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This week, two of E&M's best writers share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.

ziemowit

Ziemowit Jóźwik

"The nation (...) like a poor cripple at the cross-roads lying"

There has been much discussion about Ukraine in Europe recently. As long as the former "orange princess" Yulia Tymoshenko remains in jail after a politically inspired trial, many European leaders have decided to boycott the upcoming European Championship. The EU-Ukraine rapprochement seems frozen. If you're looking for detailed information on what's happening and what's going to happen in the near future between Ukraine, the EU and - of course - Russia, here are two must-read articles: The Centre for Eastern Studies discusses "The crisis in EU/Ukraine relations surrounding Tymoshenko" and Veronika Pulišová describes Ukraine’s "in-betweenness" ("Between Europe and Russia") in New Eastern Europe.

Reducing the democratic deficit

According to Article 11 paragraph 4 of the Treaty of the EU and Article 24 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU, the citizens of the EU have the right to invite the European Commission to submit the proposal of a legal act. As you probably know, since the 1st of April (the date the provisions came into force) several European Citizens' Initiatives have been announced. Perhaps these will be the primroses philosophers have dreamed of: the path towards transnational democracy or the European public sphere? Who knows. In any case, there's one initiative that you should pay attention to. On a blog with the exciting title Recent developments in European Consumer Law I found an article about the initiative "Fraternité 2020 – Mobility. Progress. Europe." It's brought forward by a youth initiative eager to persuade the Commission to enlarge the budget for EVS and Erasmus. We can only applaud and support! (And even though you might have no idea what CESL means and Directive 2008/48/EC might not sound very exciting - follow the blog mentioned above - we're all consumers, whether we like it or not...)

Greetings from the Iroquois of Europe

Finally, an article about something you've probably never heard of: the political traditions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A federal state of many nations, cultures and religions that in the times of absolute monarchies was governed by parliamentary assemblies and a king who was elected (by the whole nobility). How was that possible? To discover the interesting stories of the Golden Liberty principle or the intellectual origins of the first European constitution - whose anniversary was celebrated both in Lithuania and Poland a few days ago - I very much recommend "The heritage of Polish Republicanism" by Krzysztof Koehler in the Sarmatian Review.

Sunday, 08 April 2012 07:31

Good Reads 08/04/2012

Written by
lucy

Lucy, Heart Editor 

New house? Make it a bright pink windmill

Whether you're travelling through the countryside in the Czech Republic or the Republic of Ireland, you'll see them: oversized houses, painted bizarre colours, and sometimes even featuring turrets and ornamental windmills. In countries where individual wealth has increased quickly over the last twenty years, people are sometimes scarily eager to show that they have the most oddly-shaped carport in the village - and Czech photographer Jan Kruml has documented some of the most weird and wonderful examples. Kruml has campaigned in the past to encourage Czech villagers to maintain their heritage and restore old buildings rather than building new ones inspired by their exotic holidays. His work raises interesting questions: should kitsch eyesores be banned, or does everyone have the right to make their home a castle?

What happened to the revolution?

If Marx travelled forward in time and found himself in the year 2012, watching bankers spend their bonuses or seeing Chinese workers queuing up for jobs making iphones at one of the Foxconn factories, he might have been surprised. Not all of his predictions have come true: for instance, how can we explain the fact that the financial crisis has not yet resulted in a mass revolt by the global proletariat? John Lanchester sets out to answer this question in a lecture called Marx at 193, which is very accessible to non-economists and features a fascinating description of "the world's most typical human being."

Women who "sell" their "assets": businesswomen, or victims?

Pole-dancing: can it be empowering? Or does it always encourage sexual inequality? The question of sexual empowerment divides young women today, with books such as Catherine Hakim's Honey Money suggesting that women should use their attractiveness for their own gain. Poet Sabrina Mahfouz tackles the question in her poem First Night, about a stripper's first night on the job. Mahfouz is an impressive performer, and the poem has many great moments linguistically (look out for the double use of "hard") - but what I really like about it is the way she creates a clamour of disorientating voices. For me, the feeling of overload which you have at the end of the poem reflects many women's sense of confusion and uncertainty when it comes to the question of empowerment.

