Europe and the EU

Åslund, Anders. Europe’s growth challenge, by Anders Åslund and Simeon Djankov. Oxford, 2017. 207p bibl index ISBN 9780190499204, $34.95; ISBN 9780190499235 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2017

This rather slender volume presents a remarkably detailed, well-balanced—and well-written—analysis of the European Union’s economic development and related policy issues, especially in the last two or so decades. Fiscal policy and taxation, labor markets, pension systems, government regulations, and policies aimed at integrating service markets as well as the energy market are some areas in which Åslund (Atlantic Council; Georgetown University) and Djankov (London School of Economics; former minister in the Bulgarian government) offer persuasive arguments for policy changes to overcome Europe’s economic stagnation. In the process, they present a detailed history of European economic development and institutional changes since the formation of the European Union and its position in the global economy along with more than 50 tables and figures and a detailed bibliography. A welcome addition to both authors’ already impressive publications lists. Highly recommended to anyone, not just professionals, dealing with the European Union. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. —H. D. Renning, California State University, Stanislaus

Ballas, Dimitris. The human atlas of Europe: a continent united in diversity, by Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling, and Benjamin Hennig. Policy Press, 2017. 188p bibl ISBN 9781447313540 pbk, $34.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2017

This work—a follow-up and extension of a similar treatment in The Social Atlas of Europe (CH, Mar’15, 52-3416)—rests the bulk of its argument on the notion of a united Europe. In the wake of Brexit and the widespread ascendance of populist nationalism, the pro-European viewpoint is forthright and outspoken. The authors make their case by way of 140 graphic visualizations called cartograms, which differ from geographic land-area maps in that they are founded on statistical indexes. For instance, Iceland looms large in a map charting internet access, in that an astonishing 98 percent of Icelanders enjoy internet access. Equally, Greece and Serbia feature prominently in a chart that measures the prevalence of cigarette smoking. The entire range of cartograms covers a very broad swath of cultural, demographic, economic, and social data. One of the few weaknesses of the work is that the section on politics is largely derived from 2008 polling numbers. Although populist and anti-democratic trends have long been a tradition in Europe, such tendencies have certainly picked up notable force over the last half-decade. Nonetheless, the point of this work is very forcibly made with graphics that demonstrate that many more forces bind together rather than separate Europeans. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. —J. Millhorn, Northern Illinois University

Bedock, Camille. Reforming democracy: institutional engineering in Western Europe. Oxford, 2017. 360p bibl index ISBN 9780198779582, $97.50; ISBN 9780191085079 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE February 2018

This scholarly book creatively challenges common understandings of institutional change in liberal democracies. The author investigates core institutional reforms in Western European countries over the past two decades, and asks why, how, and when democratic rules are modified and why some reforms are successful while others are not. Recognizing the well-established, multidimensional nature of institutional systems, she analyzes bundles of reforms, insightfully demonstrating their tendency to be clustered as part of broader sequences. Documenting that such reforms occur more frequently than acknowledged, she argues that democratic de-legitimation and political uncertainty incentivize institutional change, and theorizes that political elites choose to respond to such challenges with institutional engineering. Employing a mixed method design including large-N longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis, and case studies based on elite interviews in Ireland, France, and Italy, she concludes that success depends on the type of reforms and the process utilized. Logically organized in two parts with eight chapters, this book most importantly makes significant theoretical contributions to the study of institutional change. As scholarship at its best, it will likely elicit many responses, especially regarding the frequency of changes in core democratic rules and their bundling. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —T. D. Lancaster, Emory University

Beyond the divide: entangled histories of Cold War Europe, ed. by Simo Mikkonen and Pia Koivunen. Berghahn Books, 2015. 325p bibl index afp ISBN 9781782388661, $120.00; ISBN 9781782388678 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2016

Finnish academics Mikkonen and Koivunen have compiled 14 papers concerning the connections between Western and Eastern Europe in a context outside that of superpower relations. To novices on the subject, the chapters may appear somewhat disjointed and disconnected. Quite the contrary is true, however, as chapters are grouped into four sections: “Political Processes and Transnational Networks,” “Interplay in the Academic Contexts,” “Limitations for Transnational Networks,” and “Along the Borderlines.” Nearly 30 years after the dissolution of the USSR (signaling the close of the Cold War), it is somewhat surprising that a team of academics could provide such a timely work, spanning 11 European countries. However, as the editors concede, “the role of European states and people have [sic] been overlooked. Particularly in regards to culture, and cultural relations between European countries.” Arguably, such diverse perspectives from various disciplines and fields (connected through the study of history) across the European nations is one of the largest strengths of this volume. Libraries with extensive collections focusing on the history of the Cold War should include this work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —K. M. Woosnam, Texas A&M University

