reading notes

reading notes - POLI212A Government and Politics of the...

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POLI212A Government and Politics of the Developed World September 5 2008 Reading Notes for Topic I: The Historical Stage Readings and lectures on this topic are designed to provide some historical perspective on European political development. As I mentioned in class this week, our focus is contemporary Europe. But the political dynamics of contemporary Europe do have a history, there are legacies of history which have consequences for the present. To begin with, one conventional way of distinguishing past and present in European politics is just to distinguish contemporary Europe from modern Europe. There is no hard and fast date which marks the transition in history from ‘modern’ to ‘contemporary’ Europe but, for our purposes, a convenient point of demarcation is 1945. Most of the course material deals with European politics from 1945 onwards, whether we are looking at the political dynamics of capitalist democracies such as France, Britain, Germany or Italy, the political meaning of the East-West divide in Europe or the evolution of economic and political integration and the institutions of the European Union (EU). And, of course, within this time period from 1945 to 2008, we pay particular attention to the very contemporary period – to the dynamics of European politics today, whether we are looking at particular states or regions of Europe or the pan-European institutions of the EU. But to do this -- to fully understand the present -- we need to understand the past, we need to put the dynamics of contemporary Europe in historical perspective. The readings on this topic are intended to provide some of this needed perspective. To start with, I will discuss the first three readings by Mazower, Howard and Johnson. The Mazower reading is a chapter from a larger book which Mazower has written on twentieth century Europe, the Howard reading is an article in a special issue of a journal devoted to the question, What is Europe?, and the Johnson reading is an excerpt from an article on the evolution of the French nation from the French Revolution onwards. I think these readings fit together and I think they provide some historical perspective. We will come to why I think this in a minute. All three readings were written by historians and they are all detailed. The Mazower reading in particular might on first reading appear to be daunting. You might ask, how much of this detail do I need to know and, then you might ask, what does this reading mean? DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED OR DISCOURAGED! You should ask yourself two questions: (1) What is the basic argument of each reading? Or, put differently, what is the author’s main point which he or she then illustrates or develops with historical detail and examples? The key is identifying to what use all of the detail is being put and to do that we need to understand the basic point of the reading (2) How do these readings hang together? That is, are there points of similarity or difference between them? Are they making similar arguments but in different ways? If they are
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This note was uploaded on 09/10/2008 for the course POLI 212 taught by Professor Meadwell during the Spring '08 term at McGill.

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reading notes - POLI212A Government and Politics of the...

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