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Europe since 1989: A History

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The year 1989 brought the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. It was also the year that the economic theories of Reagan, Thatcher, and the Chicago School achieved global dominance. And it was these neoliberal ideas that largely determined the course of the political, economic, and social changes that transformed Europe—both east and west—over the next quarter century. This award-winning book provides the first comprehensive history of post-1989 Europe.

Philipp Ther—a firsthand witness to many of the transformations, from Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution to postcommunist Poland and Ukraine—offers a sweeping narrative filled with vivid details and memorable stories. He describes how liberalization, deregulation, and privatization had catastrophic effects on former Soviet Bloc countries. He refutes the idea that this economic "shock therapy" was the basis of later growth, arguing that human capital and the “transformation from below” determined economic success or failure. Most important, he shows how the capitalist West's effort to reshape Eastern Europe in its own likeness ended up reshaping Western Europe as well, in part by accelerating the pace and scope of neoliberal reforms in the West, particularly in reunified Germany. Finally, bringing the story up to the present, Ther compares events in Eastern and Southern Europe leading up to and following the 2008–9 global financial crisis.

A compelling and often-surprising account of how the new order of the New Europe was wrought from the chaotic aftermath of the Cold War, this is essential reading for understanding Europe today.

440 pages, Hardcover

First published October 20, 2014

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Philipp Ther

31 books4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 28 of 28 reviews
Profile Image for Charles Haywood.
505 reviews780 followers
November 3, 2017
This book’s title is a lie, as is most of what little history it contains. I read"Europe Since 1989: A History" to fill in the gaps from Tony Judt’s "Postwar," which ends its history around 2000. Philipp Ther’s book was published in 2014, with an English translation in 2016, and it specifically name-checks Judt’s book. Thus, it seemed like the ideal way to bring my knowledge to the present day. But this book could better be titled "A Narrow Attack on the Economics and Social Impact of Neoliberalism in Post-Communist Eastern Europe; Or Why State Socialism is Awesome." This book is, in fact, an apologetic for Communism, and a plea for a return to as many aspects of it as feasible, buried under a mishmash of rambling attacks on the economic methods used during the return to freedom of Eastern Europe.

I am not going to spend a lot of time parsing this book, because it is a waste of my time, and of anyone else’s reading this, and I have already wasted enough time by reading this book. But I will examine, a little, the core conceit of this book—neoliberalism, because it is a term commonly thrown around nowadays, in large part as a result of the rumbling civil war on the Left. In fact, I had never heard the term until 2016, in connection with Bernie Sanders’s attacks on Hillary Clinton, but apparently it has been used for some time among the academic Left, and now I hear it everywhere.

To his credit, Ther at least clearly defines neoliberalism. For him, in his typically emotional and prejudiced prose, it is “blind belief in the market as an adjudicator in almost all human affairs, irrational reliance on the rationality of market participants, disdain for the state as expressed in the myth of ‘big government,’ and the uniform application of the economic recipes of the Washington Consensus [i.e., deregulation and privatization].” Thus, though he never says what he wants, Ther says constantly he doesn’t want neoliberalism, and by looking at his definition, we can thereby infer what he wants. He desires something other than the market to be the “adjudicator in human affairs—given that he praises government throughout, presumably that is to be the government. He wants the markets downgraded due to irrationality—again, presumably they are to be replaced by government decision-makers. He wants the state to expand in all areas, for it is not big enough. Thus, Ther often uses the term “fully functioning government,” contrasting it to “a skeptical view of the welfare state.” More government is always better, and less freedom of private action is also always better.

In other words—Ther wants a return to “goulash Communism.” Of course, he would never use the discredited word Communism; Ther rarely uses it even when referring to the pre-1989 era. He prefers to talk about “the positive achievements of state socialism” under Communism. He’d call what he wants “socialism with a human face,” or some such tripe, and it’d be awesome. It’d involve extensive government control of the economy, a variety of extremely aggressive socialistic leveling elements, and, presumably, the strict limitations on freedom of opposition found under Communism and increasingly found in the EU today.