Foret, François. Religion and politics in the European Union: the secular canopy. Cambridge, 2015. 323p bibl index ISBN 9781107082717, $95.00; ISBN 9781316121849 ebook, $76.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2015

Foret (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) examines virtually everything relating to religion in contemporary European politics. He shows how religion continues to play a role on a continent regarded as increasingly de-Christianized and secularized. Religious views are represented in political parties, especially Christian Democratic ones, and in voluntary organizations, which try to influence both national and European public policy, most notably policy concerning education, welfare, personal status, birth control, sexual preferences, and the media. But Christian members of the European Parliament maintain a low normative profile and have limited impact on EU decision making. Religion plays a minor role in the selection of rulers, on the national and European levels. Once an important element of European identity, Christianity, in particular Roman Catholicism, was an important factor in the initial postwar efforts at European integration, but it has gradually yielded to laïcité and to “Judeo-Christian” and multicultural Europe. Religious passions have become “mild,” and Christian attitudes toward religious minorities have become more tolerant, especially in response to the growth of the Muslim community. A thoroughly documented study, much of it based on survey research and interviews with members of the European Parliament. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, research, and professional collections. —W. Safran, emeritus, University of Colorado at Boulder

Gillingham, John. The EU: an obituary. Verso, 2016. 281p index ISBN 9781784784218 pbk, $19.95; ISBN 9781784784232 ebook, $9.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2017

The European Union is at a historical crossroads. Recent crises, such as the influx of millions of refugees, repeated terrorist attacks, and Brexit, have sent massive shock waves throughout the EU. As a result, the EU’s capacity to generate policy solutions to counter these and looming shock waves have weakened, and its likelihood of survival has diminished. From a historical perspective that challenges fundamental views advocated by Eurofanatics and Euroskeptics alike, Gillingham draws attention to the major theoretical frameworks used to explain the processes of European integration. By suggesting that the European integration process will culminate in a united Europe, theories like functionalism and intergovernmentalism are not only overly optimistic but also riddled with misconceptions that require correction. As a means to take corrective actions and ultimately save the EU, Gillingham pursues a historically driven reassessment of the EU’s past aimed at examining missteps, discovering subsequent solutions, and offering a glimpse into a potential future. In light of the its uneven course during its years of formation, expansion, and consolidation while currently faced with systemic threats, the EU requires fundamental reforms to remain relevant in an increasingly globalized international system. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty. —A. E. Wohlers, Cameron University

Grob-Fitzgibbon, Benjamin. Continental drift: Britain and Europe from the end of empire to the rise of Euroscepticism. Cambridge, 2016. 590p bibl index afp ISBN 9781107071261, $39.99; ISBN 9781107775411 ebook, $32.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2016

In the 1940s, British leaders declared that a loss of sovereign powers would be a fair exchange for creating a strong, integrated Europe. In fact, their argument was that Britain should lead both the British Empire and Europe. How then did Britain turn against Europe 70 years later? Grob-Fitzgibbon (US State Department) seeks to answer this timely question by linking the rise of Euroscepticism (hostility toward the European Union) to the decline of the British Empire. Until the 1970s, public opinion and leaders defined British identity as being both imperial and European. However, this identity and world view were challenged by decolonization. According to Grob-Fitzgibbon, eventually the public blamed leaders for choosing Europe over empire, thereby relinquishing British greatness and imperial values. Euroscepticism, accounting for the 2016 referendum result, contains a sense of nostalgia for the era of imperial greatness and for a return to a better (mystical) Britain. The author relies on extensive archival research to trace how imperial decline sowed distrust and frustration among Britons who found it difficult to reconcile themselves with their neighbors across the channel. This impressive study concludes that Britain’s troubled history with Europe owes much to the passing of an empire. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —P. Kurzer, University of Arizona

Joppke, Christian. The secular state under siege: religion and politics in Europe and America. Polity, 2015. 236p bibl index ISBN 9780745665429, $24.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2016

Joppke (sociology and political science, Univ. of Bern, Switzerland) begins with an overview of classic theorists of religion: Marx, Freud, Durkheim, and Weber. In chapter 2, he turns to the theory of secularization, arguing that secularization emerged from Christianity because of Christianity’s separation of realms: profane time versus sacred time, church versus state, natural law versus revealed law. Also covered in this chapter is the historical development of secularization from the Middle Ages to the rise of nationalism and the modern religiously neutral state. In the remaining two chapters, Joppke examines the Christian Right in the US and Islam in Europe. He sees the Christian Right succeeding in eroding legal secularism—as evident in recent US Supreme Court decisions—moving it from a separationist to an “integrationist” stance. Islam in Europe, as a minority religion, does not seem to desire any kind of accommodation with the secular state. At most, argues Joppke, Euro-Muslims desire to be “equal but separate” because their primary allegiance is to the ummah and not to the nation-state and its citizenry. The European secular liberal state seems to be the one making a rapprochement to Islam with some recognition of Sharia law. In the end, both the Christian Right and Islam in Europe challenge the secular state. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —C. R. Piar, California State University, Long Beach

