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Notes on Larry Siedentop.  2001. Democracy in Europe
Compiled by Prof. Jeremy Lewis, revised 17 Aug. 2006


Larry Siedentop.  2001. Democracy in Europe.  New York and Chichester: Columbia UP.

  1. to prevent war.
  2. to sustain common market and single currency.
  3. to control Germany by sharing governance of Germany.
  4. to become one of world's great power blocs.
  • "Economists have become the witch-doctors of modern world -- performing rites and intoning formulas which make it possible, at least in the short run, to keep the demons of social injustice at bay." -- .p.38.
  • Utilitarianism alone cannot prescribe human rights.
  • Communitarianism cannot return us to pre-democratic times of a set place in class system of society.
  • Rights talk lacks duties, but communitarianism is not the solution -- S. favours liberal constitutionalism.
  • Constitutional religion of US led to public opposing impeachment of Clinton despite its usual moralism -- and supporting US Supreme Court over Nixon on issue of handing over Watergate tapes.
  • Chap. 3.  The Dilemma of Modern Demoracy.
  • Democracy now a requirement of EU membership -- but was seen as a dark threat until 1800s, and unknown outside West until 1950s.
  • Democracy has shifted its meaning.
  • Democracy simpliciter
  • democratic government
  • democratic society
  • Bernard de Mandeville, early C18th, argued for civic virtue, must accept 'pitiful and frugal society' -- or if decide to encourage commerce and pursue prosperity, dispense with ideal of active citizenship and citizen-heroes.
  • Solutions?
  • Not Communitarianism of Rousseau (moral, based on general will) or Durkheim (intermediate associations and guild socialism).
  • "Modern citizenship requires that the ancient citizen-hero take a cold shower and put on his clothes.  a more restrained doctrine of citizenship would take as its subject not the ancient hero stripped for action, but the ambivalent modern, wanting to carry out his or her duties in a committee meeting, while also anxious to get home.  Such a restrained doctrine of citizenship finds its natural place in a devolved form of the state."-- p.62
  • "Federalism, more than any other form of the state, makes it possible in principle to adjust the claims of both citizenship and civil society, of the public and private spaces.  It can do this by helping autonomous individuals who are also citizens to take a new view of their own interests, a view which leads insensibly from narrowly personal interests, through local and regional interests, to national interests and beyond.  In that way federalism firmly anchors the individual in different layers of association." -- p.63
  • "That is why in Europe subtle constitutional reform, indeed a new constitutional settlement, is required if we are to begin to overcome the dilemma of modern democracy -- which is that we want more from public life than we are prepared to put into it.  We want a share in power, but we also want to be left alone." -- p.63
  • Chap. 4.  How Britain has Lost its Voice.
  • Ideas devalued in GB:
  • Church of England has long been pragmatic, not ideological.
  • Late C18th - early C19th compromise between middle & upper classes.
  • Princess Diana when killed, canonized by confused youth, owing to constitutional void and seeing all institutions as controlled by elite like ancien regime.
  • "It has been said, with only slightly more malice than truth, that the British constitution can be defined as "what happens". The almost primitive aspect of the constitution has been its minimal normative content, with emotional cohesion and uplift being provided by the pageantry of an aristocratic society." -- p.73.
  • "By contrast, Thatcherism provided an easily readable map for steering through life: a liberalism stripped of its political and moral dimensions." -- p.77
  • Britain has a constitutional crisis but lacks constitutional literacy.  Abolition of hereditary Lords right to vote and devolution have not led to new constitutional settlement.
  • Chap. 5. Why Constitutions are Important.
  • Because the state is now universal, and we treat it as synonymous with government, we forget that it is based on equality in civil society under a constitution.  Under ancien regimes, all members of society were equally subject to sovereign's authority.  Unlike tribal authority, the state conferred on members an individual identity [citizen] outside the group.
  • "Britain's Mrs. Thatcher is famous for having insisted that 'there is no such thing as society', there are only individuals.  But, in truth, there is no such thing as the individual -- understood as a public and enforceable social status or role -- without a state." -- p.93
  • Federalism requires an unusually well-educated and moral population. -- 1870s, Francois Guizot, Frnech historian.
