This is The European Perspective

European voices and topics

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Have you ever wondered why, when it’s snowing in New York, it is mentioned in prime time news all over the world? This quote is from one of Spain’s midday news: «In order to reach the street, neighbours in Staten Island have to remove all this snow.»

So what? Why is this important for an audience in Europe?

Let’s look at books. How many of the non-fiction that you have read in the last year has been written by American authors? How many of the ideas you hear about are rooted in an American environment?

Being hegemonic in economy and language, it is perhaps unavoidable to be surrounded by the USA culture. Sometimes we might feel something is sligthly off in the way these stories are told. Many times we are not even aware of the cultural differences between the writers and the European readers.

What you are reading right now aims at being an alternative.

There are hundreds of intellectuals born, raised, and located in Europe at the highest intellectual level. But they might not be that well-known, or not have access to mainstream media. We believe they are the best fit for the European public, and we want to bring them to your attention.

This is what relevant Europeans are doing, writing, and thinking, packed in a quick-to-read format, and arriving regularly at your door. This is The European Perspective.

In this pilot number we feature:

  • Helen Steward, British philosopher. Do we have free will?

  • Daniel Ek, Swedish technological entrepreneur. Can a podcast platform limit what podcasters say?

  • Nidžara Ahmetašević, Bosnian journalist. What do migrants see when they dream of Europe?

  • Philip d’Iribarne, French anthropologist. Is the mainstream management theory applicable everywhere?

Let’s dive in!

It’s up to us

We have chosen to open The European Perspective with a scholar interested in free will. We have chosen Helen Steward. Was this choice predetermined, or did we make it really out of our own volition? 

Let’s imagine a process, a set of rules and equations that could have predicted (determined) this choice. It would have some entry variables, for instance the exposure of European intellectuals in the mainstream media. The more accurate we want it to be, the more variables we would need to add.

However, adding more variables would not necessarily increase the accuracy of the model. It could very well just introduce more noise. So, can we model every decision we make? Can we find out what are the root causes that made us choose what we chose?

Steward’s concept of agency is like a set of powers. It explains that things occur not because there are written rules, but because people take actions. People settle matters. Humans (and also animals) are constrained by the physical laws, but these constraints don’t dictate what we do. This agency is inconsistent with the determinism of the rules. 

Helen Steward says «it’s up to us». We choose this sentence to open The European Perspective because we find it greatly empowering. We’re constrained by the present, but the future is not fixed. We can choose different ways, that’s our agency. 

Otherwise, how can we learn, if not by choosing to do things differently the second time? Quality processes are based on feedback and subsequent corrections. If there is no agency, how can we produce quality work?

This is The European Perspective, a loudspeaker for european people and ideas. We have chosen it to make it so. Whatever this will become, it’s up to us. Welcome!

Swedish father of two invests in music platform and gets entangled in content moderation controversy

Daniel Ek is from Stockholm. He is 39, married, two kids. Some days ago, he invested $50M in Spotify stock, the company he founded and currently runs as CEO.

Spotify is a Swedish enterprise that is listed in the New York Stock Exchange through a holding company based in Luxembourg. It went public in April 2018 opening at $165.90. It reached its maximum valuation 3 years later, in April 2021, at $364.59. The trend reversed abruptly and some days ago, in April 2022, it hit the lowest at $96.67. So maybe, if you do believe in your company, it might be a good moment to buy. However, Spotify is not yet a profitable enterprise. It has posted losses every year since it was founded, and it’s in 2022 that the market predicts it will generate profits for the first time. 

But Spotify can’t be analysed as a standalone company. It is also a platform that generates revenue for others. More than 50.000 of the 200.000 estimated professional artists in Spotify generated more than $10K in 2021. There is a caveat: as Spotify doesn’t pay the artists directly(they pay the right holders, such as the record labels, which in turn have agreements with the artists) it is not possible to know exactly how much the artists actually make. Spotify offers this data through the website «Lound and Clear».

