Europe and America

Tony Judt has an excellent article in the 10th February edition of the New York Review of Books, discussing the economic, social and cultural evolution of the US and Europe. As a Brit living in America, and loving it, this is of course interesting to me. The article includes some interesting statistics showing that the standard of living in the US compares unfavourably with European countries. To my mind, the real disaster for Europeans will be if they (we) succomb to the temptation to define Europe in opposition to the US. Rather than build on differences, we must define our vision of the future of Europe in postive terms, setting out what we stand for and building on our strengths. I agree with Tony Judt’s concluding paragraphs:

Europe will matter because of the cross-border template upon which contemporary Europe is being constructed. "Globalization" isn’t primarily about trade or communications, economic monopolies or even empire. If it were it would hardly be new: those aspects of life were already "globalizing" a hundred years ago. Globalization is about the disappearance of boundaries—cultural and economic boundaries, physical boundaries, linguistic boundaries—and the challenge of organizing our world in their absence. In the words of Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the UN’s director of peacekeeping operations: "Having lost the comfort of our geographical boundaries, we must in effect rediscover what creates the bond between humans that constitute a community." To their own surprise and occasional consternation, Europeans have begun to do this: to create a bond between human beings that transcends older boundaries and to make out of these new institutional forms something that really is a community. They don’t always do it very well and there is still considerable nostalgia in certain quarters for those old frontier posts. But something is better than nothing: and nothing is just what we shall be left with if the fragile international accords, treaties, agencies, laws, and institutions that we have erected since 1945 are allowed to rot and decline—or, worse, are deliberately brought low. As things now stand, boundary-breaking and community-making is something that Europeans are doing better than anyone else.

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