  • "Constitutions have this potential of creating provinces in the mind [of individual identity] ... through the formal separation of ... powers, through the relations it lays down between the centre and periphery of society, and finally, by defining and seeking to protect a range of fundamental rights." -- p.97.
  • Europeans should not fear the US inflated rights talk and judicial review; judges have reluctantly stepped in where legislature has failed to settle issues such as abortion.  US constitution has a strong role in socialization process.
  • "For this is a culture which can, at best, give the disadvantaged and impoverished a sense of their own worth, and the confidence to demand justice.  The sight of a semi-literate citizen of Alabama insisting on his or her constitutional right may have its ridiculous side, but it is also a noble prospect." -- p.99
  • N. Ireland would have been better off with judicial review of rights claims by Catholics.
  • British Left suspicious of legal class -- but legal class need to be open like US.
  • Rights-based liberal constitutionalism is needed to replace religion, family and locality -- which used to provide (esp. religion) identity and morality.
  • Chap. 6. Three Forms of the State.
  • New Europe has been constructed by economic agenda.
  • Different forms of the state are related to political culture and elites.  Euro mobility of labour cannot reach that in US which is based upon common language.  Common currency is not backed by the US ability to use fiscal policies to assist regions.
  • "What is taking place in Europe is a competition between three models of the state to become the model for the European Community as a whole.  These models are the [centralized, la tutelle of state] French, the [federal + rechtstaat, rule of law] German and the [pragmatic, ad hoc, unexportable] British." -- p.105
  • [centralized, la tutelle of bureaucrats] French, produced national veto and Jacques Delors political and currency unions.
  • [federal + rechtstaat, rule of law] German
  • [pragmatic, ad hoc, unexportable] British
  • "Not only have the legislatures of member states been forced to take a back seat.  There has also often been a dreadful paucity of information about the background of decisions taken by the council of ministers and carried out by the European Commission.  Anyone who has ever tried to get sensitive information from Brussels -- for example, information about the net contributions of member states to the budget of the European Union -- will recognize the problem." -- p.119.
  • "After all, there is no need for either national executives or the European Commission to invoke 'secrecy' in economic and social matters, as if they were matters that needed to be protected from public scrutiny in the fashion of military or national security decisions.  A second avenue of reform should lead to the establishing of higher standards for public access to information about decision-making, not only within but also between national governments, especially in relation to the proceedings of the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.  Such freedom of information will be required not only to protect the public from the growth of bureaucratic discretion, but also to empower legislators in their dealings with administrators, whether at home or in Brussels." -- pp.120-121.
  • Chap. 7. Creating on Open Political Class.
  • Direct election of Euro MPs is a fig-leaf covering the growth of bureaucracy in both EU and member states.  Still governed by les autres.
  • "When intermediate associations are weak and the state machine so powerful, private interests are always tempted to establish clientele relations with the state.  They seek favours in the dark, so to speak, rather than demanding justice in the light of day." -- p.123.
  • "The keystone in the arch of any vigorous civil society must be a political class or elite which has emerged in a morally acceptable way -- representing the claims of talent, education and wealth as well as ambition." -- p.123.
  • Mediaeval church had great moral authority: it was open, shared Latin language, recruited from all ranks, and celibate so it could not become a self-reproducing nomenklatura like modern E. Europe.
  • English is best candidate to replace latin as EU language -- even preferred by Swiss language groups.
  • French net contribution to EU very small --
  • Germany is largest with over 10 Bn ecus, followed by (small) Netherlands, UK and Italy.
  • Beneficiaries led by Spain and Greece, are small countries of Med, Ireland, Benelux.
  • Balanced are Scand, France, Austria.
  • French hegemony in EU seemed threatened by reunification of Germany, led to ECB to give French as share in German economic policy.  French Jacobin, centralizing view of democratic constraints.
  • German culture includes ingrown habit of deference to authority based on professional associations that predate the nation state.  Not a check on French authority.
  • "For the institutions of the European Union are at present incomplete.  A European Senate is badly needed to complete them.  By creating an upper chamber in the European parliament, a new bridge could be built between national political classes, which retain democratic legitimacy, and the decision-making process in Brussels.  Such a Senate should be recruited by indirect election from exisiting national parliaments."  --p.147.