Ther is too smart to openly call for this, though he comes close. Instead, he focuses on the allegedly negative effects of ending communism while talking up the supposed positive aspects of communism. To aid this end, Ther insists on making neoliberalism a catchall epithet, so as to sweep in any problem in post-Communist Europe as its fault. Approvingly quoting some person named Dieter Plehwe, who is apparently incapable of clear writing, “hegemonial neoliberalism must be conceived of in plural terms as a political philosophy and a political practice,” Ther gives himself infinite wiggle room by concluding that neoliberalism “is a moving target that is constantly being changed and adapted, which is why it is so effective.” We are not told what it is effective at, though, but presumably it is effective at doing evil. The fact that anyone’s toast is burnt in post-Communist Europe, and everything else bad, is therefore the fault of “hegemonial neoliberalism.”

The necessary flip side of this argument is the claim that socialism gets a bad rap. There may have been nothing to buy under state socialism, but the dumb populace blamed the wrong people: “The communists were held responsible for the scarcity because they had a monopoly on political power.” How they achieved and maintained that monopoly is not mentioned, nor is it ever considered that socialism might have something to do with scarcity. There is no entry for “Venezuela” in the Index, although Vietnam and China (who, last I checked, were not in Europe) get repeated positive mentions, for righteously “reforming” Communism without giving in to evil neoliberalism. Ther further complains “the public gave the communists little or no credit for their social policy achievements.” Naturally, Reagan had nothing to do with the end of Communism (called the “East-West conflict,” of course, not Communism), since confrontation doesn’t work, as proven by the fact that North Korea and Cuba are still Communist and have “reaffirmed their disapproval of reforms.” In fact, people were quite free under late Communism, “the citizens of the Eastern Bloc countries were not as ‘atomized’ [a euphemism for living in fear] as totalitarianism theory—previously a major influence on Cold War studies—has claimed.”

In other words, things were pretty good under Communism, as we now know due to enlightened minds like Philipp Ther’s, and the fault was in transitioning too far away from these largely successful systems. Ultimately, just in case we don’t get the idea, Ther makes his position totally clear, heroically offering a daring new paradigm: “[My] assertion challenges the frequent portrayals of communism and state socialism as flawed systems that were destined to fail from the start, or were forced upon countries from without. Neither the former nor the latter is true.” All this is stupid and evil, and does not require further comment from me.

Every so often Ther mentions actual history. But nobody will mistake him for a historian, because almost all of his history is bunk. For example, he claims that Yugoslavia descended to civil war because its federal organization prevented the demands of the IMF from being implemented—in other words, neoliberalism caused the war. Other than gems like that one, we are not offered any knowledge about the ebb and flow of what actually happened in Europe since 1989. Instead, the rest of the book is endless economic pseudo-analysis, complete with many charts, accompanied by pictures from the author’s footloose days of youth in 1990s Eastern Europe, all to prove that life has been harder than desirable for large numbers of people living in post-Communist Europe. By implication, but without specific argument, Ther wants us to believe that none of this is the fault of Communism, and that all these troubles could all have been avoided if the ill wind of neoliberalism had not blown across the land. Along the way, of course, Ther flaunts his European ruling class bona fides by finding time to criticize those countries that have not bowed to the EU’s maleficent “liberal democracy,” namely Hungary and Poland, even though those countries have done the most to resist the neoliberalism Ther deplores. Neoliberalism is awful, apparently, except that restoring traditional European values, as desired by the vast majority of voters in those countries, is worse.

I could go on, but I won’t. I hated this book. Don’t waste your time or money.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews884 followers
July 3, 2021
If you hate neoliberalism and its mothers fathers, this book is definitely for you.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,553 reviews818 followers
October 8, 2019
I was going to be much harsher, but the top reviews at this moment are both very poorly done take-downs, and I didn't want to pile on. So, instead, I'll focus on what's good about the book. I don't like this position.

