Progressive politics, ideas & culture


France, Europe, and America

This Magazine Staff

In trying to understand the nature of the European Union, France’s place in it, and its relation to Britain and the United States, I have been reading the following books:
Encyclopedie, by Phillip Blom. A good account of the publication of the famously subersive Encyclopedia, starring my favourite philosophe, Denis Diderot.
The Roads to Modernity, by Gertrude Himmelfarb. A revisionist and slightly reactionary take on the British, French, and American enlightenments. Helpful, because Himmelfarb is an American conservative (married to Irving Kristol), and her hostility to the French Enlightenment is a good example of how deep the estrangement between France and America runs.
Democracy in Europe, by Larry Siedentop. One of the best books I’ve read on any topic in the past five years. Siedentop is an Oxford don who has written an excellent primer on the constitutional options open to Europe: an English-style loose association, a German-style federation, or a French-style rule by bureaucracy.
I have also picked up The Right Nation, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge. The authors are from the Economist; their aim to to explain how the “American exception” has taken the country so far to the right so as to become incomprehensible to Europe.
Don Quixote, by Cervantes. Because there’s a new edition from HarperCollins. And because Spain is awesome.
Anyway, this is what I’ll be doing instead of blogging for a while.

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