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COURSE NAME: "Western European Politics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Eszter Salgo
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:30-2:50 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: PL 223

The course examines the political systems in Western Europe and major political developments affecting Western Europe since 1945 through a comparative lens. Looking at historical legacies, political cultures, types of government, and party systems shaping the major Western European powers, students will gain an understanding of the constitutive features, and transnational developments, challenges and changes in Western European states.

The course is divided into three parts in order to discuss I) “Western Europe” not just as a political and geographical entity but also as a concept with mythical connotations; II) Western Europe as a product of the Cold War (in many senses: ideologically, economically, militarily, and culturally) and III) how Western European countries shaped the European integration process until the Maastricht Treaty (1992).

Prevailing attitudes and priorities of the Cold War persist even today: many claim that Western Europe and Eastern Europe represent two separate entities with distinct characteristics; in the collective imagination “real” Europe is associated with Western Europe and “Eastern Europe” is often viewed as the “other”. Part I Western Europe: Myth and Reality discusses the manifestations and the roots of these views. Students will learn that it was in the era of the Enlightenment (and not during the Cold War) that “Western Europe” appropriated for itself the notion of civilization and invented “Eastern Europe” as its complementary concept. They will become familiar with and take a position in the debate over the meaning of “Europe” and “the West” (Does the “West” exist? If so, does it make sense to see it as noble or evil? Should “Western Civilization”/“Western Culture” be taught at “Western” universities?

The Second Part of the course is about understanding Western Europe in the Cold War in the context of its changing internal dynamics and changing relationship with the United States, the Soviet Union and with Eastern European countries. Bearing in mind that the Cold War was not just a contest between the East and the West, a conflict between the two superpowers but it was also a story of smaller versus big powers, students will analyze a) France’s Cold War revisionism through the concept of “Gaullism”; b) the United Kingdom’s perceived and real influence (its victor status after WWII, its loss of influence in the post-Suez conflict years, its uncertain revival in the 1980s); c) the role of The Netherlands in the negotiations about the European Defense Community; d) Spain’s dual strategy of democratization and Europeanization and e) Greece’s leadership in the Six Nation Initiative during the Euromissile crisis.

Part three will focus on the role of Western Europe in the European integration process. It will explore Kiran Klaus Patel’s arguments according to which the six countries that gave birth to the European Coal and Steel Community and later to the European Economic Community did not represent Europe as a whole; they did not represent Western Europe as a whole, they were nothing more than “little Western Europe”. Students will learn about the history of the European integration process during the decades of the Cold War (it was in 1990, with the unification of Germany, when the European Community expanded outside Western Europe). The precursor of today’s European Union will be compared to other forms of international cooperation in Western Europe (Council of Europe, Organization for European Economic Cooperation, European Free Trade Association, etc.); the reasons of its “triumph” over these international organizations will be analyzed. Discussing central issues in relation to the history of the EU such as the EC’s contribution to peace, security and economic growth, the tensions between technocracy and participation, the debate between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, the EC’s role in the global arena and the growing importance of values and norms in the policies of the organization will allow students to better understand the times we live in today.


At the end of the course students will be able to:
think about Western Europe as a mental construct with mythical connotations not just as a political or geographical entity 
engage critically with the negative images of Eastern Europe (that date back to the era of the Enlightenment that reinforced in the Cold War and that persist even today)
participate in the debate over the meaning of the concepts of “Europe” and “the West” 
describe Western European countries’ policies during the Cold War in the context of their changing internal dynamics and their changing relationship with the US, the USSR and with Eastern European countries 
evaluate the role of lesser players (France and the UK) and the influence of smaller powers (The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain) in the Cold War 
illustrate the history of European integration as a process that until the Treaty of Maastricht had been shaped a few Western European countries 
show how the European Community was able to achieve precedence over the other international organizations in Western Europe
explore the role of imagination in politics
rely on both verbal and visual sources in their research
possess skills and ability to independently explore, present and discuss issues related to “Western European politics”, both orally and in writing.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Project Europe: a HistoryPatelCambridge University Press110849496X  