Ther's book is important because so much 'European' history is just the history of a small handful of generally successful countries: France and Germany in the first rank, then the smaller western European nations, maybe a few paragraphs about Spain and Italy... but certainly never anything east of Austria. Ther's book is a course-correction, given a ludicrous title that is sure to mislead people in any number of reasons. Blame the press, not the author: the German title, in my dreadful translation, was 'The New Order of the Old Continent: A History of Neoliberal Europe.' That is precisely what the book is, provided you remember that only very recently has Western Europe become 'Europe'; in the 'Old Continent' days, the imaginary center of Europe was much further East. And this is a book about the effects of neoliberal policies (creating markets, liberalizing the regulation of economic life, financialization of the economy, and so on), predominantly in Eastern Europe, though with good stuff on Germany and Austria and so on as well. It is an argument, not a history: it aims to draw up a fair scorecard for a series of policies that promised unending plenty and delivered... well, not that.

The general claim, as I remember it: neoliberal policies were imposed on Eastern European nations at and after 1989, with the support of Western European voters and governments; following this test run (the evidence was shouting 'Hey! This was not a good idea!'), those same policies were then imposed on Western European states. Those policies then, unsurprisingly, yielded the great financial crash (see: Tooze, 'Crashed') and a variety of deeply illiberal governments. Readers who prefer their history written in the blood of vanquished Communists might find this somehow questionable; anyone who knows anything about post-Communist Europe will nod along, sadly.

So, those reviewers who complain that this is just a screed against neoliberalism are not exactly wrong, but they're certainly being swayed by Cold War era certainties that Ther is at pains to avoid. As in most good history, there are no heroes, but there were alternatives.

My original review was just going to be about how this was dry as dust and had no narrative momentum and, like far too many history books translated from German, is almost unreadable. But hey, it's responsible and packed with data and apparently makes cold warriors angry, so I've added an extra star.
Profile Image for Ian Cook Westgate.
113 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2018
One of the best history/economy audiobooks I've ever listened to, "Europe Since 1989" is an engrossing look at how the European countries have flourished or stagnated since the end of the Cold War. Its tone is academic, in that it sounds like a particularly interesting lecture that you'd hear at a university. It comes across as a balanced pros-and-cons judgment of how the neoliberal (translation: free market capitalist) global system has both helped and screwed over the various regions of Europe.

This book helped me understand how migration away from struggling nations, the implementation of austerity measures, and a sad lack of support from the West over time has exacerbated the problems of many eastern and southern Euro-zone countries. All of which has contributed to multiple ongoing crises today (the rise of populism, the breaking apart of democracies & the rule of law, the kowtowing to authoritarian alternatives in Hungary & Russia, along with a general hostility to immigrants as a convenient scapegoat to much more complicated internal issues).

I highly recommend reading this if you want to have a deeper understanding in the foundational reasons behind Europe's ongoing problems. Fascinating read!
Profile Image for Paige McLoughlin.
231 reviews71 followers
January 18, 2021
A detailed history of Europe since 1989. Sounds like a worried neolib detailing the trees of problems and missing the forest of his own allegiance to Neoliberal ideology and austerity causing the problem of rising authoritarianism and recent unraveling as Brexit shows. The immiseration of eastern and southern Europe is documented but he tries to gloss over the fact that the technocrats in Brussels are largely to blame for the problem and that hollow slogans like investing in the Capital of people are as empty as Rahm Emanuel imploring the unemployed to learn to code. Europe and America need that old-time social-democracy or socialism now. In other words, he sees the trouble but can't admit his outlook is the author of it.
Profile Image for Melinda.
1,885 reviews18 followers
April 6, 2018
Interesting stuff - hard to believe its been 29 years since 1989. Wow that makes me feel old. I remember being in high school when all this stuff was going on. All those changes, all those countries. So much upheaval. Very informative - probably needs a re-read to get more content into my headspace - there was a lot to take in.
Profile Image for psychy_melony.
24 reviews2 followers
January 11, 2023
The book was recommended to me by my professor for my master thesis and I devoured it in one go. I agree with the theses about the lost chance of a common European identity in 1989 and also the concept of co-transformation offers a chance to rewrite the European transformation history of the last 30 years together.
14 reviews2 followers
January 15, 2017
"Die neue Ordnung auf dem alten Kontinent: Eine Geschichte des neoliberalen Europa" von Philipp Ther ist die Geschichte Ost- und Ostmitteleuropas seit 1989 bis ungefähr heute. Der Fokus liegt hierbei auf Polen, (Ost-)Deutschland, Österreich, der Tschechischen Republik, der Slovakei, Slowenien, der Ukraine, Russland und den baltischen Ländern.