Kirchick, James. The end of Europe: dictators, demagogues, and the coming dark age. Yale, 2017. 273p index ISBN 9780300218312, $27.50; ISBN 9780300227789 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2017

In this interesting and provocative work, the author presents and defends a thesis about the decline of Europe. In his view, there has recently been diminishing embrace of “the European idea.” Current support for “xenophobic populist parties” is partly rooted in the mutual decisions made by many European governments to admit a high number of guest workers in the 1950s and 1960s. In Germany, there have been growing doubts about the value of the alliance with the United States, while French citizens have watched the out-migration of Jewish persons after the 2015 terrorist attacks. The choice of Brexit by British voters is rooted in the increased pace of immigration after 2004 as well as in the rise of politicians who employ nationalistic slogans. The Greek dilemma is more of a self-made one, for both high pensions and household consumption rates have not been coupled with responsiveness to European Union requirements for increased austerity. Russia figures into the picture as well, as the European Right was relatively uncritical of Putin’s aggressive moves in Ukraine and elsewhere, which effectively constituted an assault on European norms. In the end, the author powerfully evokes European Enlightenment values as a tool for reinvigorating the Continent’s “muscular liberal center.” Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. W. Peterson, Valdosta State University

Krastev, Ivan. After Europe. Pennsylvania, 2017. 120p ISBN 9780812249439, $19.95; ISBN 9780812294262 ebook, $16.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2017

This is a brief book with a lot of important ideas about the current state of the European Union and contemporary politics writ large. Krastev points out that many theories explain the “inevitability” of European integration, but none contemplate European “disintegration.” A Bulgarian academic, Krastev reminds us that we have been mistaken before about the “unthinkable” breakup of the USSR and soothed ourselves with the illusion that Eastern European states would easily Westernize. He argues that the current problems in Europe are caused by two elements: the cosmopolitan outlook of elites and the response to “tribal minded” immigrants coming to various countries on the Continent. This short book is readable, but there a lot of ideas going on here. This volume would be helpful in a number of courses that deal with Europe, populist politics, and human rights. While there are good examples in the book (such as the Greek economic crisis), it is not a heavy empirical work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —R. Kolodny, Temple University

O’Brien, Peter. The Muslim question in Europe: political controversies and public philosophies. Temple, 2016. 307p bibl index afp ISBN 9781439912768, $94.50; ISBN 9781439912775 pbk, $32.95; ISBN 9781439912782 ebook, $32.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE October 2016

O’Brien’s fascinating book questions the possibility for successful incorporation of immigrants in Europe. Published on the eve of the mass migration of refugees from Syria and across the Muslim world seeking to join millions of Muslim immigrants who have made Europe their home, the book implores readers to cease thinking about migration as a Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations.” Engaging the views of an army of theorists that this is an ethnic or religious conflict, and that there is a general tendency of policy convergence within Europe, O’Brien (political science, Trinity Univ., San Antonio) examines a few touch points—citizenship, the veil, secularism, and terrorism. He asserts that these theorists have focused on the wrong points. First, there is no central tendency but a muddied collection of policies of inclusion and exclusion tailored for local political purposes. Secondly, he argues that these conflicts have been miscast and are reflections of “deep-seated intra-European tensions.” Conflict over Muslim migration has been misunderstood as an outsider invasion, but in O’Brien’s mind it is a demand to face longstanding controversies about “public philosophies”—liberalism, nationalism, and postmodernism—projected into debates about migrants. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —R. A. Harper, York College

Transcending the Cold War: summits, statecraft, and the dissolution of bipolarity in Europe, 1970–1990, ed. by Kristina Spohr and David Reynolds. Oxford, 2016. 274p bibl index ISBN 9780198727507, $55.00; ISBN 9780191040948 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2017

This edited volume examines important summit meetings and analyzes their contribution to international relations during the Cold War. Organized into three sections, the book examines the thawing of the Cold War during the early 1970s, living with the Cold War in the mid- to late 1970s, and moving past the Cold War in the 1980s and 1990. Each chapter covers one or more specific summit meetings, including those in Beijing and Moscow (1972), Helsinki (1975), and summits in Geneva, Reykjavik, Washington, and Moscow (1985–88), among others. The editors argue that “personal chemistry between leaders, their close partnerships with advisers, and the interactions between their entourages all played a vital role” at the end of the Cold War. US relations with Russia and China are highlighted here, but many readers will appreciate the focus on Germany in some of the chapters. These detailed analyses, based on extensive archival work, add significant depth to the understanding of international relations and diplomacy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —L. J. Roselle, Elon University