Pieter UysHALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Jun 2008
Decline and Fall is a valuable addition to the growing corpus of literature on the continent's problems and uncertain future. Recommended titles include the entertaining and witty but not unserious Menace in Europe by Claire Berlinski, the mostly disturbing While Europe Slept by Bruce Bawer and the melancholy The Last Days of Europe by Walter Laqueur.
What constitutes Europe? Besides the 25 countries of the EU and those awaiting membership, it also includes non-members like Switzerland and Norway. For Thornton, the idea of Europe represents a set of values and beliefs or a particular world-view that broadly defines the West in general. He examines the specific nature of the European model, one that is perceived in certain circles as more humane and sophisticated than that of the Anglosphere. Then the evidence of Europe's accelerating decline and its causes are discussed.
The welfare state, accepted across the political spectrum with almost complete unanimity, has resulted in disappointing economic growth rates and perpetually high unemployment. The birthrate of native Europeans is in steep decline whilst there are large unassimilated immigrant communities suffering from mass unemployment resulting in huge welfare dependence. These people are alienated from, even hostile to, their host countries.Read more ›
This book details what the author sees as Europe's decline. He argues that this is happening for a variety of reasons. These reasons are slow acting rather than dramatic. In other words, Europe is dying a slow lingering death, rather similar to a car running on a flat tire until it finally gives up and stops.
The author argues that the key element in Europe's decline is the collapse in religious faith, and its replacement with radical socialist central planning and militant secularism. The author argues that with Christianity dethroned in Europe, the vacuum was filled with radical socialism, which taught that there was/is no absolute truth or absolute standards. This led to a collapse in cultural confidence. It also led to a decline in democracy and local initiatives, as all power was concentrated in a small number of "experts'" hands in Brussels.
The book also talks about how "Eurabia" is rising, thanks to this inability of Europeans to stand up for their culture assertively against Islamic mass immigration and radical Islam, and the refusal of their political "elites" to address their concerns, which they scoff at as "populism" and "racism". With demographic changes taking place in Europe, this problem will only get worse.
All in all the book is an excellent read for anyone concerned about Europe's future. It is also a useful alternative view point to the pro-EU rave reviews some authors are writing. It would be useful for the reader to compare this title to "Why Europe will run the 21st Century" by Mark Leonard, and then decide for themselves which is the more likely outcome - a New European century, or the final scene on the global stage for Western man before he cedes world leadership to someone else.
Was this review helpful to you?
There is plenty to think about in this book- I hope things aren't quite as grim as the author believes but his critique of the politics of Europe and the descriptions of the new social movements and their origins are eye-opening. Certainly read the book but you should of course not believe everything or absorb the words uncritically. Nevertheless it is certainly a riveting read. You might just feel a little depressed after reading though ;)
Was this review helpful to you?
decline of europe!! what a shagging obscure terminology ! the term decline used here as if europe now is on the verge of declining due to invisible dark forces or circumstances that will cut europe into ribbons and what is this evil carnage that created a wrec havoc on europian society! the islamic terrorism! and according to the prophetic author it is defined or rather Circumstanced as the inabilty of the european governmentsand their unaccountabality to assimilate the muslims in their societies which is the contrary in their counterparts the americans wherein the muslims had been integrated successfully!!
Yeah right and omar abdulrahman the mastermind of world trade centre incident in 1993 is the ultimate prouve!!
the writer in his own word has admitted first that the decline of europe is associated with dechristianization of europe throught last centeries and espacially after the french revolution against the church and moarchies wich had dominated medieval europe and adopting instead a peudo religion called materialism. Paradoxically , the vacum created by abscence of religion factor in europe and replaced by conducting meterialism or even capitalism has created a demotivated society in which only 5% in certain countries are attending churches. Taking together, the only potential threat to europe decline in not an exteranl threat but internal one within the europe societies as drugs , suicide, rape, crime rates, are also considered a damaging factors and imploding as well for a potential decline.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Some interesting observations24 Dec 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
I think that Bruce Thornton has made some good points in this book about modern Europe. Early in the book, he uses H. G. Wells' book, "The Time Machine" as an intriguing analogy. Are Europeans becoming more like Wells' "Eloi," and commtting a sort of "slow-motion suicide?"
