Monday, February 12, 2007

The Idea of the West: Changing Perspectives on Europe and America

Andrew Gamble, University of Sheffield
America owes its origins to Europe and is unthinkable without Europe, but there has always been a strand of American thinking which has downplayed the connection and wished to assert the exceptionalism of the American experience and the need for America to keep Europe at a distance to involve contamination from its old, corrupt power politics. Europeans were fascinated by the new world unfolding in America, which contrasted so sharply with their own, yet was so intimately related to it. At the same time they regarded America as for the most part a novice and outsider in world politics. Recently roles have been reversed, with many Europeans condemning America as a new Empire, while many Americans accuse Europe of refusing to share the burdens and make the hard choices needed for global leadership. The idea of the West which for four decades united Western Europe under American leadership after 1945 has been undermined. Different current meanings of the ‘West’ are explored through recent arguments about the nature of the relationship between Europe and America, focusing on narratives of security, modernity and ideology. A number of possible scenarios for the future of this relationship are then outlined.
Institute of European Studies
Univ. of California, Berkeley
Paper 060419, Year 2006

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