In This Review

Angela Merkel: A Chancellorship Forged in Crisis
Angela Merkel: A Chancellorship Forged in Crisis
By Alan Crawford and Tony Czuczka
Wiley, 2013, 214 pp
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German Europe
German Europe
By Ulrich Beck
Polity, 2013, 120 pp
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel might well be the most powerful woman in the world. She is now headed for a rare third term as the leader of a global economic powerhouse. More than anyone else, she holds the future of the eurozone in her hands. Yet she remains a divisive and enigmatic figure. Crawford and Czuczka’s book, the best biography of Merkel in English, gives readers the facts yet fails to penetrate far into the personality of an intensely private politician whose leadership style is blandly methodical. Despite the book’s thin sourcing and repetitive style, the reader does get a strong sense of Merkel’s slow but steady approach to governing and her intense commitment to European integration as a means to tame financial markets -- elements often overlooked in analyses of the euro crisis. To judge from Crawford and Czuczka’s book, Merkel just might triumph in the end.

Beck, a renowned left-leaning sociologist based in London and Munich, takes the opposite view. He thinks Merkel, whom he refers to as “Merkiavelli,” is the problem. In his view, economic reforms carried out by Brussels are the only solution to the crisis, and Merkel’s myopic electoral opportunism remains the sole obstacle blocking progress. This idealistic view is widely held within Germany’s opposition Social Democratic Party, which is perhaps why Beck doesn’t bother to address any of the technical issues surrounding it.

By personalizing European politics, both of these books obscure the real policy tradeoffs that Germany and the other EU countries face today. The polarization the two books illustrate is itself one of the main challenges Merkel faces in realizing any vision for Europe’s future.