Politically, Europe is indeed annoying some of us in the United States. As Thornton explains, many Western Europeans were strongly opposed to any action against the Iraq regime of Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, ten Eastern European nations and eight other European nations wrote a letter of solidarity with the United States' intention to remove Hussein from power.
Still, a more genuine concern is not about day-to-day European politics but about Europe's ability to support a healthy and productive society. One fundamental issue is the ability to enforce basic laws and provide for the common defence. And Europe had great difficulty doing that in Bosnia. The EU was helpless here, and so was the UN. Only American troops were any good at stopping the mass murders. Thornton explains that the "Europeans do not have the military capacity to project force in order to stop the threat of brutality and slaughter, which means that they have no threat of force to give teeth to their non-lethal means of resolving conflict."
There is a chapter on the abandonment of the monotheist deity, and I'm not too impressed by that. I am a Polytheist and I think we humans are natural Pagans, given how varied and fickle we are. I'm not too worried about European Christians becoming more tolerant. But I am concerned that, as Thornton describes, we're seeing more intolerance from Europe's Muslims, much of which is accepted by the rest of the community.
Is there a demographic threat to Europe? Muslims could become as much as 30% of the European population in a few decades. Well, I think that depends on whether the Muslim community decides to focus on productive endeavors or on destruction and violence. If the latter occurs, yes, there will be problems, including the risk of more big European wars. I think a war against the Muslims is possible and a war in alliance with Muslims is possible as well. Hopefully, neither of these will occur. One metric that some people use has been antisemitism. It served as a warning that Europe was in trouble back in the 1930s, and it could serve as a similar warning today.
Thornton tries to put anti-Israeli ideologies into some perspective. As he explains, since World War Two about 25 million people have died in internal conflicts, while only 8000 of them have died in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet Israel has been condemned by the United Nations more than all other nations combined. Of course, I think it is good that there have not been even more casualties in the war against Israel. But I agree that the obsessive attacks on Israel, including the applause for such attacks from the European community, are not a good sign for Europe or for the rest of society.
I recommend this book.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Is Europe Kaput?25 May 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Hi Bernard Chapin saying hi and here's a review of Bruce Thornton's new book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Europe has a problem, but it's not Marxism6 Sep 2008
Ted Haoquan Chu
- Published on Amazon.com
This book is worth reading because it provides a profound analysis of Europe's capacity to grow and to play on the global political and economic stage. The author gets it right on many key issues, with the notable exception of its judgment of Marxism. (Hence only 4 stars.) Forget going-down-the drain image on the cover, which Mr. Thornton himself does not feel comfortable. As an economist, I advise readers not to treat this book as a prophecy of Europe's economic future. Largely ignoring the fact Europe is a complex entity with a vibrant business sector that's exposed to the competitive global markets, the prediction of a permanent economic decline in absolute terms is most likely to be proven wrong. I believe Europe is destined to slowly lose its relative political and economic power while maintaining a comfortable, if increasingly anxiety-filled, standard of living. That said, Mr. Thornton's central point is correct: the modern European civilization is intellectually and morally bankrupt. Post-war Europe has not found a unifying belief and transcendent value to fill the void left by an abandoned Christianity. Secular humanism offers an illusionary "EUtopia" in complete contrast to what made the West great. By committing to cultural relativism, social welfare entitlement, anti-religion, and anti-Americanism, the continent is committing a "slow motion" suicide. Economically, Europe is destined to increasing irrelevance because of its demographic crisis, social welfare system, and ethnic tensions associated with immigration. Written largely for an American audience, Mr. Thornton's book is a frontal attack on the romantic notion that Europe represents a progressive future that all advanced nations should emulate. The liberal left, such as Jeremy Rifkin, have argued that the American Dream of individualism, cultural exceptionalism, materialistic growth, private property rights and political realism toward the rivals of the West should be replaced by an European Dream of collectivism, cultural relativism, "sustainable" development, leisure, "rights of nature," and political appeasement. As an expert in classics and humanities, Thornton makes a powerful case that this European vision is rooted in the bankrupt Enlightenment Romanticism and the socialist dream of human perfectibility. The European dolce vita