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Democracy in Europe Paperback – 7 Jun 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (7 Jun. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140287930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140287936
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 442,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

"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.

Review

This enjoyable, easily accessible 'call to arms' is recommended.--W.M. Downs "Choice Reviews "

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Format: Paperback
This book may have come in for criticism recently (see Andrew Moravcsik's article in Foreign Affairs) but that is half of what it's all about, which is to say provoking a discussion on the future of democracy in Europe. Yes, there are some over-exaggerations, particularly regarding France's ability to shape the EU in it's own image and on the need for more lawyers in both the political and public spheres, yet this should not detract from a book oozing reason, intelligence and thought-provoking arguments. Democracy at the European level is a delicate and fragile affair and if federalism is our ultimate goal then a more thorough examination and discussion of the implications of such a move and indeed the conditions required to make it a success are imperative. 'Democracy in Europe' is an immensely valuable contribution to this discussion and essential reading for those interested in democracy, politics and the EU at large. A must.
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Format: Hardcover
This book exposes the paucity of the current 'debate' on the future of the European Union and identifies clearly what we should be discussing. It does so in an attractive and extremely persuasive fashion. Whilst he discusses ideas of considerable sophistication, the author starts from first principles and he does not assume a knowledge of political theory which would make his book inaccessible to non-politics graduates (such as myself). Above all, the author brings an objective eye to bear upon the current state of democratic government in the European Union. Before reading this book I had a complacent view that there was no need to change the British way of doing things which had 'worked' for hundreds of years by evolving to meet changes in society. I also had a confused and fearful view of the future for Europe. I could do no better than think that the UK should obstruct further erosion of 'national sovereignty' by the European Union and hope that something would 'turn up'. This book has ended my former complancency and has helped to dispel my fears and confusion. The author forcefully and convincingly points out the pressing need for nothing less than that both Britain and the European Union get their constitutional houses in order to regain the respect of the public and to govern with consent and authority. Siedentop does so by demonstrating from first principles what are the fundamental requirements of a stable democratic society. He then shows the alarming extent to which they are missing in Britain and France in particular, and, as a result, the European Union. I believe this book to be of real importance.Read more ›
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By A Customer on 18 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
For the most part I join the chorus of praise. This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of the state of Europe today and its insights will affect the ongoing debate for years to come. My dissent is on what is a relatively minor point, but one that is part of a core argument. Siedentop argues that the US never had to deal with nationalism in its federating activities. I think it is absolutely clear that it did. The Civil War was in many ways a nationalistic uprising. Lee's statement that he was a Virginian first and an American second states the perspective slearly. While the main arguments are not affected by this, it causes me to view the other arguments in an unfavorable light.
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Format: Hardcover
Currently we have in Europe a situation where a bureaucratic elite is pushing through a series of reforms culminating in monetary union which is regarded by the majority of the population with at best a sullen acceptance. As Siedentop makes clear, this could be a recipe for disaster, as the only dissenting voices are marginalised on either the far right or left. There simply isn't a debate going on at anything like the level which is required for such momentous changes, and this book is an excellent attempt to get one started.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Larry Siedentop's 'Democracy in Europe' is a broad, thoughtful and accessible essay on the challenges and choices Europe is facing. Strongly informed by liberal thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Madison, and liberal thoughs such as constitutionalism and federalism, Siedentop combines it all into a powerful account of what Europe needs to do, and indeed can do, to become a successful democracy. For anybody with an interest in a contemporary and intelligent reading on Europe's future, this book is what you need. You will not be the only one, as Siedentop seems to have strong influence on European debates, both among scholars and politicians.
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