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4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and a creative alternative to stalemate,
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
4.0 out of 5 stars POOLING TOGETHER AND PULLING APART,
`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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Far and Distant Land !,
Excellent little volume, or essay as I believe Prof Zielonka describes it. I suspect too that in many ways he is pushing on an open door here – certainly with people like me who are simply looking for our chance to vote for the exit! His discussion and arguments, I am prepared to accept wholesale and he covers the salient points of my dissatisfaction with the EU quite nicely but perhaps with not as much passion as I would like.
I suspect too that the EU is already dead and simply kept alive by rhetoric, obfuscation, sheer lies and, of course, denying people a decent vote to reveal what they really think.
Prof Zielonka writes beautifully, succinctly and elegantly and though it is a fairly short volume, a reasonable amount of ground is covered. I especially liked the discussions on the role of Germany and though I am happy to accept that it is a magnificent and powerful country that we can all admire, I am certain that this tends to cause more problems than it solves, especially for the ‘underbelly’ of countries such as Greece and I am sure the views of the Cypriots on the matter would also make interesting reading. Furthermore, despite it being such an impressive country I am not sure the Germans would be interested in, nor make particularly effective leaders and I suspect that for much of the EU this view would be widely held. I wonder, too, whether most of our countries are looking for decent leaders rather than one-size fits all that seem to abound in as many countries that we care to name and instead we all have focus-group-led malleable politicians, and perhaps this is why the far right in France, and Nigel Farage in the UK are gaining such traction. The other worrying thing of course is if the UK cannot even keep the Union with Scotland together, how can something the size of the EU fail to disintegrate. Like the author, I cannot accept that we are all staying together because we fear another war !
Herein lies the last past of Prof Zielonka’s essay; he accepts that the EU is dead but that co-operation will continue and I am certain that this is the only pragmatic approach. I would have also liked him to discuss the unique and enviable position that the UK is in because we could easily trade more with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a host of other Commonwealth countries, as well as the EU. He discusses the fact that the EU is too big to fail but I can’t help but agree that a well planned dismantling with continued co-operation between sovereign nations must surely be the end game that the vast majority want, rather than some vast, expensive and undemocratic construct that is neither containable nor serving anyone’s particular interests other than the bloated administrators that have appointed themselves to run it. Don’t get me started! Many thanks.
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended book in this excellent new series,
The author is Professor of European Politics at the University of Oxford and his book is the 4th in the excellent new series entitled Global Futures which offer short introductions to burning current issues. His answer is Yes,in its current form. He regards the Euro and current European institutions as flawed but thinks the EU can survive as a network of cities, regions and NGOs.
Rating 5 out of 5.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Eurosceptic essay, interesting but probably impractical,
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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Is the EU Doomed by Jan Zielonka