Eurozine Focal Point: Fragmentation and solidarity in Europe

Almost a decade of neoliberal austerity measures imposed by successive national governments and European politico-economic elites have contributed to social fragmentation and to established forms of representative democracy losing their legitimacy. The rise of populist nationalism across the continent leaves a polarised and radicalised Europe facing existential challenges.

In partnership with the European Cultural Foundation (ECF), Eurozine launches a new focal point that responds to these developments with in-depth analysis of their root causes, and insights into alternative inter-local forms of mobilisation around the commons. Clearly, grass-root cultures still have a pivotal role to play in building solidarity and keeping the prospect of a common Europe alive.

The focal point coincides with the start of ECF's four-year programme run aimed at reinforcing diversity and equality as drivers of progressive societal change. These issues are to be discussed at the Idea Camp 2017 in Madrid from 1 to 3 March 2017 on the theme Moving Communities.

The focal point draws on the publishing activities of Eurozine partner journals and on content created during the course of ECF's recent work on Europe's changing cultural, political and media landscapes.

  European Commons Assembly, 2016.

European Commons Assembly, 2016.

Clash of solidarities or cultural diversity?

Fragmentation and solidarity in Europe, far from being opposed to one another, are becoming increasingly entangled, argues political scientist Ivan Krastev. In an article entitled "Utopian dreams beyond the border", he discerns a Europe that is currently experiencing a clash of solidarities.

Cultural historian Fatima El-Tayeb highlights alternative continuities among European Others. Against the background of an anxiety-ridden debate around threats to a European identity, she looks at how systemic exclusionary structures are being remixed throughout Europe to create a trans-local and trans-ethnic counter-discourse. 

Commoning practices: From movements to society

Geographer Lazaros Karaliotas focuses on everyday commoning practices developed in the wake of the squares movement that began with Syntagma Square, Athens, in summer 2011, and spread in varying degrees throughout Europe. (For further background on the situation in Greece, see also Evie Papada's article "Extractivism above all?")

Karaliotas notes the fragility of links between solidarity initiatives within Greece, a fragility that is even more pronounced in links to other solidarity movements further afield, in Europe and beyond. Yet a Europe-wide commons movement is steadily taking shape, along with corresponding institutions. The first European Commons Assembly, held in Brussels in November 2016 at the European Parliament, attracted around 100 commoners from throughout Europe. Among them were David Hammerstein and Sophie Bloemen, co-founders of the Commons Network, a civil society initiative based in Berlin and Brussels. Picking up where the European Commons Assembly left off, they write in the current focal point on how the commons can revitalise Europe.

Public law scholar Christian Iaione outlines his notion of the co-city, a city that is both cognitive and collaborative, and may well herald a new era of urban co-governance. Iaione also considers the implications of bottom-up initiatives for the future of the welfare state.

Meanwhile, Fred Frohofer, of the Swiss initiative Neustart Schweiz, insists that we re-localize our lives by restructuring our cities and their relation to rural regions. Frohofer's contribution goes some way toward redressing the disconnect between commoning practices and discourses on the Anthropocene.  

Zuzana Révészová and Zuzana Tabačková return to the local level in an article entitled ‘School as commons’. The authors profile a project that uses a local school as a hub to revive community spirit on a housing estate on the outskirts of Košice, Slovakia. Révészová and Tabačková describe how the estate sheds its aura of communist city planning, as the neighbourhood participates in lively commoning practices.

Key to all of the developments discussed is the question posed by Lazaros Karaliotas: how to create alternative forms of organisation and commoning that are durable – or how to proceed ‘from a movement to society’. This will require ‘daring imagination, rigorous organisational innovation and a commitment to the inherently open logic of equality’.

Read all articles in the focal point Fragmentation and solidarity in Europe.