Eigentlich hatte ich nicht vor dieses Buch zu lesen, da der Begriff "neoliberal" meistens darauf schließen lässt, dass der Autor ein ökonomischer Laie ist. Da das Buch, bzw. seine englische Übersetzung, allerdings von Tyler Cowen in seinem Blog Marginal Revolution erwähnt wurde, habe ich mich entschlossen, entgegen meiner Vorurteile, das Buch dennoch zu lesen. Ein Faktor dabei war auch, dass es sehr wenige deutschsprachige Bücher zu Wirtschaftsthemen gibt, die für den amerikanischen Markt übersetzt werden. Die Tatsache, dass Ther's Buch in Englische übersetzt wurde, lässt somit eine überdurchschnittliche Qualität erwarten.

Das Thema des Buches, wie im Untertitel erkenntlich, ist der Neoliberalismus. Ther erwähnt am Anfang des Buches, dass der Neoliberalismus keine Ideologie im Sinne des Marxismus oder Faschismus sei und dass sich auch keine Gruppierung selbst als neoliberal bezeichnet. Dennoch werden im Laufe des Buches Aussagen gemacht, die dieser Einschätzung widersprechen. So sieht Ther an einem Punkt starkes Wachstum in einigen Ländern mit sozialen Sicherungssystemen als Gegenbeweise für die neoliberale These, dass der Wohlfahrtsstaat das Wachstum schwäche. Die von Ther angeführt Beweislage hingegen erlaubt solch einen Schluss nicht. Auch ist nicht klar auf welche neoliberalie Theorie sich Ther genau bezieht, abgesehen von der landläufigen Vorstellung davon was "neoliberal" ist.

An anderer Stelle heißt es, dass eine Autorin am Beispiel der Revolution in der DDR gezeigt hätte, dass der Zufall in allen Revolutionen eine wichtige Rolle spiele. Der Schlussfolgerung kann man zwar ohne Weiteres zustimmen, doch es bleibt dabei, dass man von Einzelfällen nicht auf Gesetzmäßigkeiten schließen kann.

Aus meiner Sicht hätte es dem Buch gut getan komplett auf den Begriff "neoliberal" zu verzichten. Stattdessen könnten, zum Beispiel bei wirtschaftspolitischen Maßnahmen, die zugrunde liegenden Argumente dieser Maßnahmen besprochen werden, zusammen mit einer Einschätzung inwiefern die Argumente und darin gemacht Annahmen sich als zutreffend erwiesen haben.

Ther schreibt auch, dass die deutschen Hartz-IV Reformen einen "homo oeconomicus" voraussetzen würden. Menschen könnten aber nur dann als "homo oeconomicus" agieren, wenn sie sich nicht um pflege- oder erziehungsbedürftige Familienmitglieder kümmern müssen. Allerdings ist das, was Ther als "homo oeconomicus" bezeichnet durchaus damit vereinbar. Ther's Interpretation scheint daher hauptsächlich von Vorurteilen gegenüber modernen ökonomischen Theorien getrieben, als einer sachlichen Analyse dieser Theorien. Letzten Endes bleibt der Eindruck, dass Ther nur rudimentäre Kenntnisse ökonomischer Forschung hat. Das wäre verschmerzbar, wenn die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung Europas nicht das Hauptthema des Buches wären.

