Europa, Europa

Charles S. Maier reviews Tony Judt’s Postwar, in The Nation:

TjWriting in the early days of the cold war, Raymond Aron declared: “In our times for individuals as for nations the choice that determines all else is a global one, in effect a geographical choice. One is in the universe of free countries or else in that of lands placed under harsh Soviet rule.” Tony Judt cites this with approval but also includes Aron’s warning that politics compelled realism: “It is never a struggle between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.” There is a breed of European liberal intellectual that admires Aron for his lucid tough-mindedness–a supercool Isaiah Berlin, closer in spirit to Clausewitz than to Herzen or Herder. Aron’s most consistent subtext was always: no kid stuff, no utopias, no illusions and, above all, no acting out. But let’s face it: The history of Europe has included massive spells of acting out, from the springtime of the peoples in 1848 to May ’68, from the French Revolution to the Velvet Revolution.

Postwar, Judt’s learned, massive and often quite wonderful summary of European public life since World War II, is a vast effort to square periodic acting out with Aron’s injunction to cast a cold eye–more precisely, to applaud Eastern Europe’s acting out in Budapest, Prague and finally in 1989, and to dismiss Parisian acting out in 1968.

More here.  [Tony Judt shown in photo.]