The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike

The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike

by Peter Baldwin
     
 

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"There is much heated rhetoric about the widening gulf between Europe and America. According to the American Right, Europeans are lazy, defeatist, and irreligious, whereas Americans are entrepreneurial, optimistic, and pious. And according to Europeans, America is harsh, dominated by the market, crime ridden, violent, and sharp elbowed." "But are the United States

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Overview

"There is much heated rhetoric about the widening gulf between Europe and America. According to the American Right, Europeans are lazy, defeatist, and irreligious, whereas Americans are entrepreneurial, optimistic, and pious. And according to Europeans, America is harsh, dominated by the market, crime ridden, violent, and sharp elbowed." "But are the United States and Europe so different? Peter Baldwin, one of the world's leading historians of comparative social policy, thinks not, and in this bracingly argued but remarkably informed polemic, he lays out how similar the two continents really are. Drawing on the latest evidence from sources such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, the OECD, and other international organizations, Baldwin offers a fascinating comparison of the United States and Europe, looking at the latest statistics on the economy, crime, health care, education and culture, religion, the environment, and much more." "It is a book filled with surprising revelations. For most categories of crime, for instance, America is safe and peaceful by European standards. But the biggest surprise is that, though there are many differences between America and Europe, in almost all cases, these differences are no greater than the differences among European nations. Europe and the United States are, in fact, part of a common, big-tent grouping." America is not Sweden, for sure. But nor is Italy Sweden, nor France, nor even Germany. And who says that Sweden is Europe? Anymore than Vermont is America?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While pundits and politicians frequently seize upon the differences between “hissing cousins” Europe and America, Baldwin (Disease and Democracy) combs a dizzying array of statistics (on, for example, life expectancy, greenhouse gas emissions, homosexual experiences, voter turnout, blood donations, illiteracy, prison populations) to measure how deep and wide the chasm actually is. His findings, punctuated by easy-to-interpret charts and insightful analysis, reveal just how different the two continents really aren't—and that the animosity isn't “symmetrical”: European disdain for all things American is much stronger than any enmity the other way. Still, Europe and America are comparable on primary and secondary education spending, on religiosity in certain regions and, surprisingly, on health-care outcomes. While no endorsement of the current U.S. system, Baldwin's data shows that American health-care outcomes are comparable and often better than those in Europe. An exhaustive and enthralling catalogue of our commonalities that begs a reconsideration of just what it means to be European or American. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"Is America exceptional? Many say yes, and provide supporting statistics. Peter Baldwin looks at all the statistics; places them in cultural and political context, compares among nations and within nations. The results are surprising and compelling. America is not that exceptional. But this book is."—Sidney Verba, Professor of Government, Harvard University, and author of Voice and Equality

"This is a most original—and indispensable—contribution to a trans-Atlantic debate as old as the American Republic. What Americans have celebrated as 'novus ordo seclorum,' Europeans have fingered with contempt: The U.S. as haven of yokels, den of social injustice and bastion of unregenerate capitalism. The stronger the opinion, the weaker the facts. Peter Baldwin has collected them with acuity and brilliance—a much-needed first in the turbulent relationship. And, lo, these transatlantic cousins are indeed family—a lot more similar than either would want to admit. Statistics have never been more gripping."—Josef Joffe, Editor of Die Zeit

"In this wise, fair, witty and civilized book [Baldwin] has not only cleared away a jungle of ugly chauvinist weeds on both sides of the ocean, he has made it possible for both Americans and Europeans to understand one another and perhaps even become friends once again."—Godfrey Hodgson, author of The Myth of American Exceptionalism

"Peter Baldwin argues that the U.S. and Europe have more similarities than differences—and indeed, that Germany and Greece differ at least as much as California and Mississippi. He then goes on to explain why so much is made of transatlantic differences by the freedom-fry-serving U.S. Congress and U.S.-critical French press. Not to be missed by anyone who likes to be provoked into thinking new thoughts about old issues."—Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Political Science and Economics, University of California-Berkeley, and author of The European Economy Since 1945

"Peter Baldwin has proved beyond any doubt that it's not just self-defeating to concentrate on the supposed differences between Europe and the US, it's also factually inaccurate. Both European anti-Americans and American anti-Europeans will be forced to think again by this hard-hitting, fluent, well-researched book. We have more in common with each other than we do with anyone else: it's hard to think of a more profoundly important message for the first decade of the War against Terror, politically, economically, socially and morally."
—Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900

"An exhaustive and enthralling catalogue of our commonalities that begs a reconsideration of just what it means to be European or American." —Publishers Weekly

"Meticulous, insistent and elegant book." —John Lloyd, Columnist Financial Times

"The book is a must-read...and not just because it is filled with intriguing facts that add nuance to what can often be a black-and-white debate. Baldwin is right to point out that although the distance between the European left and the American right is extreme, the difference between the average positions of Europe and the United States is less than is often believed." —Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs

"Baldwin's writing is crisp, clipped and generally pleasing on the eye... Gargantuan amounts of information are synthesised concisely, often enlivened by a telling observation." —Peter Geoghegan, Sunday Business Post

"This is an important book...Baldwin uses concise language and clear data to make his point." —Sacramento Book Review

"At last, we have the essential complement to Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power, and its subtitle 'How America and Europe Are Alike' will surely evoke protest from those on both sides of the Atlantic who have become vested advocates of the differences between the United States and Europe and the manifest superiority of one side over and against the other...The contention of Peter Baldwin is that all of the difference-mongering about the United States and Europe is wildly overblown that, in fact, across a panoply of quantifiable social characteristics and policy outcomes, the United States generally falls not outside the European range, but squarely within it. In 212 charts, 60 pages of footnotes, and a crackling prose style refreshingly at odds with the statistical material under consideration, he proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt." —Tod Lindberg, The Weekly Standard

" [A] highly contrarian and entertaining book. Baldwin is a graceful, often invigorating writer...The Narcissism of Minor Differences is ostensibly a polemic, and indeed the conclusions the book reaches are no doubt controversial. Yet there's very little rancor in it, almost none of the ideological toxicity that normally runs through books about countries, people, and ideas that are not our own." —Denis Boyles, Claremont Review of Books

"...this is a rich source of comparative data, to be thoroughly recommended to anyone who loves league tables, who wants to compare their country's performance with that of others, or to appreciate the sheer variety of social practices. The charts are always intriguing and sometimes entertaining." —Michael Mann, New Left Review

"This book is nothing short of a tour de force. It is elegantly written, superbly researched, acutely argued, profoundly original.... Baldwin enters into this snake-pit of overcharged debates and oversensitive normative arguments undeterred, eager and willing to clear up this nonsense once and for all, with the help of numbers, numbers, and more numbers. In a dazzling display of data that I have rarely, if ever, encountered anywhere, Baldwin wants to prove that Americans and Europeans, far from being from Mars and Venus, are not only very much denizens of this earth, but actually close neighbors, relatives who are much more alike than different." —Andrei S. Markovits, The Forum

"Baldwin has written an important book challenging many firmly established assumptions on US exceptionalism, and many more issues... Baldwin's wide-ranging analysis provides a welcome contribution on comparative welfare politics." —Tord Skogedal Lindén, Basic Income Studies

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199836826
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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