The Exhaustion of Merkelism: A Conjunctural Analysis

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DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:96/97.04.2019

Inspired by Hall et al.’s Policing the Crisis (1978), the authors provide a conjunctural analysis of present-day Germany. It is based on a periodisation of Merkelism – the dominant political mode of managing the economic, political and cultural crisis tendencies in the country from the mid-2000s onwards. This reveals that the Merkelist approach to crisis management has become exhausted. The manifestation point of this process is the 2015 ‘Summer of Migration’. The Merkel government decided not to prevent hundred thousands of refugees who had been walking across the Balkans for months from entering the country. Hereupon, it was identified, at the level of political discourse, with a liberal stance on the border regime. As a result, the pragmatic and depoliticising interventions typical of Merkelism lost traction; a political and cultural polarisation emerged. Importantly, this happened in the context of a socio-economic consolidation of large parts of the ‘new’ middle class – and a protracted decline of the working class, which was covered up by narratives of Germany as a success story. Accordingly, the conjuncture in the country is characterised by the weakening of class ties of political and cultural representation and the proliferation of nationalist interpellations. Once again, ‘race is the modality in which class is lived’ (Hall), which is visible in the widespread assumption that there are clearly defined, homogeneous and incompatible ‘cultures’ clashing with one another. In this sense, race has become a politically salient category whose discursive predominance contributes to further marginalising a language of class.

New Formations 96/97: This Conjuncture