Americans and Europeans Dancing in the Dark

Americans and Europeans Dancing in the Dark

On Our Differences and Affinities, Our Interests, and Our Habits of Life

Editor: Dennis L. Bark
ISBN: 978-0-8179-4802-3
Publication Date: 8/25/2007
Pages: 274

A ONCE GRAND RELATIONSHIP SLIPPING AWAY

The once rock-solid relationship between Europeans and Americans—based on common interests, shared values, trust, affection, and respect—is fading away, to be replaced by criticism and dissension. Why is this happening? And why does it matter? In Americans and Europeans—Dancing in the Dark, Dennis Bark offers an in-depth examination of the deteriorating relationship between America and Europe: our differences and affinities, the reasons behind our conflicts, and the future of our alliance.

Our differences, Bark reveals, are not of principle but of practice, shaped by our different histories. He focuses on what he calls the essential difference between us: America was built from the ground up, whereas Europe was built from the top down. That is, America was built by immigrants who eschewed the social, political, and economic practices they had always resented. Their purpose was to form their own government themselves, from the ground up. Europe, on the other hand, was built by those who enjoyed privilege and who had much to gain from participating in government rule from the top down. This difference, Bark shows, is profound because it marks our history, shapes our views of the world, and continues to affect how Europeans and Americans conduct their private and professional lives.

The European-American relationship, the author ultimately concludes, is unique and irreplaceable. To let it unravel would be unthinkable, and to let it come apart would have disastrous consequences for all of us.

Dennis L. Bark, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a historian and political scientist in the field of European studies. He writes and lectures on European affairs and the transatlantic relationship, with special emphasis on France and Germany.


REVIEWS

From Foreign Affairs
Reviewed by Philip H. Gordon

In the aftermath of the greatest transatlantic crisis in at least 50 years—the U.S.-European split over the war in Iraq—analysts on both sides of the Atlantic have been trying to understand its causes, weigh its importance, and offer suggestions for repairing the breach. Bark is most interested in the social, historical, and cultural factors that divide (and sometimes unite) Europe and the United States. He focuses on the "essential difference" that Europe is run from the "top down" while the United States works from the "bottom up." The idea is not original, but it is presented with exceptional clarity, substantiated by solid evidence and telling anecdotes, and offered without a trace of the caricature that often accompanies sweeping judgments about "Europeans" and "Americans."
—Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

From the Sept. 2008 issue of Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, a publication of the American Library Association.
Reviewed by J.B. Cook

For the past few years Bark has been writing and lecturing on the transatlantic relationship. Here, he points out that the once close relationship between Europe and the US has become strained. Numerous scholars and analysts have attempted to understand the reasons for the split. They stress how to repair the divide or the future of the relationship. Bark, on the other hand, weaves strong evidence with a few pithy anecdotes to focus on the social, historical, and cultural differences that divide Europe and the US. The fundamental difference, according to the author, is that Europe was constructed from the top down, while the US was built from the ground up. The US, therefore, was built by immigrants who were displeased and resented a society that was dominated by the privileged class. Europe was run by the privileged, who had everything to gain by participating in and influencing the affairs of government. Bark articulates this basic premise with clear, concise prose. Those interested in how culture and history shape worldviews will be unable to put the book down. Highly recommended.


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Dennis L. Bark

Dennis L. Bark, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a historian and political scientist in the field of European studies. He writes and lectures on European affairs and the transatlantic relationship, with special emphasis on France and Germany.
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