European Roundtable


Faculty Director: Hans N. Weiler

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Welcome to the current website for the "European Roundtable" sponsored by Stanford's Continuing Studies Program (CSP).

Over the last two and a half years, the European Roundtable has brought together, once a quarter, interested members of the Bay Area community with experts from Stanford and other universities for in-depth discussions of key issues in European affairs. The following European Roundtables have been held between the fall of 2004 and the fall of 2006:

For further information and material on the most recent Roundtables, see below.

Future European Roundtables

The European Roundtable will be offered in the future on a less regular basis. For announcements of future roundtables, check with the Continuing Studies Program.


The seventh European Roundtable featured a discussion of the role of public intellectuals in dealing with Europe's more intractable problems - secularization and fundamentalism, intergenerational justice, Europe's role in the world - among three Stanford experts on Europe: Russell A. Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, Hans Ulrich (Sepp) Gumbrecht, Albert Guerard Professor of Literature, and Hans N. Weiler, Professor emeritus of Education and Political Science.

Why does Europe, apparently much more so than the U.S., have a tradition of the public role of the intellectual? Why are the members of the cultural elite such a seemingly permanent fixture in the European media? Prominent thinkers and writers of all persuasions and origins – from Bertrand Russell to Jürgen Habermas, from Voltaire to Václav Havel, from Simone de Beauvoir to Christa Wolf, and from Thomas Mann to Günter Grass – have amply and often eloquently commented upon the course of history and on what they see as the forces behind it, and their views have always been widely publicized. To the reflections of Europe’s artists, novelists, philosophers, and cultural critics, we owe sometimes profound, often surprising, occasionally dubious, but always interesting insights into “the heart of the matter” (Graham Greene). As Europe is facing serious and, in many ways, unprecedented challenges – the tensions between secularization and religious fundamentalism, the quandary of intergenerational justice, demography, and welfare policies, profound uncertainties regarding its role in the world (including vis-à-vis the U.S.), and even the very question of what Europe really is (and where it ends) – it is revealing to see how Europe’s intellectual elites interpret these problems and reflect on their solution.

Hans Weiler's Introductory Presentation can be downloaded here; his powerpoint slides are available with pictures (9 MB!) and text only without pictures (120 kb).

Information on Russell Berman's and Sepp Gumbrecht's scholarly interests and writing is available on their websites.

"STRETCHING THE SAFETY NET: IS THE EUROPEAN WELFARE STATE IN CRISIS?" (Sixth European Roundtable on Saturday, April 8, 2006)

The welfare state as it has developed in Europe since the early days of the industrial revolution is by now facing serious problems; indeed, one can argue that the Schröder government in Germany has been one of the first and more prominent casualties of a major crisis of welfare state policies; similar contestations can be observed in France. Torn between the time-honored social democratic traditions of equal opportunity and the protection of the needy, on the one hand, and the pressures of demographic change and declining public resources, on the other, European governments are finally confronting the limits of the welfare state. Costs of the traditional safety nets have begun to overburden public budgets at the same time as they have hampered the international competitiveness of the European economies. As a result, the full range of welfare services, from unemployment compensation to social security benefits and from the assurance of minimum living standards to health care, has come under review and is undergoing major changes. Much of the political dynamics in contemporary Europe needs to be understood as the conflict between those for whom this reform of the welfare state goes too far, and those for whom the reforms do not go far enough. These dynamics were discussed by
The Powerpoint slides used by the presenters and other material can now be viewed here (please note that a couple of them are fairly sizeable, >1 MB):
The two books by Isabela Mares that were mentiond in the session are: "The Politics of Social Risk: Business and Welfare State Development" (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and "Taxation, Wage Bargaining, and Unemployment" (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Jonah Levy's book on French politics is entitled "Tocqueville's Revenge: State, Society, and Economy in Contemporary France" (Harvard University Press, 1999); he has also co-edited "Developments in French Politics 3" (Macmillan 2005). The book by Kurt Biedenkopf on "the exploitation of our grandchildren" is so far available only in German: "Die Ausbeutung der Enkel - Plädoyer für die Rückkehr zur Vernunft" (Propyläen-Verlag, 2006).

Most of the statistics that were presented in Hans Weiler's introduction are taken from material published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, the association of all major industrialized countries). Particularly useful is the annual OECD Factbook which has just appeared for 2006 and is accessible online for Stanford users and in the Stanford libraries.

For those interested in pursuing the issue of the welfare state closer to home: In December of 2003 (Volume 50, Number 20), the New York Review of Books reviewed four major books on the problems of the welfare state in the United States: Neil Gilbert, "Transformation of the Welfare State: The Silent Surrender of Public Responsibility" (Oxford University Press); Joel Slemrod and Jon Bakija, "Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen's Guide to the Great Debate over Tax Reform" (MIT Press); Jacob S. Hacker, "The Divided Welfare State: The Battle over Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States" (Cambridge University Press); Robin Blackburn, "Banking on Death: Or, Investing in Life: The History and Future of Pensions" (Verso).

"THE EU IN CRISIS?" (Fifth European Roundtable on February 4, 2006)

The following are helpful websites for further information on the EU:
The Powerpoint slides used by the speakers at the Roundtable can now be viewed or downloaded (in parenthesis the size of the files in kb; some pictures have been taken out to reduce file size):
On the issue of labor migration in, and into, the EU, Marina Bourgain has provided some key texts from the EU:
The presentations at the Roundtable were recorded on audio tape for the archives of the CSP; CSP does not have the capacity for duplicating them, but if anybody is interested in checking them out for a brief period of time for private listening, the person to contact is Anna Iluk in the CSP office.

Finally, for those seeking an overview on the development, structure, and functioning of the EU, you can download here Hans Weiler's introductory lecture at the first European Roundtable in the fall of 2004.

"ANTI-AMERICANISM IN EUROPE" (Fourth European Roundtable on November 12, 2005)

The two major presentations at this Roundtable by Russell Berman and Andy Markovits were based on their respective recent books on the subject:
As an introduction to the Roundtable, Hans Weiler presented a set of data on attitudes towards the U.S. on the part of people in different European countries. The slides with these data can be viewed or downloaded here. Most of the data used were taken from The Pew Global Attitudes Project, specifically the 16-Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey of June, 2005. Additional data were obtained from the public opinion data collected by the Eurobarometer 63 in the Spring of 2005.

Josef Joffe, publisher of the leading German weekly "Die Zeit" and Visiting Professor at Stanford, was unable to attend the Roundtable in person because of commitments in Washington, but submitted his rather eloquent analysis of Anti-Americanism in Europe in writing.

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For further questions, feel free to get in touch with Professor Weiler by email, at

Last Updated: October 30, 2006
Copyright 2006, Hans Weiler,