Guy's Reviews > Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century

Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century by Mark Leonard
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's review
Nov 12, 2011

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bookshelves: politics

Europe is a fascinating place -- a post-nation-state club of nation-states that expands because neighboring states outside want to get in, and are willing to remake themselves from the ground up (more or less) in order to be admitted... a great power with a total bureaucracy of about 30,000 (amazingly few, if you think about it), riddled with contradictions and continually lurching from one crisis to the next while somehow getting stronger and stronger -- and I have not read a better analysis of what it is and why it is so successful than this short clear book by Mark Leonard.

"Short clear book" is here high praise, both because Europe isn't an easy subject to be concise about and also because despite an admirable density of ideas and obervations one is never at sea and everything flows well. Classic english style (as opposed to flowery french rhetoric or german impenetrability... both of which I've had the "pleasure" to encounter recently).

I think that Leonard's core thesis, that the European model of regional integration around a common set of values and laws to enable economic and social integration is going to become the dominant one this century, is probably right. There will of course continue to be individual great powers such as the US, China, India, and Russia, but for most of the rest of the states in the world it will be far better to share some sovereignty (while gaining influence) as part of a tight regional grouping than to try to make their way in the world with glorious but impotent independence.

So how come only three stars? A couple of reasons: first, despite being published in 2005 it is a bit dated (singing the praises of the Euro as the next reserve currency and a wondrous success for all involved sounds a little out of tune at the present), and second, when he strays away from his central subject to speculate on the US, China, and the rest of the world I find him less convincing. It feels like a first book from a very bright chap who, however, doesn't yet know all he needs to know in order to write the sorts of books he wants to write. I'd be very interested to read an updated version if he ever writes one, partially because I'm interested in his views on what has happened since 2005, and partially because I'd like to know how his older self looks at the issues his younger self opined on with such self-assurance.

Overall, though, this is a book that is absolutely worth reading.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jay (new)

Jay Guy,

You write the best reviews. Thanks for making me want to read it, but setting my expectations, with your evenhanded praise and critique.


message 2: by Guy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Guy Very kind of you, Jay. I enjoy writing them enough to be happy with a good one even when there isn't feedback, but I love icing too!

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