Rebirth: A Political History of Europe since World War II

By Cyril E. Black; Robert D. English et al. | Go to book overview
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nic identity; the necessity of protecting an eroding environment; the challenge of open borders and free flows of peoples and ideas to local cultures and identities; the tension between integration on the one hand and national and culturally homogeneous groups on the other; and the search for a new security order are all bound to move Europe in fundamentally new directions in the twenty-first century. The paths to be taken will greatly be shaped by the new leaders who emerge -- or by the failure of new strong leaders to appear -- to replace those who so influenced the earlier decades: Adenauer, de Gaulle, Khrushchev, Wilson, Monnet, Spaak, Mitterrand, Kohl, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Thatcher, and others. It nevertheless appears clear as Europe prepares for the new century that politicians and peoples alike recognize the need to assure consonancy rather than disjuncture between the Continent's political and economic systems. Most seem ready and willing to accelerate progress on established routes and to explore new ones to reach this goal, albeit at difference paces in different regions and nations.

In 1945 Europe was devastated, without sufficient means to support itself. It was sharply divided, devoid of confidence, and stripped of much independence of action. Now Europe, or at least a great part of it, is economically sound, possessing a modern infrastructure. It has a new confidence in its own ability and an even newer realization of the weight of earned regional and global responsibilities. If Europe remains divided, the old dividing line has shifted eastward and become more fluid; its ultimate location remains uncertain, and some observers believe it has even disappeared. The economic and social distinctions that accompanied the former military division between East and West have been greatly reduced. Yet the specter of economic and political instability, especially in the East, persists. Though the future is unclear, Europe stands independent, potent, part of a polycentric rather than a bipolar world, and on the threshold of becoming a different entity than it has been for most of its modern history. A Europe based on regional consciousness and social and economic cooperation, rather than on nationalistic separatism and protectionism, seems more feasible to contemplate today than at any other time in modern European history. After years of travail, Europe indeed seems on the verge of being truly reborn.

Suggested Readings

Aho, C. M., and M. Levinson, After Reagan: Confronting the Changed World Economy ( 1988).


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