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2013 translation of a book by a German Professor of Sociology on why Europe may fall apart over the current debt crisis of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

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"Europe has become German" (Ulrich Beck)

  • Aug 30, 2013
Rating:
+3

By 2010 it had become clear that debts to international banks had grown beyond Greece's single-handed ability to repay or service. By 2013 it has become frighteningly clear at a far deeper level that Europe itself faces unforseen possibilities: internal collapse, hegemony over poorer nations by richer nations or, just possibly, a brighter future benefitting INDIVIDUAL Europeans as distinct from their European national GOVERNMENTS.

 

So argues German sociology professor and much published political thinker Ulrich Beck in his 2012 DEUTSCHES EUROPA, translated into English by Rodney Livingstone as GERMAN EUROPE and issued in 2013 by Polity Press. GERMAN EUROPE is short: three chapters spread over 86 pages followed by 12 pages of end notes. There are no maps.

 

If you are already reasonably familiar with the economic and political history of Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Europe since the Second World War, you will find not much new or original in GERMAN EUROPE. There are however many "zinger" one-liner phrases, a couple of clumsy neologisms (e.g. "Merkiavelli") and a handful of obiter dicta that stay in memory. But for precisely such reasons, GERMAN EUROPE promotes rational informal discussion and can make very helpful popular reading in serious book clubs, in GREAT DECISIONS foreign policy discussion groups and around the water coolers at work.

 

The book is eminently quotable.

 

The 1948 the United States Government Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) stimulated war-ravaged nations of Western, Central and Southern Europe to unite themselves through stages such as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and others to move towards a future in which something like a United States of Europe would become at least imaginable. Since 1993 the European Union (EU) has provided the umbrella under which a single market flourishes, internal passport controls have been abolished and a 2002 financial Eurozone with a single currency, the EURO , has been established. The EU has permanent diplomatic missions and is represented within the United Nations.

 

In 2012 the EU's population exceeded 500 million -- 7.3% of estimated global population. The EU's economy contained 20% of this world's purchasing power and was the world's largest "single" economic structure.

 

In GERMAN EUROPE Professor Beck argues that observers become first so dazzled by the European Union's economic successes and then so deflated by today's EURO currency and Greek and other national debt crises, that we too often forget major positive POLITICAL reasons for Europe's ever growing voluntary moves toward European integration.

 

The political results have been unintended, ironic and, in a phrase, "Europe has become German" (Preface vii). For the EU and predecessors, from the viewpoint of Nazi Germany's non-German victims, were designed to "tame" divided Germans, surround that rogue elephant by tame elephants and teach Germans to behave better. By and large this worked well, until the reunification of the Federal Republic of Germany and the communist German Democratic Republic on October 01, 1990.

 

GERMAN EUROPE argues that German Reunification may have begun the unintended Germanization of the entire European Union. The new Germany took more time than many had anticipated to lift the economic basket case of absorbed East Germany to something close to parity with the West. Meanwhile, in united Germany the absorbing "Wessies" had to pay higher taxes to lift the acceding "Ossies" (Easterners) up high enough as no longer to be an embarrassment to Wessies.

 

Some affluent West Germans learned thereby to look down on their poorer Eastern German kinfolk as brainwashed by communism, lazy, unproductive and in some ways undeserving. West German Protestant ethic's noblesse oblige raised up weaker Germans but the latter had to learn to behave like Wessies.  According to Ulrich Beck this attitude of benevolent hegemony of wealthy Germans over poor Germans has carried over in 2012 and 2013 to Germany's attitude toward its poor "Southern" relations within the European Community as the latter wrestle with colossal debts and seem unable to maintain the discipline required to maintain the EURO as united Europe's principal currency.

 

Today's Europe, says, Beck, is "Merkiavellian": that is, awed by the "cruel love" policies and cautious, indecisive crisis management style of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and reflecting the thinking of Europe's first analyst of crisis management Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527). Merkel is now "the uncrowned Queen of Europe." And Germans, consciously or otherwise, are re-structuring the European Union so that all European non-Germans must conform to German economic habits: work hard, stop goofing off and living beyond your means, save money, avoid debt and find salvation through suffering. 

 

Read GERMAN EUROPE for more details! 

 

-OOO-

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August 31, 2013
Also, how about the Age of Metternich and the industrial standardization he brought!
 
August 31, 2013
Also, how about the Age of Metternich and the industrial standardization he brought!
 
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About the reviewer
(Thomas) Patrick Killough ()
Ranked #100
I am a retired American diplomat. Married for 47 years. My wife Mary (PhD in German and Linguistics) and I have two sons, six grandsons and two granddaughters. Our home is Highland Farms Retirement Community … more
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