Eine Stärke des Buches ist der Einsatz wirtschaftswissenschaftlicher Kennzahlung um die qualitativen Einschätzungen besser einordnen zu können. Auch das Aufzeigen unterschiedlicher Erfahrungen innerhalb von Ländern, insbesondere im Vergleich zwischen ländlichen und Metropol-Regionen, ist sehr gelungen.
November 24, 2017
Dense economic and political history written by an Austrian professor. The book tracks neoliberal policy outcomes with a focus on countries coming out of communism. The minutia is severe (and painful) but there's some good stuff in there that's probably nowhere else. Politics via handsome plumbers, Schwarzenegger pitching Friedman, shifty kiosk ladies - to name a few. As a non-academic I'd say this is one of the worst books I'm still glad I read.
Profile Image for Son Tung.
171 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2017
It is hard to rate this book since i had a tough time following the sheer amount of information presented. Background understanding of economics theory and familiarity with the history of politics of each EU states are needed. Furthermore, it is not an overall introduction to EU history since 1989, but the economic history of the EU since 1989, with special focus on former communist territories.

The general idea i can get is that the neo-liberalism economic system took place in various forms and degrees for different EU countries. Therefore, the effects unfolded after the implementation of these reforms are not homogeneous between EU states.

The concept neo-liberalism is often disagreed in components such as central banks (needed for monetarism, but hard to reconcile with minimal state intervention) and implementation of shock therapy. There were three group of neo-liberalist economies: neo-liberal capitalist (Baltic states), embedded neo-liberal (Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia), corporatist (Slovenia). That does not include Russia, Belarus, Ukraine.

This raises the question: How precise is the concept?

I really enjoy the chapters on the economic transformations of East-West Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Austria and the decline of Italy and Greece. The author made it very clear that he is not fond of austerity and deviation from Keynesianism.

Some of the "here and there" notes:
- Post war boom ended in 1970s: US dollar came under strong pressure; GB needed to be bailed out by IMF 1976, rising unemployment and spiraling national deficit > fueled inflation.
- Shifted from Keynesianism to Monetarism (steering the economy by controlling money supply with central bank): Happened most with western EU after the recovery.
- Following election of Reagan and Thatcher, privatized of state enterprises, liberalized previously regulated sectors such as banks and stock exchange > Rough neo-liberalism.
- German East implemented neo-liberalism later than other countries.
- Success of Poland came partly from bottom up social capital.
- Like China, Viet Nam introduced market economy without privatization. In contrast 1989, Poland allowed privatization because the government was in foreign debt, needed to sell off state industries and enterprises. > IMF and other domestic economists came in, modeled after Thatcher and Reagan, not social welfare of western countries.
- In the mid 90s, European governments, 1st in East then the West, tended to hand over pension and health insurance to private sectors > Effect the welfare state. After the crisis, this trend stopped or even reversed: Hungary, Slovakia, Poland.
Profile Image for Kevin Mitchell Mercer.
191 reviews29 followers
July 2, 2021
I suppose it is time for us to start considering the 1990s as history, and Philipp Ther provides an insightful early draft of this project. That said, much of Europe Since 1989: A History still reads a lot like a political science and economics text.
Ther's focuses on the formerly communist East and the West's political and economic interactions and responses towards this new reality. Ther argues the prescription is a harsh "shock therapy" regime of neo-liberal reforms, privatization, and deregulation. Other reviewers (and Ther) mention Tony Judt's "Postwar," and having read that previously, I can attest that these books complement one another. Europe Since 1989 doesn't give much of a focus to the social and cultural as Judt does. While understandable, as I read, I did long for context at times.
Ther has provided a useful work here that begins to untangle the ball of snakes that is modern Europe with literary skill. Europe since 1989 helps to contextualize modern Russia, Brexit, the migrant crisis, the Ukrainian crisis, and the economic challenges of Southern Europe. He provides plenty of data to ground his findings and overall has crafted something that I will find useful for my own teaching. If you are looking for a more casual stroll into modern Europe, this might be more thorough than you need.
Profile Image for Bill Hall.
12 reviews1 follower
January 11, 2022
Philipp Ther's Europe Since 1989 is, as per the subtitle, a history, but focused on the influence of the neoliberal economic model after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Germany provide most of the action. It's certainly well written but can be dense and slow-going. The parts I most enjoyed concerned the absorption of East Germany into the newly enlarged Germany and, at the end of the book, Ther's excellent analysis of Ukraine's very problematic and dangerous situation. The author also enlightened me on the sometimes unrecognized impacts of the evolutions of the former communist states of Eastern Europe on the politics, economies, and societies of Western Europe. Change, it seems, was actually a two-way street.
Profile Image for P.
132 reviews23 followers
April 7, 2020
I listened to an audio version of this and was overwhelmed by the author's incessant barrage of economics numbers and his discursive narration style, constantly switching back and forth from one country to another and then back again. I could discern no coherent theme, and essentially learned little about Europe since 1989 that I didn't already know, or at least suspect. If you want to know about the history of Europe since the fall of communism (and I still do) you'll have to look elsewhere.
If I knew an alternative I'd name it, but sadly, I don't.
Profile Image for Max.
396 reviews27 followers
April 23, 2020
Really excellent book on a big topic. It's similar to Tony Judt's Postwar (self-consciously so), and it attempts to cover the main themes of European history since 1989 and does so quite well. The author is so erudite and he has a really impressive command of the topic. Going in, I was a bit skeptical of the emphasis on Eastern Europe but came away convinced that this was the right approach. This was the second book I've read this year that significantly shifted my priors on market capitalism.
Profile Image for Jakub Ferencik.
Author 3 books74 followers
November 4, 2022
An impressive account of the economies of eastern Europe, including cities like Kyiv and Vienna, from the 1990s to the recession of 2008/9 and beyond.

