European Political Cultures: Conflict or Convergence?

European Political Cultures: Conflict or Convergence?

European Political Cultures: Conflict or Convergence?

European Political Cultures: Conflict or Convergence?

Synopsis

This comparative study of the political cultures of the major european nations, explores the notion of nationhood as it applies in different political contexts.

Excerpt

We live in a world of increasing inter-dependence and uniformity. Think-tank futurologists, like Francis Fukuyama, preach the ‘end of history’—the world victory of democracy and capitalism. Marketing executives welcome a ‘Coca-Cola culture’, in which standardised products can be sold in all markets. Media gurus envision a ‘global village’, with a satellite dish on every mud hut.

Within Europe, it is easy to pick out specific examples of these trends. in East Germany, for example, the downfall of communism in 1989 was partly caused by the diffusion of democratic values and the desire for Western affluence. Advertising campaigns are now frequently designed to cross national boundaries; products are even named for their multilingual appeal (there will be no more French soft-drinks named ‘Pschitt’). and the media become more cosmopolitan with every year: even the English, the founding-fathers of football—and epitome of the nationalist soccer-hooligan—now watch live Italian matches, while quaffing German beer.

But it is important not to exaggerate the process of cultural homogenisation, or to play down the forces of resistance. Europe is the cradle of the modern nation, and recent events in both its Western and Eastern heartlands have shown that nationalism and racism remain powerful forces. in some cases, the antagonism is aimed at ‘immigrants’, but in many areas old rivalries and hatreds have lost little or none of their force. Indeed, they seem to be increasing. Whilst the political cultures of European countries are in some ways becoming more homogenous, major divisions undoubtedly remain.

These optimistic and pessimistic views can be related to two broad teleological views about the nature of European development. the first holds that the exact geographical boundaries of Europe may be hazy, but the growing impetus towards integration is not. This process has both cultural and economic causes. the latter include the strong trade patterns which have existed for centuries, and which are now reinforced by corporate and formal institutional linkages, including the development of the European Union. the former include the Judaeo-Christian tradition, which has influenced social values generally. Cultural forces also include the classical Greek and

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