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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 March 2015
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"I am a genuine European, by any measure you care to choose, and it gives me no satisfaction whatsoever to conclude that the European Union may well be doomed."

This comment is the very first sentence in the prologue to the book. The author, Professor of European Politics at Oxford, is a Polish national with a Dutch passport, working in the UK but owning a home in Italy. He might therefore be a poster boy for the European experiment. It isn't giving much away to say that he believes that, at least in its current form, the EU is doomed. He sees the current EU, which was intended to ensure prosperity through integration, as a symbol of austerity and indeed conflict. The aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis has laid bare some of the latent fissures in the EU, not just in terms of the Euro, but in how politics has been practiced such that the core countries, most notably Germany, have acted in their national interest whilst forcing weaker countries in financial difficulties, most notably Greece, to implement policies which are economically, politically & socially very damaging. I read this after the Greeks voted in the Syriza government, something which Zielonka considered a possibility when he was writing his essay.

Zielonka sets out the problems and failings of the EU and posits an alternative approach to European integration based on a functional rather than territorial premise, with much more informal and devolved arrangements for integration and co-operation involving cities & regions, non-state actors, etc.. I must confess I am not wholly convinced by his arguments. For example, I cannot see that 'global cities' will take on the role he proposes to the detriment of the nation states in which those cities are located, nor do I think it likely that non-state actors will have the kind of freedom to act Zielonka appears to envisage – there is as much distrust of large corporations operating on a transnational basis as there is of political parties & governments.

I suspect the EU is holed below the waterline – the financial crisis highlighted the fundamental flaws in the single currency and the inability of European institutions to respond (we've only just got quantitative easing in European, arguably years too late). The policy stance of the stronger EU countries has surely given the lie to European integration with already weak countries brought to their knees by economic policies designed to sustain the Euro (which benefits the richer countries particularly Germany). Even outside the countries affected most by the bailout conditions, Eurosceptic and nationalist political parties are making inroads.

Overall, its an interesting and though-provoking essay but I remain to be convinced that what he proposes would be accepted, or would work in practice.
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VINE VOICEon 2 October 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A rather glib headline title, but as an interested and sometimes bemused layman, this essay on the nature of the EU attracted my attention. Her stance on the relative ineffectiveness of the EU in its current format is cogently presented in an accessible way. It is of a length to maintain interest, and I feel everyone who reads it will gain something useful in forming personal views on the future nature of the EU.

In brief we have a situation where the EU is too big to fail, but that the original vision of European integration does not now pass the reality test. The existence of strong political bias and concern for individual interests over national interests is a consistent feature, and is put convincingly forward within the essay. The conclusion that a functional network of mutual cooperation will be part of a new style integration between member countries is certainly a compelling one to replace the strong political bias that it now has.

A recommended brief foray into this subject matter.
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VINE VOICEon 22 November 2014
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In answer to the question of the title, Zielonka's response is essentiall: 'In it's current form, yes; as an idea and a network of countries pooling their strengths, hopefully not.'
This is another good addition to Polity Press' Global Futures Series (I also enjoyed 'Will the Middle East Implode?'), which provide accessibly written, pocket-size primers on important global topics. In this volume, Jan Zielonka, Professor of European Politics at Oxford University, takes us through where the EU has gone wrong since its inception (too many failed promises; too inflexible; no sense of identity or true European community), what is happening to it now (denying its problems; unable to accept that one-size-fits-all EU policies are never going to work; fighting a losing battle to remain in the status quo), what is should be doing now (evolving; slowly disintegrating into a series of smaller bodies that can offer more flexibility) and what it has to do in future in order to continue to exist in some form (consider the role of NGOs and the private sector as pseudo authority figures; develop a series of neo-medieval networks and connections, with bodies responsible for certain sectors operating cross-territorially; through these flexible networks, create an EU where one part can fail/adapt without affecting/being blocked by the rest of the EU).
Zielonka's most telling comment is that: 'The problem is that the EU has become too big to fail.' Like the banks he is alluding to here, the EU serves a critical function, but has lost its way and become corrupt. However, its member states need to reform the EU rather than abandon it, realising there is something to be said for strength in numbers, especially considering the rise of global superpowers such as Brazil, India and China, and of course the dominance of the USA. We need to take the best of the EU and dump the inflexible bureaucratic elements. In an ever-changing world, the EU needs to become more streamlined and stratified (Zielonka talks about it as organisations arranged in a series of horizontal, polycentric rings, rather than a vertical pyramid) making it able to adapt quickly to global developments - not just now, but going forward.
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2014
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The author, Jan Zielonka does not hold out much hope for the EU by way of progress as World Super-power in its present form.
In this book, Is The EU Doomed, Jan argues that in order for the vision and dream of a Europe without borders, prospering Economically and boasting political prominence, that a radically different concept of European integration is needed.

