Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

This fully revised third edition provides a wide-ranging introduction to political, economic and social life across the whole continent. Ideal for students new to the subject, this popular text stimulates fresh thinking on issues and debates.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: the Many Dimensions of Europe

Abstract
As one chapter in Europe’s tumultuous history closed in 1989 with the fall of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, a new era began in which we are now embroiled. What are the main patterns and challenges of this new episode in the European saga? What is it in any case that is distinctively ‘European’ about Europe? We will examine these questions in this chapter, indicating some of the themes that will be developed later.
Richard Sakwa

Chapter 2. Historical Background

Abstract
Europe in the second decade of the twenty-first century is the product of several world-historical dynamics and the unpredictability of human choice. In the period of about two-thirds of a century since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the colonial empires of Britain, Belgium, France, Portugal and the Netherlands have disappeared — in many cases as a result of armed independence movements; the establishment of the USA and USSR as superpowers with Europe at the centre of their rivalry turned the continent into the most heavily armed territory on earth; rival ideological systems each produced political-socioeconomic systems vastly different from each other — the democratic welfare state in the west, and the communist command economy in the east; in the last decade of the twentieth century, concerted efforts by people, elites as well as ordinary citizens, have undermined institutions and systems of thought and practice held to be nearly immutable — the nation-state in the West, and Soviet rule in the east; and finally, as Europe entered the second decade of the new century, the upheavals of the end of the Cold War period are giving way to new patterns of politics and issues such as immigration and environmental sustainability.
Robert Ladrech

Chapter 3. Towards one Europe?

Abstract
The dramatic fall of the communist systems in Eastern Europe and end of the Cold War led to a widespread expectation that the post-war division of Europe into separate, and antagonistic, ideological, economic and security systems would be ended. The hope was that in future there would be ‘one Europe’, but it was clear from the beginning that the convergence between the Western and Eastern systems would be asymmetrical: the movement would be in one direction only as the Central and East European states adopted the Western post-war system that was accepted as the ‘European’ model. The conflation of ‘Europe’ and the Western model was demonstrated by the almost immediate pledge by the new leaders in Central and Eastern Europe to ‘return’ their country to ‘Europe’. In much of the academic literature the transformation of the political and economic systems of the former communist states is described as the ‘Europeanization’ of the region (e.g., Ágh, 1998, Ch. 2).
Jackie Gower

Chapter 4. The European Union: the Challenge of Success

Abstract
Over the second half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first the states, nations and societies of much of Europe came to work together and cooperate in very many ways (see also Chapters 2 and 3). This has created a new dimension to many of their activities that can be called the ‘European dimension’. The links between states in Europe are closer and more dense than those between states in other regions of the world, and, with the ending of the sharp division of Europe, new patterns of relationship have emerged, with the disappearance of the networks that held the Soviet bloc together and the expansion and deepening of what were previously somewhat limited West European networks. The process through which this geometry has developed, known as European integration, cannot simply be regarded as involving a steady expansion of the European Union (EU), since its architecture and impact are neither simple nor uniform. The EU, even in its enlarged form and taking into account candidate countries, does not cover the whole of the continent of Europe (see Box 4. 1), nor is it the only integrating body amongst the countries of the European continent.
Anne Stevens

Chapter 5. Government and Politics

Abstract
Our perceptions of the state and political institutions are changing. Phenomena such as globalization or European integration (‘Europeanization’; see Chapter 4) have had a number of beneficial effects for people, but many observers claim that they have also undermined the power of national governments to make policy autonomously. Governing has become more complex and — especially in the economic and fiscal sphere — more constrained. In addition to such challenges emanating from the supra-national level (from ‘above’), the national governments and institutions of Europe have also been confronted by the growing demands of actors at the sub-national level such as regions (see Chapter 9) or particular linguistic, ethnic or faith communities (from ‘below’). New social movements have questioned the monopoly of ‘institutionalized’ politics and politicians (see Chapter 6). The internet and social media have turned local protests into global events. New methods of delivering public services through, for example, the ‘new public management’, ‘private-public partnerships’ and the ‘enabling state’ have further contributed to a situation where national governments have become one actor amongst many in a number of interlocking networks made up of representatives of interest groups, voluntary associations, non-governmental organizations and executive agencies. Some observers argue that transnational developments such as Europeanization have strengthened the role of national governments at the expense of national or regional institutions, because intergovernmental decision-making in the European and global arenas is less constrained by domestic accountability mechanisms.
Thomas Saalfeld

Chapter 6. Political Participation in Europe

Abstract
This chapter aims to provide an overview of the extent and forms of political participation in Europe, bearing in mind Habermas’s injunction that democracy is more than a set of institutional arrangements for government; it is also a form of popular self-management. These terms should be clarified from the outset. First, political participation is understood as a broad category of behaviours that stretch far beyond the conventional and institutionalized forms of citizen activities such as voting (Topf, 1995; Gundelach, 1995; Khan, 1999). Secondly, with the ending of the Cold War, the meaning of Europe as a territorial category has to be broadened. Though in geographical terms Europe always included the territories at least as far east as the Urals, this was less evident before 1989, when Westerners referred to Europe in a political and cultural sense.
Dieter Rucht

