A critical assessment of Germany's stance during the Euro Crisis is clearly called for. The trick is to produce it without falling prey to generalisations that are both politically odious and analytically misleading. By Yanis Varoufakis.
Generalising is the first step toward racism. Every sentence beginning with “The Germans believe this” or “The Greeks do that” is an initial slide on a slippery slope leading, eventually, to bigotry. As I have argued before, there is no such thing as the Germans, or the Brits, or the Greeks for that matter. Our various nations sport as much variety within them as the divergence that we observe between them. Moreover, there is no such thing as the ‘representative’ German, Greek or American. The fact that groups, and naturally nations, are subject to social norms that generate patterned behaviour and mindsets does not annul this point. As long as some gallant Germans fought the Nazis and died in Auschwitz, the claim that ‘the Germans’ are prone to, or responsible for, Nazism is absurd. Similarly, the fact that tax evasion and corruption is prevalent in Greece is no excuse for loose talk about ‘the tax-evading and corrupt Greeks’. Does this, however, mean that one cannot articulate a legitimate critique of Germany, of Greece, of nations in general? In recent months, following the rampant Euro Crisis, much criticism has been piled on Germany. A lot of it (just like its equivalent directed against Greece, Italy etc.) is misplaced and downright offensive, even if founded on many discrete truths (all big lies are so founded). Then again, it is impossible to come to terms with the Euro Crisis’s persistence and evolution unless Germany’s position is critically assessed. So, what are the limits of rational and fair criticism? This is the question I wish to tackle below by offering three principles of fair and useful criticism.