This morning we got the news that there had been reached an agreement about the Greek insolvency problem. It turned out to be a prescription by the non-Greek EU countries for how Greeks have to adapt their life styles into a new format, turning to what, e.g., Germans and Dutch prefer. This seems a strange, imperalistic turn within the EU of the 28, of the 28 with equal rights.
Many stories can be woven around the origin of the current crisis. And many stories can have a go at predicting what will happen next.
A diversity of stories fight for popular support. Some of them seem to disregard arguments that might be brought to the fore when considering complexity theory. So let us look at the EU-Greece upheaval through complexity spectacles, as a rather preliminary attempt at providing a live example of CANS reasoning.
As we are exclusively informed by the media, we are not really well informed about the ins and outs of the negotiation processes, nor about the realities of the financial chaos, nor about its percieved and real urgencies, we have to fall back on storytelling.
We can safely assume that the EU is a complex adaptive networked system, just like a soccer team or a living human body.
When we compare the EU with a soccer team and Greece with one of its players, we compare with a soccer match where a player misbehaved and a need for punishment is felt by the other players: the player can be sent off for some time, or definitively (and then the team has to continue without him). Of course then the player may join a different team.
When, on the other hand, we compare the EU with a living body and Greece with a vital organ (e.g., heart, brain, liver) that misbehaved, so much so in fact that an auto-immune reaction threatens to reject the organ from the system, this may trigger a very unfavorable critical transition. Transplantation efforts may be endeavored, yet the result may be rejected too.
We do not know what comparison is most near to the mark.
We do know that both types of arguments are considered in practice. It is difficult to find a rational way out, without changing the rules of the game, without adaptation. Yet we would not be surprised when European righteous minds (cf. Haidt 2012) will put Greece into a squeeze not completely unlike the squeeze Germany was put into after WWI.
Complexity theory would — when EU integrity is considered useful — suggest arguments that result from less simple framings and seek refuge into an attitude close to inclusive pragmatism. It is a pity, we think, that current political ethics in the EU have during recent decennia been taking a turn to the parochial, and away from the urge to include arguments resulting from taking a crude look at the whole.
Haidt, Jonathan. 2012. The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Allen Lane.