  • Senate's powers would include initiative and veto over some legislation, and advise and consent to senior Commission appointments.
  • Half senators could be elected from national regions.
  • Senators would help ensure that EU policy is limited to basic rights and principles (women & gays) not details (contents of sausages).
  • Open access to legal profession is also important for developing a political class.
  • Chap. 8. Europe and the Global Political Market.
  • Globalization cliche has led to two views since fall of communism: Capitalist Triumphalism (end of history, Thatcherist views) versus Capitalist Catastrophe (Continentals,CAP, protectionists) theory.
  • Liberal capitalism developed through three stages: (p.155)
  • Formal liberalism: proclamation of equality before law of all subjects
  • Early liberalism: gap remains between this formal equality and the de facto inequalities of status.
  • Mature liberalism: increased social mobility erodes advantages of inherited wealth.  First achieved in US.
  • Capitalism can be based on individual or family.  In Japan, 1990s crisis revealed that underneath appearance of capitalism lay real decision-making by MITI.
  • Capitalism in Europe developed from inclusive development of mediaeval church (before Protestantism), with anyone welcome to join rituals and hear Bishop in cathedral.  Undermined gradually aristocratic character of city and paterfamilias within family, as Bishop became leading figure in city.  Guizot noticed this change came with Visigothic codes, broadening power in ex Roman empire city.
  • Some familist, pre-individualist societies still have trouble with modern capitalism and state relations (Japan, Italy, Islamic cultures).
  • We must prepare for moral conflicts between "pre-individualist and individualist visions of society.  So we must begin to prepare ourselves for moral conflicts being expressed increasingly in economic terms -- something which turns the Marxist model for understanding social conflict upside-down!" -- p.170.
  • Chap. 9. Europe and the United States.
  • Tension between France and US /UK over language and economic competition needs to be eased by focus on shared moral values.  French skepticism about Anglo-American motives sometimes taken too far.
  • US south has evangelical tradition and Europhile northeast has lost its cultural dominance with trend of population to south and west.  Increases tension with Europe.
  • Germany most reliable partner for US/UK.
  • "[C]ulture of consent which is the last and most soundly based Western claim to superiority in civilization." -- p.188
  • Chap. 10. Europe, Christianity and Islam.
  • "If we want to understand the distinctive constitution of Europe, we must go back to its religious foundations.  for the moral beliefs which Christianity fostered still underpin civil society in Europe, the institutions that surround us." -- p.190.
  • "Utilitarianism merely aggregates satisfactions, looking upon society as a kind of collective self.  It does not mark out or respect the differences between persons, their need for autonomy." -- p.192.
  • "nonsense on stilts" -- Bentham's view of attributing natural rights to individuals.  But his insistence on equality for calculating utility was based on equal basic rights.
  • Judaism remained tribal rather than concerned with the human species -- Christianity accomplished that moral revolution, as an amalgam of Judaism and elements of Greek philosophy.
  • Christianity's central notion of universal moral equality -- even though it developed in a mdeiaeval Germanic feudal society in Western Europe -- was subversive of subjugation in society and led eventually to social and political equality.  This in turn produced anti-clericalism in reaction to the Church structure and practices.
  • AD 792 Charlemagne required loyalty oath of all men (not just freemen) for a Christian Empire -- implied even slaves have moral souls! -- p.203.
  • Dilemma arises from Islamic public schools -- should they teach subjugation of women?
  • Universal rights in France persuaded Jews to fight in WW1 for France -- to the surprise of Maurice Barres, the Catholic Nationalist.  Jews (like Isaiah Berlin in UK) without becoming Christians, absorbed more than they realized of liberalism.
  • Islam, like Christianity is formulated in universalism, both are religions of the book for all humans.
  • BUT Islam
  • emphasizes equal submission -- rather than equal liberty under God.
  • lacks Greek philosophy and Roman Law abstract influences on Christianity.
  • Muslims more acute than Christians at seeing the connection between Christian moralism and modernism -- e.g., controversy over Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses.
