The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream

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The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream

By Jeremy Rifkin
Tarcher, 2004
288 pp. $25.95
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The new European dream celebrated by Rifkin "emphasizes community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, universal human rights and the rights of nature over property rights, and global cooperation over the unilateral exercise of power." Insofar as this book is a response to Robert Kagan's somewhat cartoonish view of Europe (as Venus, to the United States' Mars), it both celebrates the virtues that Kagan dismisses and aims to refute the proudly Martian view of the United States that Kagan holds. Kaganites will find much here that they will once again deem absurd: Rifkin is concerned with individual quality of life, not political and military power. He also overlooks glaring differences among European nations. Nevertheless, it will be a pity if American overconfidence leads them to ignore this valiant attempt to show that the American way of organizing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not necessarily the best (even if some of Rifkin's musings on "the third stage of human consciousness" are a bit windy). Rifkin is no starry-eyed idealist-he questions the "thickness" of the European dream and the persistence of European cynicism-and he has studied Europe seriously and with an open mind. His book deserves to be read.

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