Is Europe Burning?

In 1966 a film called Is Paris Burning?, based on a novel of the same name, was a cinematic sensation.  Its subject was the liberation of Paris by the French Free Forces and the French Resistance in 1944.  More than 70 years later Europe itself is afire as a combined Resistance force including rightists, “populists,” and antiliberals fights to liberate the Continent from the liberal ideology—the third of the three great ideologies of modern times, as Patrick Deneen notes in a soon-to-be-published book.  Fascism, the second of the three, collapsed in 1945; communism in 1991.  Now, it seems, it is liberalism’s turn to be consigned, sooner rather than later, to the ash heap of history, to recur to an old Marxist metaphor.

In Europe liberalism is failing at the national level and (consequently) at the pan-European one represented by the 27 members of the European Union.  In the British Isles and on the Continent the liberal center is no longer holding against rebellion, disruption, and disunion.  The new Resistance is partly an expression of the kind of nationalist fervor that prevailed in the 19th century and produced Europe in its 20th century form—hence Brexit, Catalonian separatism, Scottish nationalism, the swelling resentment in Germany of the forced persistence of the “abnormal state,” and the recent referenda in Lombardy and Veneto in which large...

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