Week 7 Blog Post

1. The first “thematic shape” Tony Judt talks about in his introduction is the the lessening world influence of Europe, what he calls ‘Europe’s Reduction’. When the Second World War ended, much of Europe emerged out of the chaos to find their economies limping, their infrastructure destroyed, and their ideologies divided. Wartime spending in the United States had catapulted its economy to a position of global prominence, while the USSR looked to be a similarly dominant economic power. The development and use of the atomic bomb by the United States, not Europe, and the ensuing arms race in which the USSR attempted to catch up, aided by claims of nuclear superiority from the Kremlin, indicated that it was Europe’s neighbors to the East and West that held primary military sway throughout the world. Finally, the Cold War itself, where the USSR and the US played ideological chess with much of the world, including Europe, was the nail in the coffin of European global dominance. Decolonization began in the 1950s, and economic growth in Europe stagnated in the 1970s. By the time the Eastern Bloc fell, Europe’s influence throughout the world was a fraction of what it had been a century earlier.

2. Tony Judt describes how, in the late 20th century, the political extremes of the decades before were becoming increasingly marginalized. Not only had communism and fascism been excised from Europe, but other contentious issues had been seemingly resolved as well; among these, Judt mentions censorship, the death penalty, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality. One major change that followed this development was the death of the public intellectual. In contrast with much of recent European history, public intellectuals had very little influence on government policy or public sentiment. Their opinions, according to Judt, were largely ignored by the beginning of the 21st century. Even in the realm of international relations, where their opinions coincided with that of the public, the work of intellectuals across Europe was largely irrelevant. Judt points out that a movement among public intellectuals like that of 2003 would have been a major event at any time in the previous century. But now, it made almost no difference.

3. Judt’s discussion on the “limitations of a post-national prescription for a better European future” largely revolves around the fact that Europe is—and will continue to be—viewed as a collection of countries that make up a continent rather than a single entity that happens to consist of countries. The reason for this division of cultures—or souls, as François Mitterand might say—is that the EU is not fully integrated. Many of the most meaningful responsibilities of states still reside on a national level. The country is responsible for civil protection, pensions, and taxation; the citizens vote for the leaders of their country, not the EU. The lack of a single European identity has resulted in a less deeply engrained faith in the EU and Europe itself. The documents and statistics from The World Transformed reflect the weakening support for international cooperation.The numbers from the Pew Research Center indicate a dramatic change in sentiment during the recession, particularly in the countries that suffered the most economic hardship during that time. The statements from the unemployed citizens are understandably negative; when the economy went south in 2008, it would have been hard not to attribute some blame to the EU, which oversees much of the macro-level economic policy for participating countries. The nationalist party posters from Britain, France, Germany, and Italy are an example of rising nationalism, a phenomenon continuing and intensifying today. The recession and the continuing national framework through which many Europeans view international relations have contributed to the anti-immigration movement. In essence, the existence of a “post-national prescription for a better European future” is very much in question.

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