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BigPicture No. 4: "Radical Challenges - Radical Answers?" Ralf Fücks and Frank Meyer


On November 14, 2017, BOHNEN Public Affairs hosted what is now the fourth event in its "BigPicture" debate series. This time, Ralf Fücks, former board member of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and founder of the Center for Liberal Modernity, and Frank A. Meyer, Swiss journalist and journalistic advisor to Ringier, addressed radicalism as a reorientation of the bourgeois center.


Fücks described the radical challenges that call for new bourgeois-democratic responses in terms of four overarching developments: first, the push for globalization, which has caused a humanization of social, political, and economic conditions, but also stress and fears of declining prosperity; second, the digital revolution, which created stark changes in the world of work and has so far been primarily occupied as a "fear issue"; third, intercontinental migration, in the course of which the foreign suddenly comes close to us; and fourth, the cultural revolution, which is accompanied by the demise of the patriarchy and the equality of women. According to Fücks, the simultaneity of these developments has triggered massive insecurity underestimated by the liberal elites. The result, he said, are phenomena of protest like Trump and Brexit. This raises the question of what to do now. Fücks advocates for a political project titled "Security in Change." You can't stop change, but you can shape it politically. Ultimately, it is a matter of reviving civic institutions, for example by investing in education, culture, and infrastructure. A liberal policy that creates community must steer and regulate - the vision is not laissez-faire, but a regulatory framework. Fücks welcomed the etymological reference in the word radicalism to get to the root of things. But he remained skeptical about whether the term, contaminated by the totalitarianism of the 20th century, could take on a civilian meaning.


Meyer, who does not want to leave radicalism to the extremists, whether left or right, thinks differently. For him the Bourgeoisie also means radical thinking that relies on clear language with an appetite for controversy - and not on "sedating aphorisms" or "meaningful silences. Meyer used the metaphor of space to describe what bourgeois could mean today. Europe is thus a protective space, for example, when the EU curtails the power of the new gods of the digital age from Silicon Valley through antitrust laws. Integrating them into the European legal and, above all, cultural space. The nation also offers a space of civil security - another concept that Meyer does not want to lose to the populists. The nation, he said, is the space of the bourgeoisie and the Enlightenment, and it is here that political antagonism - but not hostility - must play itself out. Populists, according to Meyer, are not the result of bourgeois disputes, but the bourgeoisie shying away from them. At the same time, the concept of space requires the concept of borders, because borderlessness - driven, for example, by the digital companies of Silicon Valley - is the opposite of civility.


Finally, Fücks and Meyer agreed that a new civic-democratic project is needed. Singular problem-solving is not enough in an increasingly fragmented society. Fücks suggested that, in the search for an overarching normative idea, we should once again think about "fortified democracy". And Meyer made it clear at the end: Democracy must inspire people again!

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