Continent Astray

Continent Astray : Europe, 1970-78

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Product details

  • Hardback | 306 pages
  • 152.4 x 223.52 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0195025105
  • 9780195025101

Review Text

Looking at the world from this side of the Atlantic, it might seem that, with one or two exceptions, Europeans aren't doing too badly; even Britain has its North Sea oil; the French, Swiss and German currencies have been battering the dollar; inflation is relatively low; the EEC is about to expand, monetary union is in the works, and a European Parliament is about to be elected. But, of course, GNP and continental congresses are not the whole story, and there has been a lot of the kind of talk exemplified by this title. Getting a jump on the decade, Laqueur, Director of the Institute of Contemporary History in London, gives a country-by-country rundown on the malaise and drift he sees everywhere, though the major problems, invariably economic, are not seen to be critical. This is one of Laqueur's main points: "The basic problems of the 1970s was not the intractability of the issues but the absence of the qualities needed to confront them. There was no strong leadership." As historical criticism, this will not get us very far. Aside from recession, the Europeans faced quite different problems in each country - from tradeunion strength in Britain, to the aftermath of May '68 in France, to the establishment of parliamentary democracy in Spain, Greece, and Portugal - and national contexts will largely determine the outcomes. But the overriding issues that Laqueur identifies with strong leadership are strategic ones - whether military or natural-resource oriented - and therefore nationalism appears to him as the bogey, despite efforts at European integration. The important decisions, he feels, are being taken on the basis of national interests by relatively weak national political groupings instead of by strong continental planners. Laqueur seriously fears "Finlandization" and Eurocommunism (this on strategic grounds), and decries separatist movements. Echoing the Huntington-Crozier (The Crisis of Democracy) straw-man of ungovernability, Laqueur emphasizes the crisis that economic achievements have created for social democracy, and his solution seems to be unity through fear of external threat, be it the USSR or OPEC. The alternative of muddling through takes on a new attractiveness in comparison. (Kirkus Reviews)show more