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4.8 out of 5 stars
Democracy in Europe
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on 3 September 2017
A most thoughtful and well structured account of what is the current state of play in Europe and more importantly why? I recommend this book to every pro brevity and every anti brevity.
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on 15 September 2017
Excellent, fascinating book.
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on 28 August 2001
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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on 8 August 2000
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. It gives the reader the tools to understand and contribute to the true debate about the future of Europe and to identify the full extent of the evasions and prejudices which characterise the current debate in Britain. Whilst the book raises many concerns about the current state of affairs, I believe the facts that it has been written, and written about by so many political commentators, give cause for great optimism about the future. The book is not light, its subject matter precludes that, but it is highly readable. I would unreservedly recommend it to any national of a European Union Member State who is concerned about how he or she is to governed. That should mean all of us.
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on 18 June 2001
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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on 3 September 2000
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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on 7 February 2001
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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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2013
I found this book in a charity shop a few days before I was due to travel to Brussels to meet some European bureaucrats. Despite being 10 years old, it filled me in on the big issues. Since the Scandinavians joined the EU the French have accepted that English is the unofficial shared language. The 'federalist' debate rumbles on, and the eurozone crisis is one foreseen by Siedentop and it's turned out to have effects that he predicted.

Siedentop says Europe is a good idea, you've just got to go slowly. He points out the problem of 'economism' - talking of political ideas in terms of economic ones, and the belief that economic growth redeems all decisions and initiatives. In Brussels, they said it's not the French running things anymore, but the Germans.

As we're going through a sticky patch over our membership of the EU at the moment, I found Larry Siedentop to be a wise commentator, reminding me of what's important for the UK and Europe without parti pris.
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on 8 November 2000
Democracy in Europe is an exceptionally clear discussion of what makes democracy tick in the US and Europe. Written in laudably direct prose (given its academic subject), the book is something of a call to arms for deeper understanding of how modern democracy has come into being, what pressures are building within its various forms, and how easily its virtues can be undermined by simple ignorance. Whether discussing the particularities of American federalism or the compatibility of religious beliefs with civic duty in a democracy, Siedentop is lucid and convincing. I recommend this book wholeheartedly for anyone interested in just what democracy means today and why it deserves more than the generally benign neglect it has received in public discourse. But beware! This very thought-provoking book commands full attention and considered reflection. This is not a beach book, but rather deserves to be read far from distractions.
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on 10 September 2000
Siedentop follows very much in the arguments of Tocqueville's 'Democracy in America' A sub-title of Siedentop's book could be 'Why Federalism worked in America and will it work here?' It is very closely argued and clearly expects the reader to pay attention! It is almost impossible to summarise this book, in that respect it bears yet another resemblance to Tocqueville. The last chapter, however, comes very close to a summary. Please read this book and then, if you can bear to part with it, send it to your MP.
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