The main reason I am giving this a 4/5 is that the discussion of Italian and Greek economies following the recession (despite being incredibly written, researched, and discussed) did not entirely fit into the general thesis. That is only my impression; do with it what you will.

Otherwise, an important read for anyone who wants to understand the politics of central eastern Europe today.
Profile Image for Moses.
608 reviews
October 31, 2018
A simplistic view of European history since 1989.

>Presents problem in Eastern Europe since 1989
>[Shuffles cards]
>"This was caused by Neoliberal economic policies."
>Presents another problem in Eastern Europe since 1989
>[Shuffles cards]
> "This was caused by blinkered Euroscepticism"

There, now you don't have to read it.
1 review1 follower
October 27, 2020
Constantly throws out terms and fails to define them. Constantly feels like you're still in the introduction of the book and things are being set up to be explained later but you realise you are halfway through.
Author 1 book4 followers
March 31, 2020
Nice to see the last 20 years in Europe judged against the arc of long term history. May be another hundred years before conclusions can be drawn.
Profile Image for Igor Zurimendi.
82 reviews
October 26, 2020
Once I got over the repeated use of 'neoloberalism', found it bad quite a lot of interesting things to say about the relative success and failures of central Europe after the fall of Communism.
Profile Image for Ethan Ahrend.
9 reviews
March 24, 2023
This bored me. You have to be into European politics to appreciate this book, there's just no other way. All I remember from this book is that neoliberalism did everything.
Profile Image for Anastasia.
24 reviews20 followers
February 8, 2021
The concept of valuing economic growth above all else makes me sick. I guess economy as it is now mostly practiced makes me sick.
But it is admirable that the book adresses the mostly ignored eastern european and baltic countries and i guess i do want to know more about this rat race, the free market.
I don't understand how the top rated review here can describe the book as being apologetic of communism. I read it like a merciless description of the trials and tribulations of poorer countries trying to be accepted and seen as promising and get to bathe in the wonderful current of capital and foreign investments. Like the plain looking girl that befriends the cool ones because that's what you do in school, no matter how stupid the latter are.
It almost made me cry. It made me want to stop buying anything and start living off of my vegetable garden. And surely it made me want to change what i am reading because this book offers no hope.
18 reviews
March 15, 2019
It's a decent history of the end of communism and early post-communist period, but it has two major flaws.

