Courtesy Reuters

The Giant from Afar: Visions of Europe from Algiers to Tokyo

We must not forget that the boiling heat of modern capitalistic culture is connected with the heedless consumption of natural resources, for which there are no substitutes.

- Max Weber, 1906

That Western Europe is in a state of disarray has become a commonplace. The headlines proclaim it, the capital flight confirms it. After a generation of unprecedented prosperity and progress, the West European nations, though still remarkably strong, are encountering a network of difficulties that threatens them in various realms and that seems to defy known remedies.

As with every major historical change, the present disarray springs from a confluence of events. The economic order, so beneficent for so many years, had eroded even before 1973, but the Arab-Israeli war of that year, together with the oil embargo and the quadrupling of oil prices, brought to the Europeans a sudden realization of their vulnerability: their economic survival required Middle Eastern oil and their military survival American arms. The European nations discovered their double dependency, made worse by domestic enfeeblement and occasional wrangling abroad. Europe's combination of power and dependency is a rare phenomenon in history.

The Europeans are not alone in their new predicaments: all oil-importing countries face similar pressures and have to devise new means of paying for the more expensive fuel. Japan is the prime example of a country that responded to the oil crisis by greatly increasing its already strong exports. But Europe shared with many non-European countries yet another striking, debilitating factor of contemporary politics: the disappearance of the political giants of the postwar period and of the parties or movements that seemed to perpetuate their influence. Of the giants only Tito remains; de Gaulle, Adenauer, de Gasperi, Nehru, Nasser, and Ben-Gurion are dead. And with their disappearance and for many other reasons, the Gaullists have come to quarrel, the Italian Christian Democrats have come to grief, as have the Israeli Labor Party, the Indian Congress Party, and, to some extent, the Liberal Democrats in Japan. The great parties

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