Saturday, September 17, 2011

The End of the West: The Once and Future Europe

Marquand, David. The End of the West: The Once and Future Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Marquand's examination of the European Union focuses on aspects of nationalism, ethnicity, regionalism, federalism, borders, and unity. As Marquand describes it, the European Union was and is a grand plan to mitigate the hegemony of Napoleons, Hitlers, and Stalins; to prevent the imperial designs and desires of individuals and nations. Marquand contends that the idea that pureness of blood or specific ethnicities should determine national boundaries is a relatively recent event in history, predating Hitler to be sure, but brought to its most complete manifestation by his Nazi regime. The European Union sought to do away with this way of thinking once and for all through diminishing the importance of borders through the unification of economies, monetary units, laws, and policies. Marquand shows that as national borders have faded in some respects, internal ethnic lines have become more indelibly drawn. In fact, as the European Union embraces countries farther afield geographically, economically, and perhaps ideologically from the initial core countries, unity may be an ever more difficult goal to reach. (Positive manifestations of this can be seen in the United Kingdom, where Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have achieved governing bodies independent of England, while staying within the UK).

Marquand discusses the difficulties with gaining popular acceptance of the EU constitution, the quandries related to the admittance of former Soviet Satellites, and only briefly at Turkey's efforts to join (A brand new book is out on Turkey and the European Union-look for a brief look at this book in a future blog entry).

A supporter of the union, Marquand asserts that it has accomplished more than anyone could possibly have expected as it came into formation. He considers the concept of East and West, dating from the time of the ancient Greeks, and points out the folly of Western rhetoric failing to recognize the foundational contributions of cultures beyond the imagined geographical West. As many of these non-Western nations rise to prominence in world affairs, Marquand writes that, [W]e shall have to recognize that the familiar "Western" narrative of global history . . .is a parochial distortion of a far more complex truth....[W]e shall have to accept that the "West" will never again call the shots in global politics: that there is no longer a "West" to call them" (177). Yet he sees hope in a functional European federation--and that creating such an entity is Europe's greatest challenge.

Find this book in a library near you.

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