lifestyle is not a more humane and fulfilling way to live compared to workaholic, money-grubbing Americans. Without a higher purpose, the ultimate future for Europe could be H.G. Wells's Eloi, a delicate, youthful, vegetarian species that seems to live in a paradise but actually represents the retrogression of the human race. A staunch defender of religion, Mr. Thornton could have made a stronger case about the central human paradox: first, maximum human happiness and minimum pain are what we want, but we must transcend our own well-being; second, given human nature, our transcendence must be achieved through none other than pursuing our self-interests. In critiquing communist socialism that underpin the European social welfare system, he falls into the common trap of discrediting Marx's theory based on how much misery and how many deaths that the communists have caused. One could easily use his criterion to argue against his beloved Christianity. Furthermore, he seems to contradict himself by advocating religion on one hand, and discrediting Marxism as a mere pseudo religion on the other. In fact, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. As Thornton correctly pointed out, Marx's philosophical thought bears a deep imprint of Christianity, while the failure of USSR and other socialist countries is rooted in the Romantic notion of human perfectibility and the superiority of central planning over markets. Marx's idea that History is progressive, that it is up to us to find its direction, that we can make a difference in this universe is as powerful and attractive as ever. The failure of Marxism is the unfortunate result of its inability to adapt to changing economic, social, and cultural realities that falsified many of its precepts (ruthless persecution of the first "deviationist" to maintain Marxism's purity actually killed it), while the Christian theology managed to evolve (certainly beyond The Old Testament), discarding unworkable ideas such as the Utopian commune and adapting to new social environments. As Marx reacted to the French "Marxists" of the late 1870s, "All I know is that I am not a Marxist." Due to its unique experience of suffering greatly in God's hand for centuries, many European people remain wary of organized religion and lofty ideologies. Rightly so. But it is also a mistake to discard higher purpose altogether. Like Thornton, I am pessimistic about Europe's future, but hold out hope that somehow it will respond to various geopolitical, demographic, economic and social pressures and rediscover its spiritual roots.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant and timely work21 July 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent antidote for those delusional Americans that somehow maintain the illusion that the solutions for our country's woes (real or imagined) is for America to become "more like Europe." As Dr. Thornton points out, with fact after fact, is that it is of course exactly the opposite. This book is an excellent companion to Mark Steyn's "America Alone" and Bruce Bawer's "While Europe Slept."
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Is Europe in decline and fall?26 Feb 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Thornton argues that it is, and in this short book he explains how Europe found itself in this mess, and then talks about the consequences in the last half of the book.
Europe began the last century with "overwhelming global dominance" (p 27). So how, as Weigel asks, "'did a century that began with confident predictions about a maturing humanity...within four decades have two world wars, three totalitarian systems, a cold war threatening global catastrophe, oceans of blood, mountains of corpses, Auschwitz and the Gulag?'" (p 29).
The rot started even earlier with a growing self-hatred of the Christian civilization that had created the countries of Europe. Nuns and priests were guillotined en masse for loyalty to their religion, while the French army slaughtered some two hundred and fifty thousand of the Vendee, a pro Catholic peasant army.
Instead of worshiping God, man himself was to be the object of worship cried the French revolutionists. So did the Marxists later.
"The loss of Christian faith has exacerbated other tendencies within Western culture that further weaken its response to the challenge of Islamic jihad" (p 74). In the last fifty years, Europe has grown into a soggy welfare state, heavy on taxes and resolute in its determination only to make everyone worship the gods of multiculturalism, homosexuality, feminism, and Mother Earth.
Christians trying to school their children at home in Germany have been fleeing to the UK to avoid having the German state remove their children. The archbishop of the quickly-shrinking-to-the-size-of-a-pea Anglican religion recently suggested the UK should give Sharia law a try.
But leaving God behind has some nasty consequences. The free sexuality, not to mention the contraception and abortions, have resulted in a plunging birth rate. So plunging that there seems no hope at all. By 2050 the Muslims will be 30% of the population. And in yet another glaring example of insanity, European nations with their huge welfare benefits allow Muslim women to stay home and earn, simply by virtue of having four or five children, a very nice sum. In Berlin alone there are twenty-eight Islamic schools with ties to "extremist Islamic groups" (p 102).