The New Old World

In This Review

The New Old World
By Perry Anderson
Verso, 2009
592 pp. $39.95
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In the era of blogs, sound bites, and op-eds, Anderson is an old-fashioned intellectual. A British historian who teaches at UCLA, his preferred medium is the 50- to 70-page essay, in which he summarizes and critiques the best historical and theoretical literature on a subject. One might think that such an approach would generate dry academic debates of little interest to practitioners. Yet Anderson is among the most insightful and policy-relevant analysts of modern Europe -- even if he tends at times to exaggerate the pessimistic. His essays in The New Old World -- on France, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, and, above all, the European Union -- combine a Marxist's hardheaded appreciation for the centrality of economic and political self-interest with a traditional historian's sense of detail and contingency. Typical is Anderson's masterful chapter on Turkey. It explains, more lucidly than any comparable work, how the domestic and international options that face politicians in this critical country are decisively shaped by a century of historical influences.