DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE by Larry Siedentop


Email this review


A political philosopher’s tract on the European Union.

Enthusiasts of the great theorists of liberty (Locke, Rawls, etc.) will enjoy Siedentop (Political Science/Oxford Univ.). Launching his argument with Montesquieu and moving through James Madison and De Tocqueville, the author develops a complex but clear picture of the many forces swirling around Europe's bid for unification. He argues that a language of economics has replaced the political idealism that usually attends such movements. As a result, European leaders have created institutions that may be bringing their governments together, but not their peoples. Siedentop performs a rigorous analysis of democracy in Europe today, showing how citizens are treated (and act) more like consumers than active participants in their destinies. He finds that there is a lack of a real discussion about what kinds of rights ordinary Europeans should have in their own union and what sort of government should enforce them. Along the way he delivers insightful critiques of Britain and France, which both seek to shape Europe’s future—arguing that Britain, which lacks a constitution, has no firm basis for participating in union negotiations. Since Margaret Thatcher, he writes, the British government has fallen into the trap of dealing with its problems from a lackluster economic point of view. France, on the other hand, is run by bureaucrats who have done a masterful job of influencing Brussels, the capital of the EU. However, the author believes the French bureaucratic model of government is too undemocratic and ultimately will prove unstable (like the many French republics). He believes a federal system on the model of Germany and the US would be more appropriate, suggesting it might establish laws against discrimination while leaving more mundane issues, like the ingredients of sausages, to member states. Wrapped up in these questions are still more questions, including foreign policy and the role Brussels should play in the EU economy.

A heady examination of Europe's present and future.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-231-12376-0
Page count: 254pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001


IndieThe Rules of Invasion by Mark Hecht
by Mark Hecht