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Uncommon Decency

Nov 10, 2021

In the summer of 1941, as Italy warred its way to a series of territorial annexations in east Africa and the Mediterranean, a little-known anti-fascist activist by the name of Altiero Spinelli languished in prison, his restless mind fantasizing about Europe’s postbellum future. Named the Ventotene Manifesto after the island where Spinelli was jailed, the resulting document would become the blueprint of the European Federalist Movement (EFM) founded two years later, a call for the nations of the Old Continent to forfeit their sovereignty and give way to a European federation under socialist principles. 80 years into the integration project that Spinelli helped spearhead, has the EU lived up to the hopes and expectations of its progressive cheerleaders? Undoubtedly yes, argues historian Konrad H. Jarausch, Lurcy Ann Professor of European Civilization at the University of North Carolina. In Embattled Europe: A Progressive Alternative (2021), Professor Jarausch remarks that Europe has become something of a dirty word for right-wing populists on both sides of the Atlantic, which he views as a testament of the bloc’s success in building a mixed model of laissez-faire capitalism buffered by a strong safety net. Similarly, in The Primacy of Politics (2006), Professor Sheri Berman of Columbia’s Barnard College described European-style social democracy as the end-stage solution to the central challenge of modern politics, that of reconciling a free enterprise economy with a democratic polity. Professors Jarausch and Berman join us on the podcast this week to discuss Europe’s complex place betwixt social democracy and neoliberalism.

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