European Political Thought, 1815-1989

By Spencer M. Di Scala; Salvo Mastellone | Go to book overview

18
MODELS IN WESTERN EUROPEAN POLITICAL THOUGHT

At the end of World War II the destruction wrought by the conflict appeared so vast that it forged a common experience. In addition to the outlandish cost of the war in the loss of property and human lives, it had uprooted millions of people and constrained them to move from the areas where their ancestors had lived for centuries. Despite all the suffering and injustices, however, and despite old problems that remained and new ones that loomed, the hope for an era of peace spread in Europe. There was a vivid desire for reconstruction and, among the young, a yearning for dialogue. Some values seemed to have lost their significance, and new principles would have to underpin the postwar political order.


"AMERICANISM" AND "SOVIETISM"

Despite the optimistic outlook, the spring of 1948 witnessed instead a drying up of many illusions and hopes as the "Iron Curtain" fell upon Europe. The separation was painful especially for those who had looked beyond their own political boundaries for inspiration and had firmly believed in solidarity and collaboration with other Europeans. A "cold" war had replaced the "hot" one. This situation meant that intellectual neutrality was impossible, as ideological deviations were not welcome in either camp. "Bipolarism" replaced ideological compromise, and there was little choice for intellectuals and politicians but to follow the directives of either the United States or the Soviet Union.

The stunning diplomatic events that followed World War II such as the Berlin blockade dramatically influenced European political thinkers.

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