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The John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy

The European-American Connection

May 15-17, 1998



Before his untimely death in July of 1997, François Furet proposed that the Olin Center hold a conference on "The European-American Connection," which he would take the lead in organizing. To honor him, we have decided to conduct such a conference ourselves: Furet's life and thought expressed a deeply held conviction of the political and intellectual importance of the European-American connection. Like his master Tocqueville, he believed that Europeans could learn from a society that was born democratic, and that Americans could learn from the birthplace of their civilization. Like the architects of the North Atlantic Alliance, Furet also believed that a world in which the United States and Europe had strong political ties was a safer and more humane one. He detected, however, a growing estrangement in the always complex relation between America and Europe, occasioned by the very success of the North Atlantic Alliance in winning the cold war, but fed by longstanding differences (such as America's lack of Europe's experience with both pre-democratic and post-democratic regimes) and deepened by recent changes in thought, such as American "multiculturalism." Multiculturalism, in Furet's analysis, seems to offer the United States, which has always struggled with its simultaneous rejection of and need for Europe, the opportunity to reject the claim to universality of European civilization. Such a rejection may be expressed as angry denunciation within the academy, but within the society at large the mood today rather seems to be that of cool indifference to Europe, in which Europe retains its charm as a possible vacation spot, but is no longer a place of spiritual or intellectual pilgrimage, necessary to the completion of life.

The conference will have sessions on four topics: 1) the European-American connection in the literary imagination; 2) the image of Europe in the American self-understanding; 3) the image of America in the European self-understanding; and 4) the meaning of the political-military alliance of Europe and America today. We will include both American and European perspectives on both the historical context of European-American relations and how things stand today.

Conference Schedule

Friday, May 15
1:00 p.m.

The Literary Connection
Chair: Robert Ferguson,
Dept. of English, Columbia University

The Strange Case of the Displaced Detective:
Transplanting a Genre between an Old World and a New One
Glenn Most,
Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
Modern Poetry and the Euro-American ConnectionHelen Vendler ,
Dept. of English, Harvard University

Saturday, May 16
10:00 a.m.

America in the European Self-Understanding
Chair: Dr. Marc Plattner,
Journal of Democracy

The Symbolic America in "High" European Thought James Ceaser,
Dept. of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
America in the New EuropeG.M. Tamás,
The Institute of Philosophy, Central European University
America in Europe: The Bright Shadow George Walden,
diplomat, politician, writer, United Kingdom

2:30 p.m.

Europe in the American Self-Understanding
Chair: Werner J. Dannhauser,
Dept. of Political Science, Michigan State University

Lincoln's Republican Argument Against Popular SovereigntyDavid Bromwich,
Dept.of English, Yale University
On Pasta Salad, or the Limits of American Flight from EuropeCharles Fairbanks,
Foreign Policy Institute, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Europe in America: The Old and the New Wilson Carey McWilliams,
Dept. of Political Science, Rutgers University

Sunday, May 17
10:00 a.m.

The Political-Military Alliance
Chair: Nathan Tarcov,
Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

The European-American ConnectionPierre Hassner,
Foundation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Centre d'Études et de Recherches Internationales, Paris
The Future of the American Military Commitment to EuropeJohn Mearsheimer,
Dept. of Political Science, University of Chicago

Daniel Gordon, Dept. of History, University of Massachussetts at Amherst
Ran Halevi, Centre Raymond Aron, Paris
Ralph Lerner, Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago
Alan Levine, School of Public Affairs, American University
Azar Nafisi, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University
William Thomson, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

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