Jan-Werner Müller

Jan-Werner Müller teaches at Princeton.

Prussian Disneyland

Jan-Werner Müller, 9 September 2021

The reconstructed palace, with Franco Stella’s razionalismo façade.

Thirty years ago​, the Bundestag voted to move from sleepy Bonn to newly unified Berlin. There was a lot of anxiety at the time that the change might signal the emergence of a more nationalist Germany, but even the most apprehensive couldn’t have imagined that the centre of the new-old capital, the...

Short Cuts: Blame Brussels

Jan-Werner Müller, 22 April 2021

The EU took on a task that should have brought it popularity, but for which it was ill-prepared; in the end, it performed, to quote the German finance minister, in a ‘shitty way’. As with the common currency and the refugee crisis, the union acquired features of a state – but in an incomplete and ultimately incoherent way. The Euro couldn’t function without a common fiscal policy; the shared border has lacked a unified asylum policy. And, as so often, the commission overpromised: ‘l’Europe qui protège’ ended up protecting free trade at least as much as the lives of citizens.

Le Roi-machine: Beyond Elections

Jan-Werner Müller, 19 March 2020

‘Our regimes are democratic,’ Pierre Rosanvallon states in the opening sentence of Good Government, ‘but we are not governed democratically.’ There has in recent decades been a shift, he argues, away from a model of democracy focused on representative assemblies towards one in which executives are dominant. More and more countries are adopting the presidential style of...

Populism and the People

Jan-Werner Müller, 23 May 2019

They do not​ all look the same. But group them together and they clearly form a political family: Orbán, Erdoğan, Kaczyński, Trump, Modi, perhaps Netanyahu, Bolsonaro for sure. It would be a mistake to homogenise what are, after all, fundamentally different national trajectories: the causes of the rise of right-wing populism are not identical in every case. But there is a trend...

Like many participants in discussions about the future of the EU, Verhofstadt fails to make some basic distinctions between power, competences and sovereignty. The UK ceded many competences to Brussels, but it never gave up sovereignty; otherwise the Brexit referendum and the bitter outcome of leaving the club wouldn’t have been legally possible. Brexit will indeed return some legal competences to London, but it will mean less power for the UK in the world, as the clout of Theresa May’s ‘global Britain’ (an extreme example of fantasy politics) will be much less than what the UK in conjunction with 27 other countries could have achieved in trade, security and many other areas.

Capitalism in One Family: The Populist Moment

Jan-Werner Müller, 1 December 2016

Not everyone who criticises elites is a populist. Those who draw a lazy equivalence between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump fail to recognise that populists don’t stop at protesting against Wall Street or ‘globalism’. Rather, populists claim that they and they alone speak in the name of what they tend to call the ‘real people’ or the ‘silent majority’. This claim to a moral monopoly of representation has two consequences that are immediately deleterious for democracy.

Europe’s Sullen Child: Breurope

Jan-Werner Müller, 2 June 2016

Far from concentrating minds, Brexit has been treated as yet another distraction in an EU facing multiple threats of disintegration. At last autumn’s summit meetings, convened to address the refugee crisis, other member states made clear their view that dealing with the UK was like trying to manage a narcissistic child. Ten years ago, London might have had a different vision for Europe and been taken seriously, even rallied other member states. Now Britain is seen not just as inward-looking, but as selfish and sullen. Cameron has removed the UK from the project of determining the Union’s future as a whole.

Rule-Breaking: The Problems of the Eurozone

Jan-Werner Müller, 27 August 2015

Never before have the struggles among national elites been as visible to the public as they were in the early weeks of this summer, when Greece almost left – or was made to leave – the Eurozone. Never before has an assertion of national popular will, as expressed in the Greek referendum of 5 July, been flouted so thoroughly and so quickly by the enforcers of European economic orthodoxy. Never before have the flaws of the Eurozone been so clearly exposed. We can expect more Greek drama before too long: the real struggle over the Eurozone – and the EU more broadly – is just beginning.

Short Cuts: Playing Democracy

Jan-Werner Müller, 19 June 2014

There​ has been much hand-wringing, even a sense of political panic, since the European elections. ‘Anti-establishment’ parties now occupy – so it’s said – a third of the Parliament. But there is a world of difference between Ukip, which just wants to be done with meddling foreigners, and what in essence are anti-austerity, but not anti-European, parties such...

The party’s over

Jan-Werner Müller, 22 May 2014

The word ‘party’ – as in ‘political party’ – is in bad odour across the West, though for different reasons in different places. In the United States, everyone from the president down seems to lament the polarisation of politics and the rise of partisanship. But then hostility to parties is nothing new in American history; ‘if I could not go to heaven but with a party,’ Jefferson wrote, ‘I would not go there at all.’ Europeans tend to be less in thrall to the ideals of the one indivisible nation. They worry about the opposite problem: that the parties are all the same.

Longing for Greater Hungary: Hungary

Jan-Werner Müller, 21 June 2012

In the 1980s Hungary was known as the ‘merriest barracks in the socialist camp’. After the suppression of the 1956 uprising by the Red Army, János Kádár instituted what became known as ‘goulash communism’, characterised by a policy of ‘little freedoms’: Hungarians could travel abroad, trade privately and say what they liked, so long as...

Germany is Europe’s paymaster. Even Franco-German summits are now really ‘German-German summits’, Romano Prodi said recently. But is Germany also becoming Europe’s political master? Many Europeans seem to fear it, but it would be wrong to say that Germany has developed fantasies of continental domination or become more Eurosceptic – at least any more Eurosceptic...

From The Blog
16 April 2014

Everything appears to be going according to plan for Viktor Orbán. The Hungarian prime minister was re-elected on 6 April; after another week of counting absentee ballots and the votes of newly enfranchised ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring states, it is now clear that Orbán’s Fidesz party will retain its two-thirds majority in parliament – enough to change the constitution at any time it sees fit. Such concentration of power is unusual in Europe. But it conforms to the political vision Orbán outlined in a speech in 2009: Hungary, he claimed then, needed a dominant ‘central force’ to overcome not only the legacies of state socialism, but also what Orbán portrays as a failed transition after 1989.

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