The eurozone crisis and the Marshall Plan metaphor

Until the summer of 2012 I cannot find any use of the Marshall Plan as an analogy for understanding and resolving eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Marshall Plan had at its centre a massive sovereign debt relief programme that was particularly propitious for new West Germany. Metaphors can be very hard to avoid. Much thinking involves comparing something new and unfamiliar to something old and familiar that we believe we understand. Some philosophers have tried to think without metaphors, purporting to engage in “pure” description, but has turned out to be rather fruitless. We are pretty much captive to our metaphors. What we can do, however, is bring them to the surface of our consciousness in order to assess their relative appropriateness in any specific case. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the stories about contemporary international events. As we search to understand them we have recourse to prior historical events, historical figures, literary analogies, organizational models that provide both meaning and possible responses to what would otherwise seem like disparate and inexplicable happenings. Some metaphors, such as ‘Munich’ as a metonym for the appeasement of dictators or ‘Vietnam’ for military interventions without exit strategies, have become clichés that arguably offer little intellectual purchase in many of situations to which they are now applied. But in communicating with other leaders and with publics, politicians need to use familiar terms to justify their action or inaction. ‘History’ serves as a reservoir of ‘lessons’ imparted by well-known metaphors. That history has moved on becomes secondary to the need to express unfamiliar in familiar language. One metaphor that always seems to come back to life whenever there is a political-economic crisis somewhere around the world is that of the Marshall Plan: programme sponsored by the United States government in 1947 to help rebuild a Europe devastated by war. The invocation of the Marshall Plan usually implies the presence of a cataclysmic shock that cannot readily be blamed on any particular party; it also evokes need for a powerful state to give incentives to make others respond collectively to that shock. But these features are rarely spelled out. The metaphoric reference may take on a mystical aura. In the early 1990s there were calls for a Marshall Plan for former Soviet sphere of influence in the face of economic decline and political disintegration. More recently, the threats from global climate change, the challenge of political change in the Middle East, and the problem of rebuilding war-torn countries in Africa have all led to its application. In none of these cases has it been entirely clear what exactly should be done that might be akin to what happened in Europe between 1947 and 1952. Three elements to successful deployment of the metaphor point to its use as a model for action rather than a simple rhetorical device: one is its harkening back to a dirigiste approach to political action rather than waiting for market-based initiatives. A second is its invocation or reminder of need for urgency by those currently less affected by a crisis because it will eventually affect them too. Finally, it implies a bold initiative that only a Great Power looking out for the collective interest can undertake (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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