First, the book is misnamed. It is not really about Europe since 1989, it's about Eastern Europe since the mid 1980s. Maybe the author wanted to present it as a continuation of Tony Judt's great work, but it is really misleading - there is really nothing about Western Europe in this book, except in the context of East European reforms.

The second flaw is the author's strange infatuation with "neoliberalism". Out of the blue, he will label this or that as "neoliberal", without ever defining what that means. This is often done by left-wing analysts, but in this book it is particularly strange because it is so out of place. A good narrative of, say, events in Poland, would be interrupted by some musing on how this elusive beast of neoliberalism somehow messed it all up.

Overall it is not a bad read if you want to learn about the end of communism, and if you can live with the author's superficial and superfluous theorizing.
Profile Image for Sam Seitz.
62 reviews11 followers
November 15, 2018
This book is tough to review because it combines a stupid, overly reductive thesis with loads of interesting empirical observations. It’s also not a history of Europe since 1989, but that is the fault of the translator/publisher, not the author: The original German title – Die neue Ordnung auf dem alten Kontinent: Eine Geschichte des neoliberalen Europa – is much more accurate. Ther’s central argument is that neoliberal ideology completely dominated the thinking of post-Communist Eastern European leaders, creating large amounts of economic dislocation and suffering. To prove this, he highlights some interesting indicators, including the increasing disparity between urban and rural growth rates, aggregate GDP levels, and a comparison between the major eastern capitals. I thought many of his data points were interesting, particularly that of urban/rural economic divergence. However, his thesis is simply ridiculous, and it goes largely unproven throughout the book. Indeed, Ther’s writing is littered with comments and data that directly undermine his argument. He notes, for example, that the German government pumped around a trillion euros into the eastern federal states. He also admits that Berlin, the city with the largest level of government support, had the worst outcomes of any eastern capital he studies. But beyond the muddled evidence he musters, one is forced to wonder what his alternative would be. After all, basically any setup post-1989 would be more neoliberal than a communist system, and the delusional idea of a “third way” that he scatters throughout the book is simply not plausible. This is proven by Ther’s own writing, which offers zero reform proposals or counterfactual histories explaining how Eastern Europe could have escaped neoliberalism. It’s certainly true that the opening of statist economies created lots of dislocation and was perhaps done too rapidly, but this is not a new argument. So, at the end of the book, one is left wondering what the point is. I’d still recommend this work for anyone unfamiliar with the rough transition period Eastern Europeans faced in the 1990s and early 2000s. If you know this period well, though, there is little to glean from reading this.
Profile Image for Pinko Palest.
851 reviews39 followers
February 20, 2017
not a history of Europe but an account of how countries in Eastern Europe coped with the fall of communism. According to the author, most did quite well, thank you, by accepting most of the tenets of what would later be called neoliberalism (he does add a few caveats every now and again). Pretends to be objective and progressive even, but is neither (although he makes a few valid points, scattered throughout the book)
Profile Image for Joe Zivak.
199 reviews31 followers
August 10, 2020
Dolezite zhrnutie divokych dejin Europy po roku 1989. Aj pre tych, co si pamataju, aj pre tych, co nie velmi. Transformacia sa diala hlavne pod hlavickou ekonomickej neoliberalnej teorie a je zivotne dolezite vediet v com zlyhala a v com nie, ake nasledky priniesla a preco stale bojujeme s jej silne zvugarizovanymi a dogmatickymi verziami (INESS, svedkovia Sulikovi a ini pohrobkovia).
Profile Image for Otto Rantanen.
57 reviews
April 3, 2021
Kirja polki vähän paikallaan, eikä kaikkea selitetty parhaalla tavalla. Opin kuitenkin paljon lähimenneisyydestä ja taloudesta.
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