Class participationStudents should participate actively in the discussions that will take place both in the classroom and online.10%
Oral presentationStudents will work in pairs and conduct a research project on a topic relating to “Western European politics”. They will prepare a 10-minute-long oral (and video-recorded) presentation for November 16.15%
Term paperEach student will submit individually a 2000-word research paper about the same topic on Moodle by November 23.20 %
Midterm examThe midterm exam will consist of two essay questions. Students are graded on accuracy, depth of analysis, logical content, creative thinking, on their ability to formulate a sophisticated argument, provide evidence for their statements, discuss and show understanding of alternative explanations.20 %
Final examThe final exam is cumulative; it will consist of three essay questions.35%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Attendance is mandatory.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1

Class 1: Introduction

Class 2: Reflecting on “Western European Politics”

Assignment: Each student will choose and illustrate an article and an image relating to “Western European politics”


Part I. Western Europe: myth and reality


Week 2

Class 3: The idea of Europe. The West’s selective reading of history?

Reading: Pagden (ed) 2002, The idea of Europe: from the Antiquity to the European Union, Introduction P. Boer (1995), The History of the Idea of Europe, Essay 1, Norman Davies (2007), Europe East and West, Introduction, Chapter II and Chapter III

Class 4: The idea of Western civilization: noble or evil or inexistent?

Reading: Stanley Kurtz (2020) The Lost History of Western Civilization, National Association of Scholars, Introduction and Part III

Class 5: Europe’s East-West divide

Reading: Stefan Lehne (2019) Europe’s East-West Divide: Myth or Reality? Carnegie Europe; Ivan Krastev (2018) Is Europe Failing? On Imitation and Its Discontents, Journal of Democracy



Week 3

Class 6: Inventing Western Europe, inventing Eastern Europe

Reading: Larry Wolff (1994) Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Introduction, Chapter 2, Conclusion

Part II. Western Europe in the Cold War

Class 7: Western Europe in the Cold War

Reading: Richard H. Immerman e Petra Goedde (2013) The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War, chapter 9 and chapter 18


Week 4

Class 8: The role of Britain in the Cold War

Reading: Richard H. Immerman e Petra Goedde (2013) The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War, chapter 8

Class 9: The role of France in the Cold War

Reading: Melvyn P. Leffler (ed) (2010) The Cambridge History of the Cold War, chapter 8


Week 5

Class 10: Multilateralism as an instrument of smaller powers during the Cold War: the example of The Netherlands

Reading: Laurien Crump and Susanna Erlandsson (eds) (2020) Margins for Manoeuvre in Cold War Europe: the Influence of Smaller Powers, Introduction and Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Class 11: Neutrality as an instrument for small state manoeuvring 

Reading: Laurien Crump and Susanna Erlandsson (eds) (2020) Margins for Manoeuvre in Cold War Europe: the Influence of Smaller Powers, Chapter 9


Week 6

Class 12: Chapter 12 ‘At last, our voice is heard in the world’: the examples of Spain and Greece

Reading: Laurien Crump and Susanna Erlandsson (eds) (2020) Margins for Manoeuvre in Cold War Europe: the Influence of Smaller Powers, Chapter 11 and Chapter 12

Class 13: Review


Week 7

Class 14 Midterm exam

Part III: Western Europe in the European integration process

Class 15: The many forms of European integration after World War II

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, Cambridge University Press, chapter 1

Class 16: The EC’s contribution to peace and security

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, chapter 2


Week 8

Class 17: Participation and technocracy

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, chapter 4

Class 18 Values and norms

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, chapter 5


Week 9

Class 19 Oral Presentations

Class 20: Oral presentations



Week 10

Class 21: Supranationalism of intergovernmentalism

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, chapter 6

Class 22: Disintegration and Dysfunctionality

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, chapter 7

Week 11

Class 23: The Community and its World

Reading: Kiran Klaus Patel (2020) Project Europe: a History, chapter 8

Concluding remarks

Class 24: The East-West divide and the 2004 enlargement          

Reading: Ingrid Hudabiunigg (2004) The Otherness of Eastern Europe, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development and Merje Kuus (2004) Europe’s eastern expansion and the reinscription of otherness in East-Central Europe, Progress in Human Geography


Week 12

Class 25: Who is European?

Reading: Hayden White (2010) The Discourse of Europe and the Search for a European Identity; Elizabeth Buettner (2018) What – and who – is ‘European’ in the Postcolonial EU? Low Countries Historical Review and Catarina Kinnvall (2015) The Postcolonial has Moved into Europe: Bordering, Security and Ethno‐Cultural Belonging, Journal of Common Market Studies

Class 26: Review