Jan say's that in spite of the present problems the EU is facing that, the present waning will not lead to chaos and disintegration. He say's that Integration will continue, fed by profound economic interdependence, cultural empathy and political pragmatism.
However, he argues that this will be a new form of integration with no ambition to create a pan-European government.
Integration, he states, will evolve along "Functional," rather than territorial lines. It will be carried out by various regulatory agencies made up of national and regional governments, large cities and NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations), representing business and citizens.

He adds, "Such diverse and decentralized integrated networks are likely to be more effective and responsive than the current EU, with it's rigid rules, dysfunctional central institutions and disconnection from the concerns of citizens and markets."

This book tries to capture this new mode of integration by employing the musical metaphor or polyphony. In the field of music, polyphony is sound and voice with a complex texture, music with parts written against other parts, with several simultaneous voices and melodys.
Polyphony does not assume unity and hierarchy, but draws strength and functionality from numerous set's from loose and contrapuntal relationships. So the aim of polyphonic integration would be for Europe's parts to work in greater harmony without losing Europe's greatest treasure: It's diversity and pluralism. Conversely, Integration led by the rigid "One size fit's all," policies, has led to dissonance, rather than harmony.

This book will make you think outside the box of rigid, inward reflecting politics and is therefore a good exercise for all who are interested in or involved in European Integration
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`The crisis of the EU has generated a plethora of articles, but few books so far' says Professor Zielonka, so he tries to compensate this lack with what he calls modestly `an essay', 114 small pages of it. As an essay it is rather brilliant. As analysis and prediction I'm not so sure. For striking imagery I recall `institutions have a very long half-life, even when they are not working'; and as incisive perception I am not going to forget `The EU's legitimacy rests primarily on efficiency, not democracy or national identity.' To use a duller image of my own, that hits the proverbial nail. More or less everyone was in favour of the EC or whatever it used to be called simply because nobody was interested, something that Zielonka fully acknowledges. So long as it kept delivering goodies that was all that people wanted to know: they couldn't even be bothered voting in Euro-elections. Come an economic crisis and the shortcomings of the EU impinged on people's consciousness. In hard economic times nationalism can be relied on to flare up. That happened, the EU has become a convenient scapegoat for the so-called sceptics, sc outright opponents, and the rise in what calls itself nationalism is really a surge in xenophobia.

We should all know by now, and someone from Zielonka's background should be more aware than most, just what xenophobia in Europe can lead to. Zielonka is far too short-term in his thinking here, and I would call this the major failing in the book. It is all very well putting together a complacent little analysis of current German intentions and concluding (rightly, I dare say) that there is no obvious threat from that quarter. That is not the only quarter it could come from, and if one thing more than all the rest put together justifies the original European vision it is the simple but profound conviction that what we need is a unifying force to keep Europe united in the face of crises that may blow up. It's Mr Rumsfeld's Unknown Unknowns. I like Mr Rumsfeld no better than Professor Zielonka does, but whatever he was, he wasn't stupid.

In case I am giving any impression that Zielonka himself is some variety of nationalist, let me make clear that he is anything but. He sees quite clearly that national identity is not what it was, and as another example of a good thing well said let me quote `Sovereignty is a meaningful concept only when a state's legal-political borders overlap with its market transaction fringes, military frontiers and migration traits. This has not been the case for quite a while.' Indeed not, and it ain't going to be either, whatever waffle we get from UKIP, Mme Le Pen and the rest of them. As I write this review we are just over a month away from a referendum in Scotland on proposed independence from the `United' Kingdom. Polls indicate that the Nationalists will lose, although I don't need telling that polls can be wrong. They can be right too, and usually are, and if they are my own conclusion is that although the Nats have the all the poets and folk-singers, in the last resort it's the economy stoopit, as another insightful American politician remarked (in his own accent of course).

Still supposing that the Scottish referendum dismisses separation, it will be treated (quite fairly in my own view) as a strong indication that there is no necessary salvation to be found in decentralisation. Put simply, some things are always better centralised, and any diluted form of national definition still needs laws and someone with the authority to pass them. Another thing to note about the Scottish independence proposals is that they are rather 'independence-light'. It is intended to keep the monarchy, keep sterling, stay in the Commonwealth, stay in the EU even! So whichever way the vote goes the difference may turn out to be less than we are being led to think, and that perception is echoed in Zielonka's well-posed question (regarding some hypothetical `in-out' referendum in Britain on EU membership) regarding what `out' will mean exactly. Maybe not all that much in the event.

