Democracy in Europe

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9780140287936: Democracy in Europe

If the European Union applied to become a member of the European Union it would be rejected as undemocratic. Can the European Union foster greater democracy in Europe, and so protect the dispersal of power, personal freedom and the rule of law? Willit improve our shared lives and increase sense of being useful citizens? Rejecting both nostalgia for the nation state and thoughtless optimism, Larry Siedentop sets out to explore the practical implications of government on a continental scale. He draws on his expertise as an historian of liberal theory to produce an analysis of Europe's various political economies. In creating a framework for thought, this is sure to be a key work in the long deferred debate on Europe.

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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

Review:

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

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