently went smoothly, as the Eastern countries (the famous REBeLLs – Romania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia) embraced these measures and displayed signs of economic improvement, even if under the form of expansionist fiscal contraction. Soon the two axes collided under the more engulfing dichotomy of real austerity versus fake austerity. The European South was played against the European East, only to be shown as a looser by the core-countries of EU. Overnight, the slow Eastern European students have been framed as role-models for the lazy and belligerent PIIGS. It seems like there is nothing that the East could possibly want more. It is like it has been redeemed under the blessings of FMI, BCE and CE.
    Nothing can be further from the truth and our presentation will inquire about the suspicious and deceitful nature of this re-inventing of the East as a model for the South. Conflict and poverty still have a strong grip over the REBeLL states, but there is indeed an economic capitalist stake in framing this reality as a success story to be followed by the PIIGS. Only fighting against this particular economic interest can we all hope that one day the axes of Europe will disappear together with the economic structuring that gave birth to them in the first place.