One may wonder why “culture”? Why is it a blog on “cultural affairs” and yet dealing with matters which easily belong to the economic or political spheres. There is actually, an easy answer to that.
It is called “cultural”, because all matters that refer to human activity are “cultural”; that is, starting from the basic recipes for action (ways of doing things, schemes of action) and building up to higher complexity schemes of action (such as full fledged institutions), moving on to ideas, visions, values, the abstract realm which give direction and energy to human entreprise. All of which may, or may not, be inscribed in texts and symbols (regulations, treaties, basic laws). On top of all that one must place “politics” – that is, the driving force of human need to change or control its environment.
It is, therefore, an enormously wide, anthropological definition of culture, which includes all levels of the edifice that keep human interaction together: from the concrete tools of action to the abstract ideas that give guidance and direction.
It is from this perspective that I propose to follow the upcoming negotiations on a free-trade agreement between the EU and the US. The political vision espoused at the highest political level offers the abstract motivation for action: a Transatlantic Partnership would give the EU and the US the opportunity to expand trade and investment but also to contribute to the development of global rules that can strengthen the multilateral trading system. Viewed through our cultural lenses, we have a bold cultural and political statement (a vision and the driving force behind it) which can impact the level of everyday action (i.e. the multilateral trading system).
Certainly, this must all be placed in a context and viewed in the global economic context, where a weakened “West” is struggling to restore its economic prominence among the raising economic stars of other regions by joining hands under a common vision.
I believe this is a compelling way of looking at the evolution of relations among states and blocs. For a practical application of this framework of thinking you can check the Federal Trust Essay no. 32 at http://mayapur.securesites.net/fedtrust/filepool/Essay_32.pdf
and for a more in-depth handling of it, check the PhD thesis at http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?did=8&uin=uk.bl.ethos.433188.