Eating Vichyssoise in Athens

Beyond the latest rows, institutional paralysis and financial incompetence, the scars of war have plainly not all been healed. Is there a deeper collapse of European self-confidence?

Issue: May-June 2010

Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 256 pp., $26.95.

Theodore Dalrymple, The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism (New York: Encounter Books, 2010), 160 pp., $23.95.

 

"WHERE DID Europe Go?" shouted the cover of Time's continental edition earlier this year, not even bothering to add the word "Wrong." Every kind of woe is said to be afflicting the European Union, and the great scheme of unification has shuddered to a halt. A concatenation of crises over the past few months, of which the near bankruptcy of the Greek state is only the most lurid, has heightened an urgent question of which direction, if any, the Continent is now taking.

In terms of the great implosion of the global economy which began on Wall Street in late 2008, the Greek financial collapse is a storm in a retsina glass. The sums concerned are trivial by the standards of modern multitrillion-dollar high finance, or indeed by the standards of the Bundesbank. But the rights and wrongs are not the immediate point (even if no one can claim that successive Greek governments have managed public finances with any excess of scrupulosity: at one point they turned to the experts, in the form of Goldman Sachs, for lessons in creative accounting) so much as what the crisis has said about Europe.

 

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