Somewhere around this stage in the argument Professor Zielonka begins to suffer a touch of wheel-slip. He is perfectly right to note that there is strong and growing influence from non-government actors, but he gets a bit carried away with this exciting discovery, which is not all that new or radical, it seems to me. It comes with globalisation to a great extent, but the very mention of that word also shows that there is a strong and necessary tendency to harmonisation of standards and pooling of resources. It's a two-way street, and at least one of the good Professor's examples is achingly ill-chosen. He seems impressed by public/private commercial initiatives, and, again he is entitled to be impressed up to a point. However it would be wiser not to generalise, and I recommend the Professor a close study of the exposes of the London Underground venture and several hospital trusts provided over years by that admirable publication Private Eye.

Considering how many good and memorable expressions there are in this short book it is a crying shame that he has chosen for his motto a concept that he calls `neo-mediaevalism'. This, I suspect, is going to get hung around his neck. Regionalism, devolution, franchising and common-interest groups are hardly anything novel, after all. They were here to stay before Zielonka wrote a word, and their advance will come through their own inherent momentum, unaided by the banner with the strange device `Neo-mediaevalism'. Another perception that is not new, but which is uncomfortably hard for the sceptics to wish away, is simply that the EU is too big to fail. It needs a good boot up the backside to reform its pompous rigidity and get in touch with its public. Change the name by all means, if that helps.
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VINE VOICEon 16 May 2015
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The slightly bleak question that is the title of the book means to attract one's attention and start thinking about what this "experiment" of bringing a number of nations together might have in store for us and itself in the near future.

The main point the author is making is that in its current format, the EU, much like financial institutions, has become too big to fail; in other words, it has strayed from its original objective of real integration to one that serves a one-size-fits-all policies that are dispensed on nations with the expectation that Europeans will respond in a homogenous manner. Admittedly, one will find the main tenets of core European countries wanting to shield and promote their own interests; thus, forcing other nations down the path of unpopular choices and compromises to be made.

The main thesis is that there is still hope for the EU! This hope, however, comes in the form of real collaborative work on a different level; this should be more on the functional level and should transcend borders, where possible. The author uses the example of 'global cities' and non-state actors to promote the argument. However, this is highly debatable and as the UK is now experiencing with Scotland's expected enhanced dissolved powers, only time can tell!

Overall, a thought provoking read and a very good introductory guide to EU politics!
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VINE VOICEon 25 June 2014
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This is a strongly Eurosceptic essay by an Oxford professor. Unlike many Eurosceptics, however, he presents a rational rather than an ideological case for why he thinks the EU in its present form will not survive. But he does not advocate its abolition, rather he describes the different path he thinks it should take, based not on national states but on what he describes as a "polyphony" of city states and other blocs as existed in medieval times.
It is an interesting thesis, but I feel it is most impractical as it would require, presumably, every country to agree to it. I cannot see this happening. There is a useful bibliography and some fairly extensive notes. No index, however, which I always feel is a drawback for this kind of book.
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VINE VOICEon 9 September 2014
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When I saw the description in the prologue as an "essay", I must confess to having been afraid that this would be an impenetrable academic diatribe. I am pleased to report that this expectation was unjustified. Professor Zielonka, a Pole and therefore only an EU citizen for a little over twelve years, is expertly placed to observe on the "state of the union".

Despite the modest length, sections on crisis, disintegration, reintegration, and vision are easily accessible and thoughtful. The concept of "polyphony" jars slightly given that so much discussion of the EU tends to descend into general rudeness and unverified arguments. But this is a minor quibble in the overall context.
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on 23 September 2014
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Although written from a eurosceptic point of view this is a very balanced analysis of the EU in it's current form, looking it's present problems, but also explaining it's opportunities and how it can develop positively in the future.

As with all the books in what is developing into a very good series this is more of an essay than anything else and Zielonka takes a very refreshing 'warts and all' approach to the EU and comes up with some thought-provoking and innovative suggestions for the way forward, which involves a more flexible, devolved structure than the current monolithic and largely undemocratic one. An excellent addition to the debate and well worth absorbing.
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on 8 October 2014
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This is another short essay on a topical theme produced in a series that has asked some of the most pertinent issues facing the modern world.

Is the EU doomed? Well, in my opinion, the death of the EU will be hastened if the Conservatives win the next election and deliver on their promise of a straightforward in/out vote. Because, make no mistake, if this great nation of ours votes 'Out' (a definite possibility) the EU will wither and die on the vine.

This book looks at likely outcomes for Europe and the EU and considers a range of possibilities.
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