Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

Europe’s Winter of Discontent

Domestic political turmoil in the European Union’s four largest economies spells trouble ahead.

This article appears in the Winter 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The European Union’s troubles continue. When Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France in 2017, with strong support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the opportunity seemed ripe for real reform of the EU. But since then, things have not gone well at home for either Merkel or Macron, and that opportunity has slipped away. In the meantime, Italy elected a populist coalition that lost no time before entering into direct confrontation with the European Commission. And as the Brexit tragedy heads toward a climax, it is clear only that the stage will be littered with bodies before it ends, but the dénouement remains murky. Political turmoil in these four countries spells trouble for the European Union, the world’s second-largest economy, of which these “big four” countries account for the lion’s share. To assess the implications, let us survey the...

The Permanent Becomes Ephemeral: Merkel Steps Back

In Germany, Angela Merkel announces her intention to step down as party leader. What are the implications for the European Union?

This week Angela Merkel announced that she will step down as chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in December and seek no further elective office. Commentators who had previously been trumpeting the two recent electoral debacles that led to this announcement, first in Bavaria and then, last Sunday, in Hesse, abruptly changed their tone to praise the dignified ending Merkel had devised for her own story. It was as if everyone sought to paraphrase Shakespeare, to the effect that nothing in her tenure became her like the leaving of it. Such a dismissive judgment hardly does justice to the woman who has dominated her party for the past 18 years and who reigned as chancellor for 13 and still counting (although she pledged only not to run again in 2021, when her term is up, many people think she cannot survive that long once she relinquishes the party chair). The number of politicians who underestimated the deliberate and soft-spoken chancellor is legion. Outmaneuvering countless...

Democracy and Its Discontents

Three authors engage with the threats to a liberal society.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
How Democracies Die Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt Penguin Random House Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic David Frum HarperCollins The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It Yascha Mounk Harvard University Press This article will appear in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Throughout the four and a half decades of the Cold War, the consoling myth of the self-styled Free World was that democratic politics constituted the end point of political evolution. It was an article of faith that once the blighted societies on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain attained democracy, the “end of history” would commence, as Francis Fukuyama memorably put it in 1989. Political contestation would not disappear, but the battle henceforth would be about mere “economic calculation” and “the endless solving of technical problems” rather than fundamental political ideology. That...

Is Another Youth Rebellion in the Making?

It’s been half a century since young people around the world asserted that the times were “a-changin’.” Could another youth rebellion be in the making?

Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
On Sunday, January 21, German Social Democrats gathered at a special party convention in Bonn narrowly gave the green light to further discussions with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats about forming a new Grand Coalition, or GroKo. Now comes word, however, that German youth opposed to a continuation of the GroKo are responding to calls to join the SPD in order to be in a position to vote against a new deal with the chancellor when the final agreement is put to a vote of the full party membership as promised by party leader Martin Schulz. At the Bonn convention, one of the most outspoken opponents of a new GroKo was Kevin Kühnert , the 28-year-old leader of the JuSos, or Young Socialists. Despite cries of “Foul!” from party elders, Kühnert insists that he sees “no problem” with enrolling new members as long as they share the basic values of the SPD. The JuSos have hit on a catchy slogan to mobilize what they hope will be a groundswell of...

Germany: Can the Center Hold?

Coalition talks between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats have begun. Will the German center hold, or will the talks end in collapse and an end of the Merkel era?

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It was not long ago that Angela Merkel was being touted as “the leader of the Free World.” She seemed to be without rivals for the title. Donald Trump, besotted with illusions of America Firstism, had abdicated. Theresa May lay buried in the rubble of the Brexitquake. And Emmanuel Macron, just 39 years old and without political or foreign-policy experience, seemed too wet behind the ears to take on the role. Merkel, with 12 years as chancellor behind her and the highest approval rating of any Western leader, was the only plausible candidate. But then came the Bundestag election of last September 23, and overnight Mutti’s invincibility vanished. It was bad enough that Merkel’s party, an alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its even more conservative Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union (CSU), turned in its worst performance since 1949 . Adding insult to injury, Merkel’s efforts to form a government with the liberal Free Democrats (...