A New Yorker profile of German Chancellor Angela Merkel depicts a shrewd politician cut to the shape of leadership in our age: bland, personally reserved and entirely uninterested in challenging the prevailing neoliberal order.

Merkel has been dubbed the “Chancellor of Europe” for presiding over a thriving Germany while driving the continent into ruinous social and economic austerity during the ongoing eurozone crisis.

Magazine regular George Packer’s feature, published in the Dec. 1 issue of The New Yorker, begins:

A summer afternoon at the Reichstag. Soft Berlin light filters down through the great glass dome, past tourists ascending the spiral ramp, and into the main hall of parliament. Half the members’ seats are empty. At the lectern, a short, slightly hunched figure in a fuchsia jacket, black slacks, and a helmet of no-color hair is reading a speech from a binder. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and the world’s most powerful woman, is making every effort not to be interesting.

“As the federal government, we have been carrying out a threefold policy since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis,” Merkel says, staring at the binder. Her delivery is toneless, as if she were trying to induce her audience into shifting its attention elsewhere. “Besides the first part of this triad, targeted support for Ukraine, is, second, the unceasing effort to find a diplomatic solution for the crisis in the dialogue with Russia.” For years, public speaking was visibly painful to Merkel, her hands a particular source of trouble; eventually, she learned to bring her fingertips together in a diamond shape over her stomach.

[…] While most of Europe stagnates, Germany is an economic juggernaut, with low unemployment and a resilient manufacturing base. The ongoing monetary crisis of the euro zone has turned Germany, Europe’s largest creditor nation, into a regional superpower—one of Merkel’s biographers calls her “the Chancellor of Europe.” While America slides into ever-deeper inequality, Germany retains its middle class and a high level of social solidarity. Angry young protesters fill the public squares of countries around the world, but German crowds gather for outdoor concerts and beery World Cup celebrations. Now almost pacifist after its history of militarism, Germany has stayed out of most of the recent wars that have proved punishing and inconclusive for other Western countries. The latest E.U. elections, in May, saw parties on the far left and the far right grow more popular around the Continent, except in Germany, where the winners were the centrists whose bland faces—evoking economics professors and H.R. managers—smiled on campaign posters, none more ubiquitous than that of Merkel, who wasn’t even on the ballot. American politics is so polarized that Congress has virtually stopped functioning; the consensus in Germany is so stable that new laws pour forth from parliament while meaningful debate has almost disappeared.

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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