The European Dream
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2009)|
The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream is a book, by Jeremy Rifkin published in September 2004. Rifkin describes the emergence and evolution of the European Union over the past five decades, as well as key differences between European and American values. He argues that the European Union, which he describes as the first truly postmodern governing body, is already an economic superpower rivaling the U.S., and has the potential to become a full world superpower.
According to Rifkin, the "European Dream" is one in which individuals find security not through individual accumulation of wealth, but through connectivity, sustainable development, and respect for human rights. Rifkin's concept of connectivity is displayed in the Dutch people's quest for gezelligheid (meaning a cozy, inclusive environment), as well as the social market theories that have dominated French and German economic planning since WWII. Rifkin argues that this model is better-suited to 21st-century challenges than the "American Dream".
Rifkin explains Europe's opposition to the death penalty in a historical context; after losing so many lives to wars in the early and mid-20th century, Europe is opposed to state-sponsored killing as a matter of principle. He also discusses the European commitment to "deep play" a notion which is absent in the United States.
To support his thesis, Rifkin notes that in addition to the European Union having more people and a greater Gross Domestic Product than the U.S., the potential of the EU as an economic superpower is shown by having: 14/20 of the top banks in the world, 61 of the 140 of the top companies of the world as measure by the Global Fortune 500 (the U.S. has 50), a homicide rate that is 1/4 than in the U.S., the 18 most developed countries in Europe all have more broadly distributed wealth than the U.S. (the U.S. ranks 24th in the world), higher lifespan than the U.S., higher literacy rates than the U.S., and higher quality of life than the U.S. Also, Europeans provide 47% of all the humanitarian aid in the world, and are seen by Rifkin as being more effective in global economic market regulation, evidenced by the fact that the EU stopped the merger of General Electric and Honeywell, fined Microsoft for anti-trust, and blocked genetically modified food despite U.S. opposition.
Rifkin also draws a clear distinction between the "hard power" of the United States and the "soft power" of the European Union in the sphere of international relations. America has relied upon military strength and economic dominance to a greater degree than the EU. Conversely, Europe has combined its strength in the financial industry and economics generally with a commitment to humanitarian aid, economic assistance programs, trade deals, international institutions and patient, multilateral diplomacy. For many countries around the world this relative difference has resulted in widespread hostility towards American power and a relative willingness to cooperate with the European Union. Rifkin argues that "soft power" is thus able to win greater influence in the long term at considerably less expense. He notes however, that Europe has relied heavily upon American military assistance for its security, and that American post-war economic assistance was considerably important in the recovery of Western Europe and thereby indirectly expedited the establishment of the nascent EU institutions.
In South Korea this book made a huge sensation and enjoyed unexpected popularity, because Roh Moo-hyun, the former (16th, 2003~2008) Korean president, read the book, then inspired by the author's idea and briefly planned his version in Asia, all of which happened just before his death.
Criticism and commentary
||This section possibly contains original research. (March 2012)|
As Jeremy Rifkin’s recent work The European Dream suggests, the world expects a great deal from Europe, and Europe will not be able to constitute itself as a power unless it gives itself the means with which to respond to this demand. But, what is being asked of it? The world does not expect good intentions. It expects Europe to invent a new industrial model which is capable of interrupting the destructive process unleashed by the capture and unlimited exploitation of the libidinal energy of producers and consumers which will lead, in all domains, to a vast process of desublimation.
As this quotation already indicates, Stiegler argues that Rifkin, while recognizing the critical importance of Europe to the question of the global future, nevertheless does not penetrate to the crucial question, because he does not see the capturing and channelling of desire as the central destructive feature of contemporary capitalism. Rifkin fails to grasp that what consumer capitalism destroys first of all is primordial narcissism, a narcissism which is the foundation of desire as such, and hence the foundation of all dreams (including the European dream) and all future (including the European future):
If we must rethink motivation or, in other words, desire, then we must rethink the incommensurable as the best, and define the best as that which aims at a consistency and, in this consistency, aims at multiple consistencies (to on pollakhos legetai), a different plane, one which is not reducible to the calculability of the finite (in other words, reducible to comparisons). However, just as there is no question of a Providence here, there is no question of calling that which is true in the other plane a simple dream. This other plane cannot be a dream, or at least not in Jeremy Rifkin’s sense of a dream—unless we make this dream the principle of all politics and economics—but then it would be necessary to elaborate a general libidinal economy, which would be very unevocative of Rifkin, who seems not to see the libido as an issue in the world of capitalism, even though he is American, and who in any case supports his arguments with the summary analyses of narcissism proposed by Christopher Lasch. What Rifkin misses, along with Lasch, is that narcissism is the precondition of all dreams and all psyche, as the etymology of the word alone indicates.
- Jeremy Rifkin, America, "Wake Up to the European Dream," Washington Post, 31 Oct., 2004, available at http://www.foet.org/global/ED/The%20Washington%20Post-%20October%2031%202004.pdf
- Rifkin, "Getting To 'Yes' In Europe" Boston Globe, 5 June 2005, available at http://www.foet.org/global/documents/gettingtoyesineuropeprintedbostonglobe6-5-05.pdf
- Korean Books Letter, "Korean Books Letter - 17 Jun 2009" LTI Korea, 17 June 2009, available at http://www.koreanbooks.or.kr/newsletter/16st/eng/bestsellers.htm
- "The European Dream: The New Europe has its own Cultural Vision—and it may be Better Than Ours", an article on page seventy-six of the September, 2004 – October, 2004 issue of Utne, copied from the book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream by Jeremy Rifkin
- Constitution and Individuation by Bernard Stiegler
- Book review by Stanley Hoffman
- Book review by Kirk McElhearn
- a discussion with Jeremy Rifkin in the European Parliament about the European Dream