  • "Thus by failing to understand the extent to which Western societies continue to rest on shared beliefs, the West also fails to understand the degree to which its beliefs are now subverting the rest of the world.  The Rushdie affair should have made the West more conscious of how Christian its moral intuitions remain." -- p.213.
  • Chap. 11. Political Moderation and Social Diversity in Europe: The Future.
  • Can cultures of the various states be combined?
  • Europe faces a political threat to moderation and a social threat to diversity.
  • Cultures:
  • Since 1980s, growth of regs + monetary union + domestic & foreign policy union leads to doubts about future of nation states.
  • French have taken lead, delayed response to german reunification.
  • French elite, in abandoning Europe des Patries for "ever closer political union", fell back on bureaucratic model of French state.
  • Paradox: EU propelled towards a federal state by a class that does not admire federalism (dispersal of authority, checks & balances, participation in process.)
  • Germans & Dutch do seek purer federalism -- but elites have left public opinion dazed.
  • "Increasingly we find ourselves worshipping at the altar of economic growth instead of citizenship." -- p.217.
  • "Democrcy in Europe is in danger of being reduced to a competition between elites (alias parties) who manipulate consumer preferences in the fashion of companies." -- p.217.
  • "Decisions taken in Brussels are opaque, the result of bureaucratic infighting and a lobbying process which puts a preimum on special access and money." -- p.217.
  • "[A]las, the market has begun to usurp its function." -- p.217.
  • "[T]he final, decisive justification of the market system is itself democratic -- that it empowers individuals, dispersing rationality, choice and responsibility, in contrast to a command economy." -- p.217.
  • Centrist parties all over Europe have presented a united front in favor of monetary union, leaving voters no real choice.  Reaction among radical rightists in E. Germany and Austria.
  • US Supreme Court has several times when it found itself at odds with public opinion, trimmed its sails in subsequent decisions.
  • French success through its skilfull political class shows in budgetary figures -- does not make major contribution to EU.  French elite also subsidizes agri and manu, regardless of principles of EU.
  • "[T]he peculiar French role in the creation and operation of the EU, the habit of dominating its decision-making, has resulted in a fusion of the ideas of 'French interest' and 'European interest'." -- p.223
  • "The survival of the CAP in the face of so much trenchant criticism and opposition it itself testimony to the vice-like hold fo the French administrative class on European policy." -- p.223
  • French strengthening of EU state could backfire by producing policy French would regret. -- p.224
  • Rule of law is only reliable when rooted in attitudes.
  • Recourse to violence is a common cultural reaction to bureaucratic states.
  • "[T]he marriage of economism and etatisme, which marks the present rush towards European integration, poses a serious threat to democracy in Europe." -- p.226
  • Complaints about social changes as Americanization are confused:
  • American popular styles have merely replaced French and British style leadership during their own empires.
  • Amer commercialism is true enough, and 'almighty dollar'.
  • Euro masses have taken to American styles and products, though, because they are not associated with class differences -- Amer is middle class.
  • Amer culture also emphasizes pluralism, valuable for Europe.
  • Europe lacks political consensus, and needs a European Senate plus a Euro Supreme Court.
  • "Federalism is the right goal for Europe.  But Europe is not yet ready for federalism." -- conclusion, p.231
  • A Brief Bibliography:
  • Main Events in the development of the European Union:
  • 1999 Launching of the Euro
  • 1997 Amsterdam Treaty
  • Accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden [but not Norway]
  • 1993 Completion of the Single Market
  • 1992 Maastricht Treaty on European Union signed, effective 1 Nov. 1993.
  • 1990 Reunification of Germany
  • 1986 Single European Act signed, in effect 1987
  • 1986 Accession of Spain, Portugal
  • 1981 Accession of Greece
  • 1979 Direct elections to the Euro Parliament
  • 1973 Accession of the UK, Denmark & Ireland
  • 1968 Customs Union fully operational
  • 1966 Luxembourg compromise on voting (de facto national veto)
  • 1963 De Gaulle vetoes British entry to EEC
  • 1957 Treaty of Rome creates EEC, in effect 1958.
  • 1951 Treaty of Paris creates ECSC (Schuman Plan)