History and Progress: In Search of the European and American Mind

History and Progress: In Search of the European and American Mind

History and Progress: In Search of the European and American Mind

History and Progress: In Search of the European and American Mind

Synopsis

Concisely written and compelling, this book offers a provocative look at European-American relations. It focuses on the tradition of common political ideas, the original roots of common European and American thought, the decision by the two continents not to develop in isolation from one another, and the traditional ambivalence of the European caught indecisively between reliance upon and distance from the United States. From classical antiquity to contemporary society, Mathiopoulos unfolds the paradoxical relationship between the U.S. and Europe--the simultaneous occurrence of reciprocal attraction and mutual misunderstanding.

Excerpt

In his life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell tells of an encounter between his subject and a Mr. Edwards, who had been with him at Pembroke College, Oxford, forty-nine years earlier, although they had not seen each other since then. in the course of a rather strained conversation, Mr. Edwards said, "You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in."

It is surely not too far-fetched to suggest that this charming story of temperamental incompatibility can serve as a kind of parable to illuminate the recent dissonances in the relationship between the United States and its European allies. As their mutual confidence has eroded under the impact of sharp differences about such things as fiscal and economic policy on the one hand and defensive nuclear strategies on the other, there has been a growing fear among our European, and especially our German, friends that cheerfulness is becoming a national disease on this side of the Atlantic and that American optimism, always excessive, is now being carried to the point of fecklessness, failure to recognize limitations, and unwillingness to face up to facts that challenge presuppositions. Simultaneously, a feeling, not always clearly articulated, has become perceptible in American official circles that there has been too much ratiocination, too much idle speculation, too much philosophical doubt in recent European attitudes and that this has all too frequently lamed the will and prevented or crippled expedient action.

It would not be difficult to parade facts from the political record of the past decade to support either of these cases, but it would be a partisan and idle exercise. It is more important to note that, underlying the disputes that the Atlantic . . .

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