Democracy in Europe Paperback – 7 Jun 2001
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"Increasingly, we find ourselves worshipping at the altar of economic growth rather than citizenship." Larry Siedentop's clear-headed exploration of the drift towards European federalism, and our recalcitrant response to its needs, identifies a crisis in European liberalism. Economism, exemplified by Thatcherite policy but rife throughout Europe, outstripped the political will, with destabilising consequences for the state. Lack of cohesive thought and a culture of consent will, he argues, almost certainly prove ruinous in the future. His suggestions include a three-stage model for liberal democracy and constitutionalism, a European Senate, greater legal presence, laws that reflect social thinking and the mobilisation of "active" citizens, rather than the ancient regime model of aristocratic rule.
If it took a Frenchman, Alexis De Tocqueville, to shrewdly analyse American democracy in 1835, (Siedentop's title consciously echoing Democracy in America), it takes an American Oxford law fellow to sort the democratic diamonds from the Eurotrash. He panders neither to Europhobe nor Europhile, but asks both to examine their positions, and sensibly gives no truck to Labour or Tory posturing. Between the Scylla and Charybdis of British "common sense" and French bureaucracy, sails the Federalist Frigate, manned by a German crew and flying the American flag. Harsh criticisms of French agenda within Europe are slightly tempered by the acknowledgement that what drives it, apart from fear of a reunited Germany, is a fierce desire for a modern, cultural Europe; a "brand name". However, where the United States had a lingua franca, social mobility and a blank(ish) canvas on which to write its constitution, Europe has an infinitely harder task. Its switch must be sideways, and creakily painful. That it must happen is inevitable, but Siedentop's ringing conclusion to these compelling, searching political essays advocates caution: "Federalism is the right goal for Europe. But Europe is not yet ready for federalism." Siedentop's brilliantly bold, far-ranging provocation, faultlessly balancing historical narrative with political acuity, provides sophisticated kindling. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This enjoyable, easily accessible 'call to arms' is recommended.--W.M. Downs "Choice Reviews "See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It's not surprising that this is written by an American, as the level of enthusiasm for what might be termed classic liberalism seems to have almost disappeared in this country. (I read this soon after reading Jonathan Freedland's excellent "Bring Home the Revolution" which looks at the way the US has thrived on the enlightenment ideals developed in large part in this country and now sorely in need of some sort of rebirth here.) And I can imagine Siedentop's arguments might not go down too well with many, especially on the left, as he has some robust points to make about, for instance, multiculturalism.
This is not an easy read, by which I mean that you need to engage with the book, and to follow the arguments through. It's well written though, and will reward the effort you put in. In fact it's the best book I can recall reading on political philosophy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this book in a charity shop a few days before I was due to travel to Brussels to meet some European bureaucrats. Read morePublished on 13 Jan. 2013 by William Cohen
Then read this.
It's a stimulating tour of liberal political thought, of the state(s) of Europe - no, don't run away! Read more
Democracy in Europe is an exceptionally clear discussion of what makes democracy tick in the US and Europe. Read morePublished on 8 Nov. 2000
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