Contemporary Europe  book cover
1st Edition

Contemporary Europe

ISBN 9781138125681
Published September 26, 2016 by Routledge
184 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Europe is one of the most dynamic and interesting areas of the world, pioneering in the European Union a new form of governance for half a billion people, represented in the world’s first directly elected transnational parliament. This book situates the European Union in a broader European, global, historical and geographical context, providing a readable presentation of the most important facts and drawing on the theoretical approaches which have transformed the study of contemporary Europe over the past two decades.

The European Union is still on the road to what has been called 'an unknown destination', and this book presents its economic, political, legal and social trajectory from the middle of the last century to the present. Contemporary Europe covers some of these issues in an interdisciplinary framework, aiming to situate the development of the European Union in a broader context of pan-European and global processes. Europe has been cut down to size, but it does not have to become a global backwater, and the study of contemporary Europe’s institutional reality does not have to be boring

The book counter this misperception, conveying the essential facts and theories of contemporary European reality in a clear and approachable analysis. It will serve as a readable introduction both to the academic field of European studies and to contemporary Europe itself.

Table of Contents

  1. European Unity: Dream and Reality
  2. Globalisation and the European Economy
  3. Territory and Governance
  4. Institutional Europe
  5. European Democracy
  6. People’s Europe
  7. Europeans Against ‘Europe’
  8. The Future of Europe in the World


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William Outhwaite, FAcSS, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Newcastle University, is the author of European Society (Polity 2008), Critical Theory and Contemporary Europe (Continuum 2012) and Europe Since 1989 (Routledge 2016) and a large number of journal articles and book chapters on contemporary Europe. He taught European studies and the sociology of contemporary Europe at the University of Sussex (in the School of European Studies) and Newcastle University (in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology). He is an associate editor of the European Journal of Social Theory and European Societies, the journal of the European Sociological Association, and is a member of editorial boards of a number of other journals.


"In the current political climate, it has become increasingly common to suggest that we are witnessing ‘the end of the European project’. Eurosceptic attitudes are widespread, not only in the UK but also in continental Europe, including in those countries that have traditionally been regarded as ‘Europhile’ or ‘pro-European’. In this tension-laden and crisis-ridden context, more and more people seem to take the view that European matters – notably, European politics – are, at best, boring or, at worst, largely irrelevant to our lives. William Outhwaite is to be applauded for having done a superb job in deconstructing this prevalent misconception. His book is a powerful reminder of the fact that, in order to face up to the key civilizational challenges of our time, we need more, rather than less, pan-European – and, indeed, global – co-operation." - Dr Simon Susen, Reader in Sociology, City University London


"The European Union is at a critical stage of its evolution. It is more necessary than ever to understand the nature of the enterprise, to situate it in relation both to European developments generally and to the world at large. William Outhwaite, an established and astute commentator on contemporary Europe, in this succinct and highly readable book, provides all the necessary historical and theoretical tools for the job." - Krishan Kumar, Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia

"Refreshingly, this is a book about Europe in its proper sense, which means Europe in more than one sense. The discussion of the European Union as a transnational form of governance that intersects and doubles-up with nation-state governance obviously looms large in William Outhwaite’s narrative of Contemporary Europe. Tellingly, the author’s alternative title for his book was Europe and the European Region in the Age of the European Union. The EU therefore qualifies what Europe is nowadays, but neither defines nor exhausts it. The coherent pursuit of this line of interpretation (not an obvious one in the current panorama of European studies) makes this socio-political-historical account of the European region and of its peoples both interesting and distinctive. In engaging and thoughtful style, Outhwaite offers an interdisciplinary panorama of what Europe has become, particularly as the effect of the end of the Cold War and the process of European integration. The book therefore examines the Europe of the EU and the Europe outside it, well aware that these two areas have been continuously changing in both their borders and self-understandings. But geopolitics is not the only way in which different Europes are defined in this book. Outhwaite illustrates in rapid prose and colourful figures how the continent has been dramatically reshaped economically, institutionally, politically, territorially, and demographically, in the course of the last few decades. A tour de force that remains critical of the (ir)resistible progress of European integration, and of the place of Europe in the world, but nevertheless confident that there is something valuable in the present European experience. Contemporary Europe is both a lively introduction to European studies, and a shrewd reflection on their multi-faced object of investigation." - Dr Dario Castiglione, Associate Professor of Politics, Exeter University

"Outhwaites Contemporary Europe is a critical diagnosis of one of the most advanced political projects after world War II. The book is one of the two or three great books on Europe. It takes reality as seriously as the dream of European Unification. Insisting in particular that the dream is one of democratic growth, the present reality looks gloomy but not hopeless. There are already unique instituional advances of transnational democracy. Today they are under sharp restriction and hegemonic control, but restrictions and controlls can be overcome, and the present crisis, therefore, is a great but probably the last chance of Europe." - Hauke Brunkhorst, Professor of Sociology and Head of the Institute of Sociology at the University of Flensburg, Germany