Turbulent and Mighty Continent


Turbulent and Mighty Continent – What Future for Europe?
By Anthony Giddens
Polity Press – £16.99

In the very first chapter of this quintessentially must-read book with regards the future of Europe and The European Union (‘The EU as Community of Fate’), there’s a picture of Sean Connery as James Bond on the front cover of the German Newspaper Die Tageszeitung that reads: ”Mein Name Ist Bond. Euro Bond – Sag Niemals Nie” (My Name Is Bond. Euro Bond – Never Say Never); under which author and scholar Antony Giddens has written: ”Sometimes jokes capture reality more effectively than any amount of serious prose.”

How very true. Jokes if not humour in general, can indeed convey far more, than any amount of deeply entrenched dense prose. One need only remind oneself of some of the abundancy of Jewish humour and wit in relation to that of Nazi Germany’s Final Solution.

I am as such, both pleased and relieved that Giddens, who at last count, has written no less than twenty-nine books of a similar persuasion to that of Turbulent and Mighty Continent – What Future for Europe? Among them Capitalism and Modern Social Theory, Politics and Sociology in the Thought of Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, The Nation-State and Violence, The Third Way, Europe in the Global Age and Over to You, Mr Brown.

Perhaps Giddens more than impressive literary background is just as well, for the colossal complexity, and economically delicate, didactic nature of the subject matter addressed within these six chapters – excluding Introduction and Conclusion – is enough to make one resoundingly shudder at the sheer scale/potential for European political stasis.

That Greece for instance, currently produces less than TWO per cent of the EU’s GDP, might, in some quarters, be considered a mighty bad joke. That much of said nation’s populace continues to equate German Chancellor, Angela Merkel (who’s keeping Greece financially afloat) with Adolf Hitler, isn’t a bad joke. It’s not even witty.

It is in fact, both blasphemous and shameful. Not to mention idiosyncratically ironic.

Talk about inexorably biting the hand that feeds you! The mere fact tht such economic escape-goatism, otherwise known as the political equation of democracy – which oddly/funnily enough, was supposedly born in Greece – is even reported and focused upon within the European media, is surely unacceptable? Not to mention unhelpful in the extreme.

One wonders what Winston Churchill, who inadvertently penned the title of this book, would have made of such inflammatory reportage?

This is ever so slightly touched upon in the Introduction of Turbulent and Mighty Continent, where Giddens astutely, yet delicately writes: ”The EU’s problems remain serious and dangerous: serious, because the whole project of building a united continent could founder; dangerous, because if things should go badly wrong the consequences could be cataclysmic. Some say that the same antagonisms that produced wars in the past are still aorund. ‘The demons are not gone – they’re only sleeping, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have shown’ […]. Yet it is right to agonise about the spectres that lurk in wait should the EU start to disintegrate […]. Europe is no longer mighty but has again become turbulent as conflicts and divisions spring up across the continent. Unemployment has risen to a new high and is especially pronounced among younger people. Countries that before the financial crisis balanced their books have now run up spectacular levels of debt. Among those that were more profligate, some are in a dire state economically and lack the means to devalue their currency.”

Far be it for me to speculate upon the somewhat slippery future of the European Union, but it really isn’t open-heart surgery to surmise that the never-ending and superfluous financial bailout of Greece, is more than likely to detonate an impending implosion. As for the recent inclusion of Rumania into the EU, one cannot help but resoundingly agree with Giddens when he writes: ”it is right to agonise about the spectres that lurk in wait should the EU start to disintegrate.”

Turbulent and Mighty Continent thoroughly dissects the EU’s future in a far more readable manner than might otherwise be the case. It’s as former Prime Minister of Italy, Giuliano Amato, has written on the back cover: ”In the 1980s the famous Cecchini Report played a crucial role in fostering the single currency. I expect this book by Tony Giddens to play a similar role in the creation of the more integrated Europe essential to us all twenty-five years later.”

To be sure, it reminds me of another book on the subject I recently reviewed, German Europe by Ulrich Beck. Both authors manage to convey what many might regard as a very dry subject matter, in such a literary way that is both suave and simultaneously stimulating.

David Marx


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