According to former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, the world is connected by the threads of interdependence, denser in some areas than in others. In the context of sharing economies, information networks, currencies, and problems, these realities, Solana discusses in this semester's Richard von Weizsäcker Lecture, are challenging classical state borders. He argues that the European Union is a prime example of an attempt to move beyond these structures in order to deal productively with these shifts—yet the difficulties experienced in recent years have clearly shown that the European Union remains a work in progress. Overall, within today’s global landscape, Solana believes the search is on for the place of responsibility: Where does it lie, and who will take it? What will it take to ensure responsible governance of our interdependent world? Drawing on his longstanding experience within NATO, and as foreign policy maker in the European Union, Solana will offer a policy perspective on foreign and security policy in the age of economical, administrative and political interconnectedness.
On the evening of September 25, fiction fellow Adam Ross gave a captivating and dramatic reading of his novel in progress, Playworld. Academy visitor Joshua Cohen, the American short story writer (Four New Messages) and novelist (Witz), introduced Ross to an audience of fellow writers, avid readers, and Academy fellows. “In the fall of 1980, when I was 13, a friend of my parents named Naomi Shaw fell in love with me," Ross began. "She was 36, a mother of two, and married to a wealthy man. Like so many things that happened to me that year, it didn’t seem strange at the time.” Ross's uproarious tale describes, he says, “the story of Griffin Hurt, a child actor who finds himself surrounded by adult children—by adult actors who are wittingly or unwittingly borrowing against his emotional future, who are so indulgently at play that they function as terrible role models."
The American Academy welcomed its thirty-third class of fellows at the Hans Arnhold Center on September 18, 2014. The evening began with introductions by Academy Chairman A. Michael Hoffman and Executive Director Gary Smith. Hoffman welcomed not only the fellows but also Academy’s new Dean of Fellows, Wolf Schäfer, who was himself a new fellow just a year ago, in fall 2013. Each year, a prominent figure in Berlin’s cultural, academic, or political life welcomes the fellows to the city. The tradition was continued this semester, as Donald Runnicles, general music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, joined the Academy staff and guests and welcoming the fellows to Berlin. “Having studied tonight’s incredible list of new fellows at this storied institution,” Runnicles said, “I am humbled, genuinely honored, and very thrilled to welcome you to Berlin…. I’ve had the privilege of working in all the major cities of the world and I can say that this is perhaps the most remarkable city in the world.” Following Runnicles’s words of welcome, the fall class of fellows introduced themselves with short descriptions of their projects.
In his new book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society (Campus, 2014), social theorist Jeremy Rifkin argues that capitalism is becoming a victim of its own success: machines powered by alternative energies are undermining our sense of private property, taking away jobs, and turning consumers into free agents in a global “sharing economy.” While intense economic competition is forcing the introduction of ever newer technologies, productivity is reaching a point where the marginal cost of making additional units is so low they are essentially free. Rifkin describes how the emerging “Internet of things” will accelerate the beginning of an era of free goods and services, precipitating the rise of a global collaborative commons and the shutdown of capitalism: profits dry up, property ownership becomes meaningless, and an economy based on scarcity gives way to an economy of abundance, changing the very nature of society itself. In the wake of these developments, Rifkin envisions a new and more fulfilling form of communitarianism that spreads across the globe. This talk, at the Allianz Forum, was moderated by Reinhard Karger, Company Spokesman, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence; and President, German Society for Information and Knowledge.
With the Eurozone crisis in its fifth year, many continue to see the issue of Germany’s role and the future of the Euro as a prevalent one. In contrast to those who rally against the common European currency, C. Fred Bergsten continues to argue that Germany has an overwhelming number of reasons to make sure the euro succeeds, and that the Eurozone holds together through the crisis. While Germany has so far demonstrated the willingness to pay whatever price is necessary to preserve the Eurozone, Bergsten asks if it should indefinitely rely on financing its partners, or if it could rebalance its own economy in ways that would help adjust their imbalances. Are there feasible policy options, consistent with Germany’s affinity for stability, and abhorrence of fine-tuning, that could achieve such outcomes? Bergsten hopes such strategies might help overcome the “high-level stagnation” that is the legacy of the Euro crisis and could otherwise remain so for some time.