Today Europe finds itself in a crisis that casts a dark shadow over an entire generation. The seriousness of the crisis stems from one core political contradiction at the heart of the European project: namely, that what urgently needs to be done is also extremely unpopular and therefore virtually impossible to do democratically. What must be done - and almost everyone agrees in principle on the measures that would be needed to deal with the financial crisis - cannot be sold to the voting public of the core member states, which so far have been less affected by the crisis than those on the periphery, nor can the conditions that core members try to impose be easily sold to voters in the deficit countries. The European Union is therefore becoming increasingly disunited, with deepening divides between the German-dominated `core' and the southern `periphery', between the winners and the losers of the common currency, between the advocates of greater integration and the anti-Europeans, between the technocrats and the populists. Europe finds itself trapped by the deepening divisions that are opening up across the Continent, obstructing its ability to deal with a crisis that has already caused massive social suffering in the countries of the European periphery and is threatening to derail the very project of the European Union. In this short book, Claus Offe brings into sharp focus the central political problem that lies at the heart of the EU and shackles its ability to deal with the most serious crisis of its short history.
At a time when so many cracks have emerged within the imagined community of `the West', this important new book, by one of the leading social scientists in Europe, examines the intellectual history of comparing Europe and the United States. Claus Offe considers the perspectives adopted by three of Europe's greatest social scientists - Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber and Theodor W. Adorno - in their comparative writings on Europe.
While traveling, studying and working in the US, all three constantly looked back to their European origins, trying to decipher from their American experience what the future may hold for Europe, be it for better or worse. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat, observed the functioning of American democracy with a mix of admiration, envy and deep concerns about the fate of liberty in the `democratic age'. Max Weber, the German sociologist, reported enthusiastically about the youthful energy he found in the United States, which, however, he saw as gradually succumbing to the stifling tendencies of European bureaucratization. Theodor W. Adorno, the critical theorist and refugee from Nazi Germany, observed with a sense of despair the workings of the American `culture industry' which he equated to the totalitarian experience of Europe, only to switch to a much more favorable picture upon his return to Germany.
Europe and the US are conventionally assumed to share the same trajectory and develop according to some common pattern of `occidental rationalism', with the observed differences resulting from mere lags and relative advances on one side or the other. In this insightful book, Offe questions the relevance of this paradigm to transatlantic relations today.