A Post-National and Post-WW2 Europe

1. One thematic shape of postwar European history was the overall reduction of Europe’s land holdings beyond what were their usual state borders for much of European history. While individual European states were well known for their unique penchants for land grabbing and colony formation before 1945, the aftermath of World War II served to shrink many states back to their immediate European borders. Though, on page 7, there are two notable exceptions to this, being the Soviet Union and Great Britain, two states were both “only half-European in their own eyes.” However, they too were inevitably much reduced in size and reach as well in later decades.

2. Judt points to a gradual lack of distinction between left-wing and right-wing European parties on many policy issues after 1945. For example, in the first paragraph of page 785, he argues that on various contemporary issues, Swedish Social Democrats and French neo-Gaullists might have “more in common with each other than with their respective ideological forebears.” A major effect of this development was the decay of old-style political parties, with declining membership and falling turnout at the polls.

A secondary effect was the drop in public prestige and respect for European public intellectuals, who together formed “an almost equally venerable European institution.” Though they were politically influential in the early years of the 20th century, politically engaged intellectuals would eventually lose much of their national and international influence compared to their predecessors. This is largely due in part to the reality that political issues like Marxism, totalitarianism, human rights, or the economics of transition were no longer as prevalent in contemporary Europe as they once were, cutting off a way for political intellectuals to tap the public consciousness to mobilize them on these same issues. The only responses to mobilization these days is a “bored and indifferent response from younger generations.”

3. To a certain extent, a post-national European state entailed a loss of perceived state legitimacy and control. It is a far cry from the traditional European state that “made war abroad but enforced the peace at home.” In response to increasing political warfare against unarmed civilians, many European citizens have advocated for their governments to mobilize more of their policemen, armies, and generally their state’s monopoly of armed power against terrorist threats. For some, this has morphed into a general suspicion and opposition to a diverse European state, specifically regarding the entry of Muslim immigrants. This is invoked in one British poster from the British National Party made after a British serviceman was murdered by two Islamists in 2013. The poster offers the reader two choices, being “Freedom and Peace” or “Islam and Terror,” no doubt aiming to paint all Muslim immigrants as potential terrorists. A second poster by the France’s National Front made for the March 2010 Regional Elections comes with the tagline “No to Islamism, Youth with Le Pen.” The imagery is that of France covered in the colors of the Algerian flag, likely equating Muslim immigrants to not only terrorists, but also to “cultural invaders” that should be forcibly dealt with by the state.

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