The Lure of Western Europe

Americans usually remember the end of communism as the result of a binary battle between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, while most Europeans tend to see that era through the prism of their own national memories. Almost everyone downplays one of the most important sources of the Soviet empire’s collapse: the civilizational pull of Western Europe, as well as the transatlantic alliance to which it belonged. The Poles who voted for anti-Communists in June 1989, the East Germans who walked across the wall in November 1989, and the Czechs who protested in Wenceslas Square soon thereafter all wanted, as they told anyone who asked them at the time, to be “normal.” And they defined “normality” just as the West Europeans had in the 1950s: social market economics, liberal democracy, and American protection.
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Berger’s Ways of Being
If Berger’s ultimate vision is bleak, his way of seeing, together with the power of his prose, has leapt across the years to give hope to new and younger generations.

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