The present European crisis is manifestly economic, with insolvency just over the horizon for much of the continent. But, as I see it, there is another profound matter that must be put into the calculus in assessing Europe today: the post-modern sensibility.
This sensibility includes the following characteristics: ethical relativism, the death of the Enlightenment meta-narrative, and the deconstruction of reason.
European leaders often act as if there aren’t historical antecedents. The new Europe not only rejects the past, it rejects the ethical foundation on which Europe was built. For example, the Treaty of Westphalia, which established nation-states, has been deposited on the ash heap of history in an effort to adduce consolidation, or at least the consciousness of consolidation. In doing so, however, it has undermined social and customary rules of human engagement and heightened social tensions.
Then there is the virtual destruction of the European meta-narrative that relied on a defense of Christian civilization and with it the conditions attached to the Enlightenment, i.e., individual rights, the rule of law, and a respect for private property. In the emerging Europe, with large Muslim minorities, individual rights are challenged by group rights, law is only what is defensible, and private property is at risk through cradle-to-grave tax policies designed for the equalization of privilege.
As a consequence, there is no longer a basis for democracy in Europe. Procedures dictate policies. The metaphysical and religious dimensions of life have been replaced by the political in which a Hobbesian worldview of power and influence is what counts. The European Union is, in fact, a closed society run by bureaucrats. Right and wrong are the subjects of procedures rather than antecedent conditions, and truth is whatever Brussels’ bureaucrats say it is.