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As the European Union introduces a common currency to world financial markets, Mark Mazower's Dark Continent critically examines the notion of "Europe." The Euro notwithstanding, Mazower argues that the "'Europe' of the European Union may be a promise or a delusion, but it is not a reality." Renouncing the notion of an essential "Europe," Mazower instead explores the conflicts which dominated the continent in the 20th century and the social value systems which informed them.
Mazower orders his examination chronologically, commencing with the collapse of Europe's continental empires following World War I and the initial European experiments in democracy and national self-determination which followed. He continues with analyses of state interventions in family health and the importance of healthy progeny, the financial crisis of the 1920s, the Hitler regime, the transformed democracy that emerged following World War II, the gradual erosion of the social state in the 1980s, and, finally, the collapse of communism. He consistently displays a firm grip of European history, directing his argument to readers with a foundational knowledge of the events that shaped 20th century Europe rather than historical novices unfamiliar with the period. Provocatively insightful, Dark Continent makes a convincing argument for a European 21st century characterized by continuity and harmony through divergence. "If Europeans can give up their desperate desire to find a single, workable definition of themselves," Mazower concludes, "they may come to terms more easily with the diversity and dissension which will be as much their future as their past." --Bertina Loeffler [via]