Chapter 7. Social Structure

Abstract
Sociologists have commonly distinguished between ‘social structure’ and ‘social change’ and between social structure and culture. We have, however, learned from theorists such as Norbert Elias (1897–1990) and Anthony Giddens (1938–), among others, that it is more useful to consider social structures as structuresin-transformation and to think of them in terms of their causal effects rather than looking only for their material embodiment. Social structures are not things, like the islands and the subcontinental mass of which Europe is composed, but nor are they just collections of people, like a crowd or the population of a territory. To talk about social structures is to abstract from what is immediately given, as when we talk about the structure of a bridge or the structure of a DNA molecule rather than about just the bridge or the molecule. But social structures are more problematic than structures of the kinds just mentioned, because we rapidly encounter theoretical and even political disagreements about how they should be described. Some social scientists, for example, believe that class structures explain a great deal; others that they do not, or that they do not even exist.
William Outhwaite

Chapter 8. The European Economy 1950 to 2010: the Miracle of Growth and the Sources of Wealth

Abstract
This chapter considers the growth of the European economy from the ‘post-war miracle’ of the first 30 years, through the oil shocks of the 1970s, to the stepped-up pace of globalization and European integration beginning in the 1980s and the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, to the dotcom boom and bust of the early 2000s through to the credit boom and bust of the late 2000s. It will examine the different ways in which economic life and systems of social security have been organized in the various countries since the Second World War, and how they have changed over time. For Western Europe, the chapter will discuss three ways in which countries organized their economies. These are, first, the liberal market economy characteristic of Britain and Ireland, second, the ‘coordinated’ market economy of German and many smaller Western European countries, and third, the state-influenced market economy of France, Italy and Spain. For Eastern Europe, the chapter will discuss the state-led command economy found in Communist-controlled central and Eastern Europe before the collapse of communism and the dependent market economies that subsequently emerged. The chapter also outlines the three main ways in which social security and welfare systems are structured in Europe generally, including the liberal welfare state of Britain and Ireland, the social-democratic welfare state of Scandinavian countries, and the conservative welfare state of continental and southern Europe, as well as Eastern Europe following the fall of the Wall. The chapter shows that although the pressures for change have produced greater market orientation in all the various national versions of capitalism and belt-tightening in all the social security and welfare systems, significant differences in both economic organization and welfare systems remain between European countries.
Vivien A. Schmidt

Chapter 9. Regions and Regional Politics in Europe

Abstract
Many substantial changes in the structures and procedures of territorial governance are occurring at present in many European states. These changes are primarily aimed at shifting state responsibilities to lower levels of government, notably to the regional level. These shifts have appeared rather suddenly almost everywhere across the European continent since the mid-1980s. For the member states of the European Union (EU), it was particularly significant that these changes took place at the same time as significant shifts of state responsibility to the European level (commonly referred to as European integration) also occurred. However, such changes were not limited to EU member states. Following the end of the Cold War, significant territorial governance reform processes took place in the previously Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as part of their wider political and economic reform efforts to develop Western-style democracies and market economies. All these reform processes not only took many different pathways across the continent, but also led to a diversity of outcomes: there are examples of secession, of federation-building, of new models of regional autonomy, of devolution, and of massive administrative reform. In the context of a Europe where identity (including the identity conferred by a sense of geographical belonging) is to some extent replacing ideology, this chapter looks briefly at the interlocking relationships between notions of nation, state and governance, and then turns to a more specific consideration of one aspect of state evolution: the emergence of regions as a significant level of governance.
Jörg Mathias, Anne Stevens

Chapter 10. European Security

Abstract
This chapter provides a general overview of European security in the contemporary period. First, it will show how the security agenda has changed since the Cold War. Then, it will outline the main threats to European security today, before describing the current security architecture in Europe which has been set up to try to deal with the new and more unpredictable challenges of the post-Cold War period.
Mike Bowker

Chapter 11. The Cultural Dimension

Abstract
The problems of giving a comprehensive account of twentieth-century European culture are considerable: first, when we remember that twice as many books (in which, until recently, culture was principally lodged) were published in the 25 years after 1960, as in the whole previous recorded history of humanity; and secondly, when we reflect that culture is less satisfactorily defined as a series of isolated and conspicuous activities (concerts, exhibitions — though these definitely have their place) than, more widely, as the means by which humanity seeks to define itself and its relation to the world.
John Coombes

Chapter 12. Conclusion: Endings and Beginnings

Abstract
Contemporary Europe presents a picture of complexity and challenges. Europe is no longer the measure of modernity and a synonym for progress. Longstanding risks persist, arising from imbalances in the mechanisms for political participation (Chapter 6) and accountability (Chapter 5), of difficulties in the processes of integration (Chapters 3 and 4), or of unpredictable but possibly violent risks to security (Chapter 10). To these must be added newly perceived dangers, of economic collapse arising from global instability in the financial system and massive indebtedness (Chapter 8), of political and social extremism and unrest spurred on by the policies adopted to deal with economic crisis, and of the consequences of the geographical and ecological change produced by climate change.
Richard Sakwa, Anne Stevens
Additional information