Thursday, 01 March 2012 18:01

Good Reads 01/03/12

Written by

Each week, two E&M editors share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.

juliane

Juliane, Diaphragm Editor 

HAS TECHNOLOGY FIGURED US OUT?

I love it when science and technology present easy solutions to complex problems. The notion that you can answer some of life's most troubling questions in one single sentence is deeply appealing to me. Nevertheless, when I first read about complexity scientists having explained the way culture has spread in Europe, I was somewhat... offended. For me, European culture is fascinating, interesting and compelling because it cannot be explained in one sentence. So when a bunch of complexity scientists (which, on a side note, is the coolest academic title I've come across) explain to me that the main reason, or perhaps one of the main reasons, that the democracies of ancient Greece and the Roman empire still remain the most influential and persisting cultural movement in European history is ... that Italy and Greece are located not in the centre, but on the edge of the European continent, I am quite frankly insulted. However, the possibility that they might be right is puzzling and fills me with curiosity. See if you agree here and download the whole paper here if you're interested.  

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE FILM OF THE YEAR... SORT OF

This is a movie that I'm more excited about than I care to admit. A few reasons: 1) It's just about as tacky as science fiction will ever get. Which in itself is a reason to love it. 2) It's one of the few examples of real, not just imagined, fan-funding (the movie has been planned for ages, but director Timo Vuorensola did not have the money to make it happen - until he urged people who wanted to make it happen to pitch in, actually funding enough for proper production of the whole thing). In other words, even before the first screening, the movie had a huge and loyal pool of fans, which in this day and age is quite the accomplishment. 3) The movie, which, just to be clear, is about AN INVASION OF NAZIS WHO HAVE BEEN HIDING ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON SINCE 1944, opened at the Berlin Film Festival Berlinale this year. I love it. I love what it says about Germany being able to deal with their past in, if not unproblematic ways, then at least openly and with the realisation that the past is actually in the past. 4) It's a pan-European project actually said to have a chance of being a blockbuster in the US, which always is a weird satisfaction for me. Intrigued? Read more about what is perhaps the most inappropriate, yet surely entertaining, film experience of the year here.

Saturday, 18 February 2012 17:27

Good Reads - Author Special 21/02/12

Written by

This week, two of E&M's best writers share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.

ziemowit

Ziemowit Jóźwik

Not only for parishioners

Even though tons of paper were wasted explaining the sources of the current economic and financial crisis we (including the world leaders) still seem to have more questions than answers. Within dozens of narratives, one is especially interesting for me. Remember some of the points which the Archbishop of Canterbury (or "the turbulent priest" to stay in the British context) Rowan Williams made as a Guest Editor of the New Statesman magazine last year? Well, now Pope Benedict XVI has also decided to take part in the discussion and call for global financial reform. The magazine Foreign Affairs gives us a detailed analysis of the Pope's Note, which was presented at the last G20 Summit. Are the world's leaders ready "to cede their own sovereignty in the interests of global humanity's common good?" I'd argue that the Catholic social teaching can still provide us with some rerum novarum ("new things").

Modern Islamism

Once we've acknowledged that Europe isn't supposed to end up as a cathedral, nor as a cube let's see what's happening in its Southern neighbourhood. Almost a year after the Arab Spring, it's still not easy to assess the outcomes of the revolutionary wave that swept across the North Africa. The elections held in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco led to the victory of Islamist parties. Will they have a pragmatic stance or try to introduce Sharia rules to the law? What kind of problems are they going to face in the near future and what did they inherit from their authoritarian predecessors? And finally, how will the Islamists' electoral triumph influence relations with the EU? Professor Moha Ennaji gives a fascinating response in his article "The Maghreb’s Modern Islamists" at Project Syndicate.

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