Ek and Spotify have been recently involved in a controversy about content moderation. At the origin of it there’s Joe Rogan, an American podcaster. Rogan hosts a show based on 3-hour long interviews, which airs exclusively at Spotify. It’s the most listened-to podcast on the platform, with 11 million listeners per episode. It is one of the top shows in English-speaking countries (Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand)

Rogan was accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, and of using racial slurs. Musician Neil Young was the first of a handful of artists that decided to take their music off Spotify if it continued to host Rogan. In the end Rogan stays, and Young goes away. Ek explained in a letter to the staff the reasons: «I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer«, «Canceling voices is a slippery slope«. 

Spotify claims they’re not the publisher, because they don’t have editorial control of the content. Following this controversy, Rogan has taken down around 70 episodes. Spotify has, however, a short list of prohibited content in their platform: «copyright infringing content».

Could this polemic translate into European terms? We think it is unlikely that a similar issue will sweep over Europe because using English as a common language is not at that stage yet. But it could happen in Germany, one of the most mature podcast markets, with several exclusive agreements to launch on Spotify. 

On the Balkan migrant route, towards the dream of Europe

Nidžara Ahmetašević is a journalist from Sarajevo. She’s now 47. When she was 16, in 1992, she flew from there when the city was besieged by the Bosnian Serb army. She became an unaccompanied minor seeking refuge in Croatia and Germany. 

Being a war and genocide survivor, she understands how it feels to be a refugee. These are excerpts from the TEDx talk she gave in 2017:

  • «I felt like nobody»

  • «A Croatian police officer took my refugee documents and just ripped them off. Basically, I had to leave the country.»

  • «It’s not good to be a refugee. You feel humiliated. You feel down all the time. You feel like an alien.»

  • «Nobody really gives you a chance because of what you are, but because of the pity they feel for you.» 

So she went back to Sarajevo in 1994, still under the siege, in the middle of the war.

From 2015 onwards she has focused her journalist work on the situation of migrants and refugees. She has worked on the Western Balkan Route, one of the main migratory paths into Europe. During that year, 764.000 people crossed the EU border through this route.  

She is a nominee for the European Press Prize 2022 in the category «Public Discourse». The piece she wrote, dated August 2021 (when the Taliban entered Kabul), tells the story of Afghan migrants in Europe whom she met while volunteering in Sarajevo’s train station. Bosnia is a blocking point in the migrants route. They want to cross over to Croatia, but are rejected at the border. 

Nidzara says that migrants come looking for «the dream of Europe«. Which, for many of them, is just the chance to have a normal life. This is a summary of the story of Idriss, as portrayed in Kosovo 2.0, the media outlet that published Nidzara’s piece:

Ahmetašević argues in her searing essay that forcing young Idris to walk across the deserts of Iran, to be imprisoned in a camp in Greece, to sleep under bridges in Sarajevo and to face club-swinging Croatian police, all because he wants access to basic medical care and a chance at a good life, surely this too represents a betrayal of human rights and “European values.” Surely this too is evidence that the world had long ago turned its back on the plight of Afghans.

At The European Perspective we also have a dream of Europe, that of an open and welcoming place. An ideal which means peace, which hosts people fleeing from wars, which offers opportunities not out of pity, but out of respect for the professional and personal value of the arrivals. Paraphrasing Nidzara, we believe in a Europe that opens its eyes, its minds, and its hearts, and therefore, its borders.

You can read the whole piece at «The world turned its back on Afghans a long time ago«. 

If it works in America it might not work somewhere else

Philippe d’Iribarne is a French author with multiple backgrounds (engineer, economist and anthropologist). He has recently published a book about a new paradigm on the link between culture and management. 

On it, he claims that management theory has been skewed towards American values and paradigms. This biases the state of the art of research on management, and leads to the idea that whatever works in American contexts, must work everywhere. 

But it does not, and books can be filled with examples of failed approaches to management which follow the (American) mainstream ideas. D’Iribarne has researched for decades about how cultural differences impact management. The first chapter of his book is titled «The utopia of a universal management theory»

Another European psychologist claiming that cultures differ was Gert Hofstede. D’Iribarne offers very interesting critiques of Hofstede’s work. For instance, while Hofstede’s view on culture characterises societies as a whole, D’Iribarne reminds that societies are not uniform, that organisations are not either, and that people (and cultures) change over time. 

At The European Perspective we can’t be supportive enough of D’Iribarne’s approach, and we tread on the same path: we want to be loudspeakers for european voices, to counter the all-American choir, and to find out what really works in our continent. 

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